A few weeks ago, John, Marmo and I took a class at the De Gustibus Cooking School which is located on the 8th floor of Macy’s in Herald Square. Because I live in a hole, I had no idea there was a cooking school inside Macy’s! There is, in fact, and a very good one. It’s owned and operated by Salvatore Rizzo who has an impressive history of accomplishments in the culinary world.
As you can see from the graphic above, the class we took was called “Hands On: Pasta Presto” with Gina Stipo. The purpose of the class was to give us an introductory lesson in making fresh pasta along with three different sauces.
First a few words on Gina, our chef. Gina runs a cooking school in Siena (the Tuscany region) Italy, Ecco La Cucina. When teaching, her focus is hands-on so that you can experience the different stages of food preparation and understand how to execute various techniques. True to Italian ways, her meals center around fresh, seasonal produce and quality local ingredients.
Her teaching manner is very approachable and downright fun. The atmosphere was very energetic – we all had a fantastic time. And not just because of the fantastic food and wine (oh yes! there was wine!). But those things certainly helped….
To get us all warmed up, we snacked on some crostini and sipped Prosecco. All four crostini (mushroom, tarragon cream, kale, and Cannellini bean puree) were wonderfully light and flavorful. And kind of rustic…I could almost feel myself transported to a farmhouse in Siena…overlooking some fields of sunflowers….BUT I digress.
After the crostini, we all broke up into small groups to make our own pasta dough. We made enough for three dishes. First up was the Ravioli with Butternut Squash:
Since the pasta will be formed into ravioli, you only need to roll it out into thin sheets, stuff it with your filling (not too much – careful!) and then seal it (a little water does the trick). These little pasta surprises were stuffed with butternut squash puree. The whole thing was topped with a butter and saage sauce that was simple and beautiful. The cheese you see sprinkled on top is Parmesan.
We then moved on to the Spaghetti with Tomato and Ricotta Sauce:
This very simple sauce was a stand-out for me. It may have been the Ricotta cheese mixed in to the tomato sauce (readers of this blog will recall my love for Ricotta cheese). I’m not sure I will ever make a tomato sauce without Ricotta now. It managed to maintain its light and airy quality (cheese can sometimes weigh things down) while still adding a creamy taste and texture that perfectly complemented the tomato puree. Throw some freshly chopped basil on that and you have perfection.
Our last pasta was a Tagliatelle with Duck Ragu and Vin Santo. I really love duck. However, to those of you who are not duck meat lovers, this sauce is not overly gamey-tasting. It’s simmered with other ingredients for quite some time, so the effect is almost like a lighter boeuf bourguignon. The slightly wider and flatter tagliatelle noodle was the perfect pasta vehicle to scoop up this chunkier sauce. My favorite dish of the night.
Salvatore paired each dish with a wine. Here is what we drank:
Caposaldo Prosecco (with the crostini and to get us all warmed up)
Caposaldo Pinot Grigio (with the squash ravioli)
Caposaldo Chianti (with the tomato and ricotta spaghetti and duck ragu tagliatelle)
I don’t usually love Pinot Grigio, but I really liked this one. It had a slightly nutty (like me!) flavor. However, unlike me, I think this flavor was more like almonds.
All of these wines, if you’re interested, are available at Yorkshire Wine and Spirits.
And, finally, if you’d like to buy Gina’s book and make all these wonderful dishes yourself, here is where you can do that.