Only a few weeks after returning from my gap year travels I was disappointed in myself that I had gone all my (then) 18 years and one hearty gap year without ever having been to Italy! Venice and Florence had always been on my list of destinations……the land of food. So a quick ticket and a hostel bed later I found myself in the middle of Italy with a heavy bag and apron for company. Naturally with my priorities in the right place) I had both a Venetian and Tuscan cookery class booked and under my belt.
If I’m honest, I’ve never been a huge pasta fan but what could be better than making it yourself in the sunny Tuscan hills? I spent what has to be the most charming, authentic and relaxing day in a Tuscan cookery school just outside Florence on their magical estate. With wine in hand on arrival (their priorities were right) I cooked a 4 course meal using wines and rich olive oils from their own estate and learned how to make pasta. It was a day to remember. (For details see below).
However, not being a pasta fan I have not revisited the pasta section of the charmingly translated and authentic cookery book from the school- until now. I thought I’d deviate from the traditional spinach and ricotta variety I made in Florence and invented my own. For pasta lovers, making it could not be easier- I don’t even have a pasta machine! Whilst I would recommend one, as rolling it to a thin consistency did shamefully strain and unearth some hibernating arm muscles, but it was delicious. Fill your ravioli with whatever you like and coat in any sauce that takes your fancy! I’m now off to re-make the other dishes I so greedily enjoyed back in those sunny hills….watch this space
- 200g ‘OO’ flour
- 2 eggs
- Pinch salt
- Small handful of chopped dill
- 2 salmon fillets, smoked (Mine were raw but lightly smoked which was a nice addition, alternatively used precooked smoked trout for the same texture and flavour but non-smoked salmon fillet work fine also)
- 2 heaped tbsp creme fraiche/ricotta
- 1 lemon, zest and 1 tbsp juice
- 25g butter
- 1 tbsp capers
- Bunch of asparagus, chopped
1. Start with the pasta. Make a heaped mound of flour on a clean surface and make a well in the centre. Break in your eggs and a pinch of salt. Use a fork to whisk the eggs in a circular motion and then gradually bring in the flour from the sides bit by bit to incorporate it into the dough2. Once it has all be added (its may need a splash of water or wine to add a bit more moisture) knead into a ball. Add the chopped dill and then knead with the heal of your hand for a good 15-20 minutes until the dough is really smooth and it feels elastic.
3. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook the salmon in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until just cooked but still moist. Discard the skin and flake into a bowl with some seasoning, the finely grated zest of the lemon and a squeeze of the juice. Leave to cool before stirring in the creme fraiche.
5. Once the dough has rested, remove from the fridge and use either a pasta machine or some elbow grease and a rolling pin to roll out so it is really thin.
6. Cut out circles with a pastry cutter and spoon teaspoons of cold salmon into the middle. Fold over into a half moon and sandwich together and seal with a fork.
7. Place onto a lightly floured/.polenta coated plate.
8. Cook your asparagus spears for a few minutes and then drain and keep warm. Additionally, heat a splash of oil over a high heat and fry the capers until crisp and drain on kitchen paper.
9. Bring a large heavily salted pan of water to the boil and drop in your pasta. Simmer briskly until cooked to your liking (about 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the pasta) and they will rise to the surface when they are nearly ready.
10. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large frying pan on a high heat. When it starts to sizzle, stir and allow it to turn a brown nutty colour and release a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice
11. Drain the pasta and serve, with the asparagus spears and drizzle generously with the lemon butter sauce. Scatter with the capers and a grating of lemon zest.
The cookery course I did in Florence was ‘The Good Taste of Italy’ day course found here. I didn’t stay in the accommodation on the estate but I wish I had, its worth a look as they also do cookery holidays where you are housed in their stunning villa and fed silly.
The Venetian course I did was outside of Venice and was very different. It took a more homely and casual approach set in the house of an Italian Mama. Advertised to teach you to ’cook like an Italian Mama’ it was certainly the most authentic course I could have done and there were only 3 of us in the class. After being collected, we shopped for our ingredients and picked our vegetables and herbs form their own healthy allotment before being welcomed generously to their kitchen to cook up a feast.