My mom and I both have birthdays in February. In lieu of presents and separate celebrations, we’ve taken to doing something extra special together. One year, we booked a room at the Umstead Hotel and Spa – still one of the most luxurious experiences of my life. Another, I helped her with a major landscaping project. Less luxurious, as you can imagine, but no less enjoyable.
This past February, we thought it would be fun to take a cooking class!
There are A LOT of cooking classes in New York City. Shopping around for just the right one was a bit overwhelming, but we ultimately decided on Rustico Cooking. I highly recommend checking them out.
Founded by Micol, former Editor and Chief Writer for The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, and her husband Dino, Rustico Cooking offers cooking classes, cooking parties and corporate team-building events.
We took a Saturday afternoon class called “Fresh Pasta Workshop: Heirloom Favorites.” I won’t go into too much detail about the class itself except to say that Micol runs a tight ship. She kept 15 or so novice pasta makers on track as we made three different kinds of pasta, complete with sauces, and a batch of biscotti for dessert.
While on the phone with mom a few weeks back, she lamented that she hadn’t had any time since the class in February to practice the skills we learned. I admitted to only making one of the three pasta recipes for a dinner party, but hadn’t gotten around to practicing the other two. Or the biscotti.
Now normally, when I invite my mom (or anyone for that matter) to NYC for a visit, the day is spent running around the city, trying to cram as much eating-shopping-museum going-site seeing as we can manage. This time I had a revelation. I invited my mom up simply for a day of cooking. At home. A pasta making extravaganza.
We decided to make two of the three kinds of pasta from the class; a double batch of cavatelli and a batch of ricotta gnocchi.
It’s an astoundingly simple pasta to make. Don’t be scared away by long descriptions and step-by-step guides. It’s just semolina flour and water. That’s it!
The first time I tried to make them at home, I made the dough a bit too wet. Not the worst thing to happen – the dough just wouldn’t hold a shape. And it was easy enough to correct, working in more semolina.
This was an especially nice dough to make as a team, as it does require a good amount of kneading. We took turns.
I don’t have a fancy pasta machine or any attachments for my stand mixer. Yet. But I do have this simple little cavatelli maker that Micol recommended. It’s less than $30 on Amazon, and I just love it.
Once everything was all set up, we cranked through two batches of dough pretty quickly.
We froze all the cavatelli we made that day. It made the trip back with my mom well enough, too, incase you’d like to host a pasta making party of your own.
We did also make some ricotta gnocchi together, with fresh pesto and roasted zucchini from the farmers market. It was probably one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down to in my own kitchen, on so many levels.
Aside from quality time together, it was really great practice. It’s one thing to make something in class, with a teacher supervising. But together, we were able to talk through the steps, evaluate the consistency of the dough, feel through the shaping process and ultimately expand on our skills and home cooks.