Most of you may be familiar with Barilla, the world’s largest pasta company that has origins in Italy. They have a huge variety of pastas and sauces to go with it and I am a recent convert. Not just of the company but to using dried pasta and bottled sauces in general. I prefer to cook my food from scratch where possible and if I don’t do that, I’d rather just order take-out or a pizza than take a shortcut in the kitchen. I am not sure why this is, this is just my style. But boy, was I doing it all wrong. It all started with a goodie box that Barilla sent me and I fell in love with their hearty mediterranean vegetables sauce. It tasted exactly like my homemade tomato sauce for pasta, even the colour. And it took me less than 20 mins to put together a lovely lunch for the two of us. Sold!
So when I got an invite to the Casa Barilla cooking school in Annandale, Sydney, I dragged TH and showed up bright and early on a Saturday to see what they had to offer. We were greeted by a smiling Silvia, a glass of wine, and one of the best chocolate pear cakes I have ever tasted. In about 10 minutes, the group of 16 was complete and we moved to the area where the hands-on cooking class was to take place. I prefer hands-on cooking classes, much like the cooking classes at Palate Sensations a few years ago in Singapore.
Chef Luca Ciano was leading the classes and he was everything a good teacher should be. Articulate, funny, and best of all, he explained not only what he was doing while preparing the dishes but why we were doing it. I made a mental note to do that more in my blog posts too.
We made a mushroom potato lasagna first (check out my spinach mushroom lasagna recipe here). The bechamel sauce or white sauce was the trickiest part and something I haven’t made at home before. Chef Luca showed us how it’s done from start to finish and we could watch him in front of us (of course) and also get an aerial view from the cameras connected to an overhead screen. Great way to see what he means by “when it reaches a thick consistency” or “whisk briskly”, etc.
TH and I were part of a group of 4 and we went to make our own lasagne. There were 4 groups in total with 4 separate work stations fitted with state-of-the-art equipment and very sturdy restaurant-quality utensils and tools.
All four groups assembled the lasagne and passed it to the chef and sous chef to stick it in the oven. While that was going on, we saw the demo of our second dish for the day – a smoked salmon tart with pesto sauce. A very easy recipe that can me customized a million ways and we put together a vegetarian version for TH.
Here’s how our finished tart looked like, all plated. This one’s mine!
Once we were done with assembling the tarts and they had gone into the oven, the lasagna was ready so we sat down with our drinks (both wine and soft drinks are served as you come in and with your meal) to taste it. Once we were done with that, the tarts were ready to be devoured too. All in all, a perfect lunch.
We had a lovely 4 hours and my biggest takeaway was the perfectly cooked bechamel sauce which I am sure to make again. Even the lasagne was a great base recipe to try out different versions of. We were sent away with the leftovers of the food we made and a goodie bag with some pasta, sauces, and a recipe book, in addition to the recipes from the class.
Although TH and I attended the class as guests of Casa Barilla, I would definitely go back for more classes, they were that good! Check out their website to learn more.