Pane, Pasta and Amici

Narni, September 18

Bread, pasta and friends . . . yesterday was a day for making all of them and more.  But, first, a little back story (for which my family is infamous):

Before we came to Italy, I had arranged to see a house in Italy.  One can buy a “partial share” of the house and I was curious about it.  The person showing us the house is Kaylee Higgenbotham, who is more bubbly that a fine prosecco and has a business called Chow & Ciao.  Part of her business is arranging tours, cooking lessons, etc..  When I discovered that, Claire and I arranged, through Kaylee, to take a cooking class in Orvieto.  Okay, back story finished.

Claire, Chef Lorenzo and Virginia

The cooking class was with Chef Lorenzo at the Zepplin Restaurant.  The class began at 9 a.m. with caffè and pastries and ended at about 2 p.m. with a fabulous lunch, wine, grappa and caffè.  In between were five hours of delight in Chef Lorenzo’s kitchen.

After putting on our spanking new aprons, Chef came up with the menu:

Pane (bread) because it isn’t a meal without bread.  Using one dough, we were to make four different breads:  Ciabbata, with rosemary and onion; Focaccia with sweet sausage, fennel seeds, smoked scamorza and zucchini blossoms; Thin crust pizza with tomato and mozzarella; and, Lumachelle, a snail shaped little roll with diced guanciale (cured pork cheek) and pecorino cheese worked into the dough.

The recipe began with 3 kilos of soft wheat flour.  It made a LOT of dough and a lot of wonderful breads.  At one point we formed the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into a big oval shape, before adding the water,  it looked like the colosseum and was almost as large.  When filled with water it could have hosted faux naval battles . . . at least with rubber ducks.

The menu included two pastas also using one dough, this time made with semolina, which comes from hard, durum wheat:  Ravioli, which we stuffed with lightly sautéed onion, garlic and red pepper mixed with ricotta; and, a long pasta that we called rustichelli based on its rather rough method of forming and its uneven final appearance.  The ravioli was served with a traditional butter and sage sauce and the rustichelli with a quick cherry tomato sauce.

The main course was a wild boar stew:  Wild boar, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, juniper berries, bay leaves, tomatoes, red wine, balsamic vinegar, black olives and who can remember what else.  It cooked for hours.

Grilled eggplant was the side dish and chocolate mousse was the sweet.  After melting one kilo of dark chocolate in a cube or two of butter, whipping a couple of cups of cream,  eight eggs, sugar, we had a bathtub full of mousse.  And that’s when Chef Lorenzo, who had been all sweetness and smiles turned ugly . . . he actually began to compute the calories in each portion.  Yoiks!!!  It was all in good fun and we agreed that this was not the day for counting calories.

Michele and Davide returned to the restaurant to share our lunch.  The entire experience was fabulous.  After grappa and caffè and the removal of our somewhat besmirched aprons, we were presented with our certificates from “The Italian Culinary Experience in  Orvieto.”  So, look out folks, we are armed with a little culinary information and a lot of enthusiasm.  We might be dangerous.

P.S.  By the end of our meal and after all the tastes I had taken during the morning, you could have put me on a spit, roasted me over an open fire and called me porchetta.  By the way, the house is not for us, charming as it is.

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