Pasta Risotto Bologna – Bologna, Italy
Looking for another activity to round out our last full day, I took to Airbnb to look through the experiences listed for Bologna. We have had some good like with Airbnb experiences in the past and the Bologna market was surprisingly packed with options, mostly pasta making.
I was very excited for this experience because we were ready to take our pasta game to the next level. My grandparents taught us how to make pasta and it has been simple noodles – name depends on the width – fettuccine, tagliatelle, pappardelle, etc. I found Dennis with Pasta Risotto Bologna that would teach us stuffed pastas – level up!
Kevin and I have had our fair share of guides and experiences – some private and some in groups. Both have pros and cons but sometimes a group is a great way to meet people with similar interests – in this case food and travel. We had instant chemistry with the brother-sister duo from London around our age who travel together on foodie trips. We had ourselves laughing the entire four hours with Dennis. I should think we were one of his most entertaining and animated pasta making classes.
The experience takes place in his apartment kitchen – very small, just enough room for the five of us. It was a good reminder that you don’t need a lot of space, modern kitchen or fancy equipment to make a gourmet meal. You need eggs and flour, and hard surface to work on, and a way to boil water. It is also humbling how he opens his personal space to complete strangers. While we are paying him, it is still a level of trust in people that I think is lost back home. We were thrilled to be here and excited to get started.
We started simply each making our own dough – ratio being 100 gram of 00 flour to 1 egg as a portion for one. We each made 2 eggs worth of pasta dough and my goodness the eggs are just so beautiful in Europe! Eggs here just lack that deep orange quality in the yoke. Dennis demonstrated some great techniques for incorporating the egg without making a mess of your hands – greatly appreciated those helpful tips!
Time to knead the dough but with a different mechanism than we have done or seem in the past. Basically smacking in down over and over without a rolling motion. This has better results in developing the gluten and I found it much easier on my arms than the kneading we have seen.
The sauce that we would have with the pasta was sage and butter – no complaints here. If you are making a richer filling, you want a simpler sauce so the filling is not in competition. This is why a filled pasta is typically with a more basic sauce and a ragu is normally not with a filled pasta at all. We experimented with three different types of sage – fresh on the plant that was on Dennis’ balcony, dried whole sage from his parents garden, and dried sage from a shaker. We obviously preferred the first two options as we added them on top of the butter. He then put the butter with all the sage on the side – allowing the incorporation of the flavors to sit at room temperature as the butter softened. I need a sage plant in the house!
While the dough rested in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, we made the fillings and it was incredible how open ended this process was. Dennis guided us through our first filling then each pair got to make their own.
We blanched spinach, chopped it up, added ricotta, salt, pepper and nutmeg (game changer). I was just amazed at how simple Dennis was making this entire process. We typically need to plan a day in advance if we want to make our own pasta and we were conquering this in a few hours.
Before moving onto making our own fillings, we had to get familiar with the ingredients so Dennis opened containers of six different cheeses, even some Parmigiano Reggiano, displayed over a dozen different infused oils, Prosciutto di Parma and also popped open a bottle of wine. We got to try everything like kids in a candy shop.
Now it was time to make our own fillings. I knew instantly what I wanted to do even before trying anything. Dennis had boiled potatoes so he smashed them up and we added Prosciutto di Parma and the graded the smoky cheese. It was surprising how much salt needed to be added as someone that adds salt to nothing. Dennis states that you need the filling to be salter than you desire because a good portion of it disappears with the boiling process. The siblings from London took the rest of the ricotta and spinach to create a cheesier rendition, even added oregano oil to their final filling.
Putting the fillings aside, it was time to play with all the pasta toys. The pasta rolling process began as we divided up dough for our arts and craft project. We made tortellini, ravioli, and agnolotti for the filled pastas. It was so interesting to actually learn the differences between these pastas – you know generally based on shape but this highlighted more clearly the technical. Tip: if you think it is too much filling, it is too much. Then we made two non-stuffed pastas – tagliatelle and type of penne. I cannot wait to go home and buy all of these pasta tools.
The finished product sat on this window sill and pasta rack allowing time to dry while we cleaned ourselves and the place up for the grand finale.
We moved the table towards the bench and sat down like school children awaiting lunch. Dennis had the water going, heating the pan on top with the butter and sage, and in went the pasta for three minutes.
And then the pasta marathon began – fiver different pastas, three of which then had three different fillings. So much delicious pasta!!! It was unbelievable that we created this and I felt prepared to replicate it.
A dash of white truffle oil with the sage butter brought everything together. Every shape and every variation of filling was just delicious. What an incredible way to have lunch in Bologna!
If you visit Bologna, you must book with Dennis regardless of your skill level. He makes it easy and keeps it very light and fun. Not to mention the most memorable lunch you will have in Bologna! Thank you Dennis!
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