By Nicole Brewer
On my most recent trip to Europe I had the distinct pleasure to take a deliciously exciting cooking class in Rome. I had a friend who visited with her fiance the previous year and she highly recommended I take the Fabiolous Cooking Day class. I so enjoyed my cooking class in Korea the previous month that I was ecstatic to take another cooking class in Rome nonetheless!
On the day of the class, Fabio himself came to meet us in front of the Theater Argentina (Largo di Torre Argentina) at 9:30am which is a quaint little neighborhood in central Rome. The class consisted of 7 Australian women and myself. Fabio and his co-chef Monica took us on a walking tour of the beautiful city streets in order to pick out fresh ripe foods needed for our class. We visited the famous Rome outdoor food market the Campo de’ Fiori.
We even stopped at the butcher to pick out our chicken for the main course. En route to Fabio’s gorgeous apartment (where the class is held) we were able to stop at his ultra cute restaurant That’s Amore. It was fabulously decorated with classic pictures of celebrated movie stars and singers from Marilyn Monroe to Sammy Davis Jr.
Fabio’s apartment is just steps away from the infamous Trevi Fountain where I visited afterwards to take in it’s beauty over some gelato ice cream. Once we arrived at his apartment we dug right in to cooking. Fabio has a major knack for teaching and one could see the gleam of excitement in his eyes while instructing us which is infectious. Monica assisted him in delegating the duties to each of us. Some of us finely chopped peppers and zucchini for the mouth-watering Gnocchi pasta while others dug out the seeds of the baby tomatoes and ground bread crumbs for the appetizing stuffed tomatoes that were on our starter course menu.
I would have to say that the Most fab part of the cooking class was making pasta from scratch! This was a first for myself however some of the Australian women had experience in this department. It was So much fun as we poured the flour, mixed the eggs and mead the dough like playdo! Fabio has all the tools needed to make finely thin pasta strings. He even commended me as I used his nifty pasta making machine, strongly rolling the rolling pin to separate the pieces. We made 3 kinds of pasta that afternoon. Stuffed zucchini ravioli, small gnocchi which we shaped with forks and string pasta.
Once we finished preparing all of the ingredients Fabio took the realms of preparing the final stages. We watched him effortlessly toss pasta while explaining the procedures. Who needs to buy pasta sauce, when you can easily make your own from white wine and seasoning! We enjoyed each course as they were completed.
We started with scrumptious stuffed tomatoes, moved on to the little air balls of Heaven which we coined them gnocchi, then finally the stuffed zucchini ravioli followed by a main course meal of breaded chicken and more pasta with fried zucchini. This was most definitely my Best meal I had throughout my entire week in Italy. It was so quite that you could hear a pin drop because we were too busy devouring our meals. Once we stuffed our bellies Fabio even took us back by his restaurant to top off the meal with dessert!! If you get a chance to globe trot to Rome I Highly recommend taking a Fabiolous Cooking Day course. Below are some of the ultra fab recipes. Enjoy!
2 c left over (or even stale) bread
1 c grated pecorino cheese
Fresh herbs from the garden
2 cloves of garlic
Use 3 cups of leftover bread. If the bread is too soft you can bake in the oven until it
becomes hard. Place the bread, pecorino herbs and garlic into a food processor and
Clean the tomatoes then fill the heads with the breadcrumb mixture and a piece of provolone cheese. Place them on a cookie sheet and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil then place in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes at 275°F.
Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and pecorino cheese
For the pasta:
(flour should equal ¼ of the amount of potato)
17.5 ozs red potatoes
4.5 ozs flour
For the sauce:
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
5 anchovy fillets
1 glass dry white wine
1 tbsp chili flakes
1 head italian parsley, leaves removed & roughly chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Clean the potatoes, scrubbing the skin well. Boil them in salted water until they are soft – you can check with the tip of the knife. Drain the potatoes then cool them for 10 minutes. Remove the skin. Mash the potatoes, not in a food processor but with the hand tool then mix them together with the flour using your hands, working the dough for 10 minutes until it’s mixed together well and you have a nice consistency. Add more flour to the surface if needed and roll the mixture with your two hands to reach 1 inch diameter. Cut the roll into small pieces about an inch long. Roll each individual piece on the back side of a fork to make the gnocchi groove.
Bring a large pot of water to boil with a handful of salt, add the gnocchi. Stir occasionally.
While the pasta is cooking heat a large pan over medium high heat, add a couple glugs of olive oil. Add garlic to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, add the anchovies and chili flakes, stir. Once the garlic begins to turn golden add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt, cook for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and immediately remove from heat. Leave the burner on and raise to high heat.
Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water. Once the gnocchi are al dente drain and add to your pan, return pan to the heat. Add the pasta water, cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Add the parsley and toss. Dived pasta among 4 or 5 bowls, top with grated pecorino, chili flakes, and olive oil.
10.5 ozs flour
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 c olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1/3 c parmesan
7 ozs ricotta
2 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 chopped mint leaves (mint for cooking not the fresh kind)
Clean and chop the zucchini into fine pieces then fry in a pan with olive oil a clove of garlic until the zucchini reach a brown color. Mix the zucchini in a bowl with ricotta, egg yolk and parmesan. Cool it in the fridge for one hour.
Pour flour on working surface and make a fountain with a hole in the middle of the flour. Break the eggs into the middle of the fountain. Gently beat the eggs inside to absorb the flour. While beating the eggs, add a little flour at a time with the tip of the fork. When all the flour is mixed and you have a dough consistency, knead the dough by pressing and folding gently with your hands. Now, work the dough with palm of your hands – holding with the left hand and pressing with the right, then fold the dough over and turn. Repeat this process for 5 minutes. Let the ball of dough sit for 30 minutes in the fridge. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin into a long rectangular shape, careful not to roll to wide for the pasta machine. If you do not have a pasta machine, continue to roll with the rolling pin until you reach the desired thickness. Don’t rush the process in the pasta machine – start on the thicker pasta setting and put the dough through the machine numerous times (changing the setting each pass), patiently reaching the desired thickness. Each time you will need to sprinkle flour on the pasta to keep it from sticking to the machine. Cut the dough into long rectangular pieces. Fold the dough in half to find your starting point. Prepare the filling by mixing egg, cooked eggplant and parmesan. Place the filling in leaving one finger between each filling and one finger along the edges. Brush the pasta with egg white to hold the dough together. Fold the dough over to make edges meet. Begin on one end pressing firmly with fingers in the middle then work to the edges in order to assure there is no air left inside the pasta. Use a pasta cutter to cut the ravioli. Sprinkle some flour on the surface and remove the ravioli using a spatula so they don’t stick.
While the ravioli is boiling, melt the butter and in a frying pan. When the ravioli float they are ready. Add the cooked ravioli to the frying pan then add about half a ladel full of the pasta water you boiled the ravioli in, and 1/3 c. parmesan. Hover the pan over the heat moving the pasta continuously until the sauce becomes thick. While hovering add the chopped mint leaves. Sprinkle with crushed pine nuts and parmesan then serve.