Cooking Classes in Bologna
Bologna, also called the fat city, is one of the culinary capitals of Italy. Its food reflects the welcoming warmth of its people, who love living, eating and having fun. Particularly known for its primi piatti of fresh pasta: stuffed tortellini and tortelloni, tagliatelle with the typical Bolognese sauce, and the lasagne, Bologna offers an unforgettable variety of delicious food. Here fresh ingredients are phenomenal: prosciutto, mortadella, parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar; while the gentle hills nearby produce Pignoletto and Sauvignon wines.
A cooking class in this city can really open the doors of a veritable and totally earthy paradise. Alta Cucina visited the three main schools.
At La Cultura Italiana on via Castiglione, 4 (+39 051 228003), we meet Roberta Vai who tells us how their classes started. “Our students of Italian would meet informally with our chef in the evening, buy some fresh ingredients and cook their dinner”. They kept this habit, but due to the students’ request, two years ago the school decided to open regular cooking classes in the morning for those who want to know more about the secrets of the Bolognese and Italian food. “We have students from the United States, Europe and Japan,” continues Roberta “from 18 to 70 years old, coming to Bologna for work, to study or simply for passion. They love Italian food and want to be able to go back home and still savour Italy in their kitchen”.
The classes are for amateurs, not necessarily knowledgeable of the kitchen and last 3 and half hours for five consecutive days (for the price of €350 including all ingredients and use of the spaces). Everyday students cook pasta, a main course, a side dish and a dessert. Every week, they learn four complete meals, coupling them with the wines. Every dish offers many variations, so that in one week a student learns to cook 16 basic dishes plus variations (about 64 different dishes in a week). The atmosphere at school, a 500-year old building in the heart of the city, is welcoming and friendly.
“We open from 8.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday” says Roberta “and close only for a couple of weeks for Christmas”. The chef, Mario Scalera (who worked for ten years as a cook in different restaurants in the city, and today he is a researcher of the traditional cuisine) is ready to bring his students to the kitchen lab for the amateur class. “This is their first day,” explains Mario “and I’m starting with a first and second course, plus dessert. The tagliatelle pasta with Bolognese ragu sauce is a must. Then, if during the week, the students ask me to try and make other Italian food than Bolognese, maybe something they tried in a restaurant and want to make, I’ll teach it”. Classes at this level are customized on the students’ request and level.
We pass through the maze of the Medieval streets of the market, Mario stops at the vegetables stand for some onions and in the meantime points the seasonal vegetables of this area to the Japanese Mamiko “This is cicoria, we’ll do something with it, maybe tomorrow” he says. Then they stop at the butcher for some ground beef for the Bolognese sauce and a bottle of wine, “we always finish the class eating the lunch we prepared” smiles Mario. The students love this little walk, after all the classes is already started from the basics: grocery shopping.
All classes are in Italian. “We had some students who didn’t speak Italian,” recalls Mario “but they never asked for an interpreter, although we can provide one. I guess they prefer to try and understand. But I always speak some English to make it simpler!” The food created every day is authentic and simple, the ingredients fresh, the preparation made easy by the passion Mario communicates to his students and the effect is elegant without being snobbish. This is what you can find on a real Italian table every day.
At La Cultura Italiana, there are also semi-professional and professional courses for chefs and wine tasting classes to learn the various wine typologies (name, place of origin, year and quality). The classes started more as an experiment, now are becoming a regular course, still keeping intact the convivial essence that started it: the passion for authentic Italian meals among friends.