We all know and love Italian dishes like lasagne, spaghetti with meat sauce, minestrone and tiramisu but, depending on the contents in the kitchen garden, cupboards and fridge, the end result varies from time to time. Not saying the result is anything but good, but it might not be as the Italians intended.
I have always wanted to learn to make Italian food like the Italians and this summer my wish came true. In July I joined a cooking school in Bologna for three days and it was an amazing experience.
Every other summer my husband and I spend two weeks in Italy, driving through the countryside in our rented Fiat 500, tasting all the fantastic, regional food and wines, and this year we were heading for the southern part of Emilia-Romagna and the northern part of Tuscany.
Shopping for groceries at the local market in Bologna.
Before going, I searched the internet for a long time and found several cooking classes, but only one place in the region had what I was looking for: Taste of Italy in Bologna. My main focus was the regional cuisine and the opportunity to choose between several different cookery courses but I didn’t want the classes to be too big and the level of difficulty too low. I wanted to be challenged and to learn a lot from experienced teachers. Taste of Italy fulfilled all my wishes.
Taste of Italy offers a wide range of cookery classes, teaching you to make food the way it’s done in Bologna and Emilia-Romagna. As you probably know, the Italians are very proud of their regional food, and every region will proclaim their cuisine the best. The people from Bologna are no different, but they have good reason to be proud.
Before making the pasta you get to taste the wonderful Parmagiano Reggiano – age 1, 2 and 3 years old.
Just think about balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto from Parma, tortellini and mortadella. All these products are made in Emilia-Romagna and highly appreciated all over the world and there are plenty of opportunities to cook with these ingredients at Taste of Italy.
The obvious course to do is the pasta course, learning how to make the traditional ragu from Bologna, coloured pasta, pasta vegetarian style, gluten-free pasta or tortellini. If you don’t like pasta, or already know all there is to know, you’ll find plenty of other courses such as learning how to cook food with balsamic vinegar or Parmigiano-Reggiano, make fantastic risottos and vegetarian food.
Courgette flowers ready to be stuffed with ricotta, basil and nutmeg.
You can choose between ordinary cookery classes or Foodie lessons. Both include 4-5 hours of cooking, all ingredients, apron and recipes plus a meal prepared in the lesson, water, wine and something sweet. The Foodie lessons last a bit longer and involve more cooking – an obvious choice for those who want to know everything about the food from Bologna and Emilia-Romagna.
I took Foodie lessons in making tortellini, vegetarian food and food with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Two out of three days it was just me, and my teacher. Needless to say there was plenty of time to talk about food, make several dishes (4-6) and enjoy the meal.
At the Market Tour you get to see freshly catched fish, ripe fruit, colourful vegetables and ham and cheese in all sizes. Everything a homecooks heart desire.
Even if you just do one lesson, don’t miss the market tour. It is a must! The centre of Bologna is filled with old shops specialising in cheese, meat, fish, pasta, bread, oil and vinegar, vegetables and so on. Everything is super fresh and you start wondering how to bring home large quantities of cheese, cold cuts and dried mushrooms without being charged for overweight baggage.
The lessons take place at the teacher’s private home. The first lesson I felt a bit out of my comfort zone, invading someone else’s private space but it only took a few minutes to feel comfortable. You get so focused on learning how to do the dishes, and the teachers are so nice and friendly you soon feel like two friends cooking a home-made meal together. Cooking in a private kitchen also means that you cope with ordinary kitchen tools, pots and pans. You don’t use any big industrial machines and all necessary equipment is similar to what you have at home.
Chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary and sage. The sidedish is a salad with peaches.
The biggest assets at Taste of Italy, however, are the teachers. They are super friendly, fluent in English and know all there is to know about food from Bologna and the region. They share a lot of personal stories about food, making it easier for you to relate to the dishes, and their teaching style is very hands-on. Don’t take a lesson if you are thinking about hiding at the back. Take a lesson because you love food, want to learn a lot and love human interaction.
One the right the lovely Maribel Agullo from Taste of Italy, who made me so much wiser about Italian food.
My first experience at a cooking school was amazing. I loved learning how to cook regional Italian food and it was great fun learning about the Do’s and Don’ts. Should you ever consider going to a cooking school in Italy, I would highly recommend Taste of Italy.
Maribel Agullo, who owns Taste of Italy, is easily reached by email and will answer any question you have about the cooking school, prices and best time of year.