The cuisine of Bologna is vey specific and revolves around cooking a few dishes very well and with the best ingredients. The specialities of the region is tagliatelle with ragu (the ubiquitous bolognese sauce), tortollini either in broth or with butter and sage and lasagne. A day at the Bologna Cooking School will get you up to scratch with a couple of these dishes.
The lesson starts with a visit to the markets. Carlo picks you up from the hotels and then plunging down the side streets takes you on a market tour. The group of five shop for the ingredients for the cooking class. We are only to buy the best of the best. To non-Bolognese eyes it is difficult to pick out from all the hanging hams which is the best proscuitto or how to find the right parmigiana. To improve our palette we tasted proscuitto aged for 24 months. It was smooth and silky and not too salty.
From the fruit market we picked up some small, purple artichokes, which don’t need to be cooked, some fresh peas and a rockmelon. The most care was taken wih the selection of the beef for the Bolognese ragu. The cut of beef is from the diaphragm and we watched while it was cut and minced.
The cooking lesson takes place at Carlo’s apartment. Luciana takes the pasta lesson and we undertake the long process of making, resting and rolling out the fresh pasta. It is by difficult to roll out the large, fresh sheets by hand and to reach the uniform thickness as required by Luciana. From the fresh pasta we made garganelle, little round pasta tubes, spinach and ricotta tortellini and tagliatelle cut to the perfect size.
At the same time the bolognese ragu was put on. Unlike our usual sauce, the meat dominates the sauce and only very little tomato is added. After an hour of simmering, a cup of milk is added at the end.
After about fours hours of marketing and cooking, it was time to eat the lunch, accompanied by lots of prosecco and chianti. The antipasti included the quality produce picked up from the market, followed by the artichoke simply sliced and dressed with lemon. Next was the tortellini filled with spinach and ricotta and finished off with the sage and butter sauce. Next the garganelle with some ragu and the fresh peas. Finally the tagliatelle with the bolognese ragu. There is no rest at the Bolognese table so straight on to strawberries soaked in prosecco and then a tiramisu semi freddo cake made by one of our fellow students who had just finished a week at the Gelato University. By this stage, Carlo produced his home made limoncello and for those still conscious a quick espresso to finish.