Lesson 60: Pasta Heaven!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Yesterday's class began with a written exam on the recipes we have made the past couple of weeks.  I actually don't mind test-taking, especially when it's just on memorizing the methods/procedures of recipes (much better than taking any business exams in college).  I think I did well, so the day was off to a good start!

This class was probably my favorite class so far in culinary school.  We spent the day making fresh pasta with classic sauces.  Pasta is comfort food to me since my mom's homemade pasta with tomato sauce was always my favorite as a child (and still is!).  I was all smiles today while kneading my very own pasta dough and rolling it out into thin sheets.

Every student made their own batch of pasta dough (even though we only used one batch per table).  The dough is made from 3 simple ingredients: flour, salt, and eggs.  We each had a mound of flour with a pinch of salt and made a well in the center.  We cracked 3 eggs into the well and gradually incorporated it into the flour with a fork.  Once it started forming a dough, we brought it together with our hands and kneaded it until it was firm.  We let our balls of dough rest while we prepared the sauces and other components to our dishes.

Here is an example of creativity in the kitchen:

After the dough rested, it was time to roll it out using the pasta machine:

Along with the pasta, we also made gnocchi.  Gnocchi is also super easy to make, and soo delicious!  We baked potatoes and scooped out the filling into a ricer.  We riced the potatoes on a sheet pan in a single layer so they would cool quickly.  After they cooled, we mixed the potatoes with a few handfuls of flour (one handful for every potato used), egg yolks (one yolk for every potato), salt, and nutmeg.  Once the dough was formed into a log, we let it cool in the refrigerator.

We formed out gnocchi by rolling out the dough into a very thin log, cutting small pieces, and rolling each piece on the back of a fork.  The gnocchi take only a couple of minutes to cook and are done when they come to the surface of the boiling water.  I made a cherry tomato sauce to top the gnocchi by sauteing cherry tomatoes and onions in some melted butter and olive oil.

We used our pasta dough to make 2 types of pasta: ravioli and trenette.  For the ravioli, we made a filling with roasted butternut squash, Italian amaretti cookies, mostarda di frutta, parmesan, and nutmeg.  Making the ravioli brought back memories of making homemade ravioli in Italy with my sister back in September :)

The ravioli was served with a browned butter sage sauce MMMM!

The trenette was served with potatoes, haricot vert, and a pesto sauce made with garlic, pine nuts, basil, olive oil, and parmesan.

We even had a few different types of prosciutto to taste with our pasta feast!  

After class, I dusted the flour off my face and walked around the city to kill a couple of hours before my first night of wine class.  

Wine class was absolutely wonderful!  Richard Vayda is the instructor and he is just full of information about wine.  I learned so much!  The room was set up very impressively (I wish I got a picture..maybe next week) with 9 wine glasses, a spit bucket, and a binder of information at each seat.  There was a beautiful cheese spread with cheeses that were paired with the wines we tasted.  Here are the 9 wines I tasted last night and my notes on them:

1. Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Zonin 2008: $10   Light, citrus, grapefruit, slightly acidic, bright, pleasant, fresh
2.  Hawke's Bay, Chardonnay, Babich Wines 2007: $18   Clean, Sweet, fruity, apple/pear, heavier than the Pinot Grigio
3.  Alsace, Pinot Gris, 'Reserve Personnelle', Trimbach 2001: $38 Heavy, rich, thick, smooth, the flavor lingers, ripe apple, honey  **My favorite white wine of the night
4.  Champagne, Brut, Nicolas Feuillatte NV: $32  Light, apple, vanilla, wood, slightly acidic, dry
5.  Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, J. Vidal-Fleury 2005: $32  SWEET, honey, apricot, dry
6.  Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Benton-Lane 2007: $18  Light, sour, cherry, young, nice acidity
7.  Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, Chateau Greysac 2004: $20  Heavy, dark, dense, tannins, blackberry, cedar
8.  Valle de Uco, 'Numina', 'Gran Corte', Salentein 2004: $43 Fruity, ripe, blackberries, dark in color ** My favorite red wine of the night
9.  Porto, 'Six Grapes Reserve', Graham's, NV: $30  Heavy, thick, sour cherry, very alcoholic, dark purple in color

I really enjoyed the class and learned so much.  Can't wait to try more wines and learn more about the different wine-making regions in the next class!


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