Tried and tested: Oli’s fresh pasta cookery workshop
Full disclosure. I spent 6 years living in Italy. Whilst I can assure you that many plates of pasta were eaten, not once did I actually make the pasta myself.
And no, I don’t mean packets of the dry stuff you can buy anywhere. I mean the real deal – ‘pasta fresca’ (fresh pasta).
Last month, the chance came for me to redeem myself. Oli, who runs fantastic cookery experiences in Italy, contacted the GoLearnTo office with news of his pop-up fresh pasta workshops in London for just a few dates only.
As a huge fan and admirer of his wonderful cooking holidays in Tuscany, I jumped at the chance. Oli, along with his partner Flo, takes his food seriously. Their cooking holidays will not only show you how to make delicious staple Italian dishes during hands-on lessons, but they will also take you out to meet the local farmers and producers of the classic Italian ingredients we have come to know and love. A trip with them promises to be a pure gastronomic experience and the chance to experience Italian cuisine from farm to table.
Here’s what happened when I learnt how to make fresh pasta with them on a Monday night in Hoxton.
After being greeted by Oli and Flo and a quick exchange of handshakes and introductions from my fellow cooks for the night, Oli filled us in what he had planned for the workshop and why an English guy was teaching us how to make pasta.
Growing up, Oli spent his summers in the Maremma region of Tuscany where he developed a passion for the region’s rich cuisine and culinary traditions. After a range of chef work in the UK, he went on to move to Tuscany to further develop his skills. He has also trained as a ‘sfoglino’ or artisan pasta maker where he learnt the tricks of the trade from expert Italian pasta makers.
Time to get stuck in
Our tables and cooking stations were all set up for us so we could get going immediately. Before we knew it, our hands were covered in flour and egg and we were well on our way to making our batch of pasta dough with our own hands and Oli expert guidance.
It soon became clear that to really understand and learn how to make pasta from scratch, you really do need to be hands-on. Oli was constantly helping us, explaining and testing our dough to make sure it was right and answering any questions we had.
As our pasta dough need some time to rise, we were treated to a delicious Italian aperitivo to pass the time. Flo was on hand to offer us a choice of amazing Italian wines and nibbles including some tasty ‘crostini’ topped with pecorino cheese and organic honey from the bee farmer they visit on their cookery holidays. If you have never tasted this combination before, I implore you to try it. Paired with a glass of Chianti, you can’t beat it!
Throwing some (pasta) shapes
After a quick test to check the pasta is ready (sticking your thumb in and then seeing if the dough ‘bounces’ back), we are ready to make some shapes.
We start with ‘farfalle’, the bow like shapes that look impressive but are actually simple to make, and follow them up with ‘tagliatelle’. It’s my first time using a pasta machine and it really isn’t a scary as it looks. In fact, it’s actually theraputic and in my head I have already bought one and I am in my kitchen on a Sunday making pasta for dinner with a glass of red in hand listening to ‘Volare’ (oh oh!).
The other cooks and I admire each others work and encourage each other while Oli does the rounds and makes sure everyone is ok and the pasta is looking good.
Next, we move onto the stuffed variety, making two types of ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and goat’s cheese before moving onto a spinach and ricotta filling. It’s messy, often tricky, but SO much fun.
With four types of pasta shapes under our belts, it was time to go home. Our pasta was boxed up before Flo and Oli added a recipe card and bag of homemade cantucci, sweet Italian biscuits (nice touch!).
I can confirm that neither the pasta or cantucci lasted beyond 24 hours.
If you would like to know more about Oli and Flo and their amazing Italian gastronomy and cookery holidays in Tuscany, you can see their full range of holidays here.