In the region of Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy lies the home to culinary excellence and to ingredients such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Proscuitto di Parma and Aceto Balsamico. It is here where my husband and I find ourselves in the heart of the region, in the capital of Bologna, looking to foster our love of food and cooking. We have signed ourselves up for cooking classes with Cook Italy (http://www.cookitaly.com) with the earnest hope that we can master some techniques to bring home with us.
On the day of the class, it started like any other day in Italy – with a cup of espresso. We met the founder of Cook Italy, Carmelita Caruana, at the local market where we started with a tour and shopping for our ingredients. Carmelita fell in love with Bologna in 1996 and in 1999 started Cook Italy to share her passion for cooking and the city. At the market we were quickly immersed into the daily rituals of the locals and Carmelita which meant a morning grocery trip to secure the freshest ingredients to be cooked on the day of. In the market, we fell in love with the sight of rows and rows of fresh produce and the sounds of “Buon giorno!” Bright red tomatoes stacked beside rows of ripe peaches and lemons, there was so much that we wanted to touch and smell, but we had been warned! As Carmelita explained, to protect the produce from bruising and their livelihoods, vendors would prefer to pass you items to touch and smell. After navigating through winding cobblestone streets and learning about Bologna’s food history, we found our ingredients – eggs, veal, zucchini flowers, peas, prosciutto and wine. All of the ingredients were from different vendors, there was no such thing as a big box grocery story here. However, as Carmelita observed, the market was slowly shrinking as time moved forward. More and more prepared food options were being offered as families worked longer and dinner was no longer seen as a ritual. Life in this Italian city was not immune to global changes in lifestyles.
Once we arrived at Carmelita’s apartment, we started to work on putting our three course lunch together which consisted of a stuffed zucchini flower starter, a primo of fresh pasta and veal for the main course.
While I worked on the appetizer and entrée, I could hear “Too much flour! Not enough pressure!” My dear husband was being taught to make one of Italy’s treasured foods, pasta, under the watchful eye of Carmelita.
Since our cooking adventure abroad, my husband and I have done our best to try to replicate our fresh pasta experience. We always start with Farina Di Grano Tenero Tipo 00 which is flour by molino Paolo Mariani which we procure from Sud Forno on Queen Street in Toronto and from there my husband carefully works in the eggs while I check for dryness in the dough and prepare the cutter. We haven’t been able to replicate the pasta that we made with Carmelita, but being in the kitchen together brings back fond memories of our Italian adventure.