Learn to master seasonal Italian recipes
In an unassuming side-street, located in Sydney’s inner west, exists the home of Mediterranean flavours and a classroom where home cooks can become the part-time masters of traditional Italian recipes.
A ring of the cooking school bell at 10:50 am sharp and the door to the Saturday ‘Winter Warmers’ cooking class at Casa Barilla Cooking School opens. Participants are welcomed with a mid-morning Cinzano aperitif and a slice of warm flourless chocolate cake.
We’re given 15 minutes to settle in before being led up a small set of stairs inside the split-level property. We pass our designated cooking stations and reach the test kitchen.
Head chef for the day is the award-winning Luca Ciano from Milan, whose international resume includes a two-Michelin-starred Italian restaurant.
The chef introduces the class to the Barilla product range and discusses the philosophy behind Italian winter foods. He then demonstrates meal one: lasagna with porcini mushrooms and Taleggio cheese. His recipe uses Barilla egg lasagna sheets and defrosted porcini mushrooms. The chef answers all our questions and sends us on to perform our first cookery feat in pairs.
The cooking school comes alive with the clacking of kitchen equipment and conversation. We carefully follow the recipe and, with the help of Barilla staff, create a béchamel, mushroom lasagna to imitate the chef’s example.
The group’s dishes cook in the oven while the chef demonstrates dish two: stuffed pork involtini with garlic and red wine sauce, and soft polenta.
Once the demonstration is over, we take our lasagnas out of the oven, eat part-one of our lunch and sip complimentary red wine. Our hearty lasagna boasts notes of nutmeg and porcini mushroom that cuts through the béchamel.
Next, we start on our own involtini, stuffed with pancetta, pecorino cheese, soaked bread and mushrooms. We simmer the rolled involtinis in a pasta sauce, and finish off the polenta with provolone and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. We plate the dish as the chef showed us, smearing the polenta across the plate like MasterChef-devotees, placing the sliced involtini on top. The hot yellow and red meal, served with more red wine, is devoured shortly after.
With the cooking lessons officially over, we pack our gift apron and leftovers into our Barilla goodie-bag that’s filled with recipes and products.
The day was enjoyable and the 150-minute class, informative. It gave cookery novices a safe space to experiment in the kitchen, and provided the more-seasoned cooks with two new recipes and tips on how to spruce up casual Italian meals.
The experience was fun, supportively warm, culturally enriching and gastronomically indulgent.
Yasmin Noone experienced the Winter Warmers class at Casa Barilla Cooking School. Standard cost is $90. Classes are held on select Thursdays, 6-8.30pm and Saturdays, 11am-1.30pm. Class themes vary throughout the year.
By Yasmin Noone
Casa Barilla Cooking School
t: (02) 8585 3911
a: 4 Annandale St, Annandale NSW