Self-confessed clumsy cook But-Elle Hatooka goes Italian at Sydney’s Casa Barilla Cooking School.

As someone whose knowledge of Italian food comes only from eating it, walking into the blindingly white, pristine kitchens of Casa Barilla Cooking School is intimidating.

Luckily, there is a glass of Prosecco on arrival and an antipasto selection that delivers delicious distraction from the palpable awkwardness among participants waiting for the class to start. Nerves are high when I realise we will work in teams at one of four kitchen stations to replicate what executive chef Luca Ciano and his assistant, Angelo, will prepare at the front.

After the 13 of us attentive students don our aprons, Luca begins by asking us questions about the Italian region of Liguria. The pop quiz ends abruptly when it becomes apparent we all have come to cook the food without any knowledge of Liguria, save for maybe one or two people who had looked it up after signing up for the class. But the charismatic Luca remains unfazed, and finally gets down to why we were all here: food.

First stop, the focaccia. Unfortunately, Luca’s preparation is only a demonstration, although we do touch a sample of dough along the way which is “bake-worthy”. I soon have a new-found appreciation for focaccia and come away with the advice: when in doubt, add extra-virgin olive oil.

Ligurian mussel soup is our second course, and Luca’s demonstration is complete with the inevitable plug of Barilla ingredients (the packaged pasta and sauce company that is holding the class). Apparently their Arrabiata sauce has “100% Italian tomatoes”, a fact that my palette is too unsophisticated to appreciate.

After watching Luca for an hour, I am excited to get my hands dirty gourmet style. My friend and I pair up with two confident sisters and set about de-bearding mussels. At some stage during Luca’s presentation, Angelo had set up each kitchenette, measuring ingredient quantities and taking out the relevant utensils. The simple soup, when made between four people and assisted at incremental points of the recipe by Angelo, took no time at all. The nearly-forgotten divine focaccia makes a welcome entry as a side dish.

Next up is the pasta course – bavette pasta with prawns, pesto Genovese, potatoes and green beans. While I am getting a bit lost in some of the nuances, Angelo takes on a sort of “fairy godmother” role, cleaning, setting up the kitchenette and altogether becoming one of the major perks of this class. After the highs of realising I am to man the green board (veggies only so no prawn entrails for me!), and the lows of my fast demotion to “potato cutter”, I am more than ready to eat what the team (largely without my effort) has cooked.

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All up, during the evening I learnt a bit of food trivia, ate well and had a good time, but I felt a bit lost as a beginner. After leaving the class, I doubt I could reproduce any of the dishes. Having said that, I leave equipped with recipes, apron and goody bag filled with Barilla ingredients, so I’m certainly in a good position to try.

THE DETAILS:

The Casa Barilla Cooking school holds regular classes to give insight into Italian cooking techniques. There are two special classes for Mother’s Day. At $90 per person, Barilla’s Executive Chef, Luca Ciano, will guide participants through a 3-course set menu to give insight into how Italian chefs cook at home.

The classes will be hosted on:

–          Saturday, 7th May from 11am – 1:30pm

–          Tuesday, 10th May from 6pm – 8:30pm

The 3-course set menu includes:

–          Entrée: Smoked Salmon Pastrami with Apple and Cucumber Garnish with Salmon Caviar

–          Main: Egg Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushrooms and Prosseco Sauce with Shaved Truffle

–          Dessert: Chianti and Cinnamon Poached Pear filled with Mascarpone and Marsala.

 

Bookings are essential as the class is limited to 16 people. For enquiries, please contact: (02) 8585 3911 or visit http://www.barillaaus.com/.