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How To Make Pasta And Other Secrets Of Italian Cooking By Chef Margarita Forés And Casa Artusi

If you love Italian cuisine, and aren’t reading this as a nostalgic look back at the weekend that just passed or cooking sessions you’ve attended in the past years, then you just missed out on half your life.

 

 

 

The Hub Series for 2018 featuring Casa Artusi held at Discovery Primea’s Flame Restaurant has come and gone. For the fortunate ones who attended this exclusive culinary event where one spends some four hours with Chef Margarita Forés (Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016) and Casa Artusi’s Chef Carla Brigliadori, the memory of what transpired will always be something very special and unique. 

 

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On the surface, it was billeted as Lessons in Making Fresh Pasta with some recipes thrown in. But it turned out to be so much more, with all the rich anecdotes that Margarita provided about her travels to Italy and her exposure to the highly-respected Casa Artusi, one of the more venerable institutions of Italian culinary arts. Plus, she linked her stories to the Philippines and our need to create a global culinary identity.

The repartee between Margarita and Carla, with her broken English, was priceless, as they enriched our knowledge of Italian culture and life—especially as it relates to the Emilia Romagna region, home of so many quality food products Italy is known for, and from where Chef Carla hails.

 

 

 

One of the first things we were ‘taught’ was that, when it comes to Italian cooking, there are three ‘Bibles’ that one refers to, namely, The Silver Spoon, The Golden Pot, and Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. With these three, one is set for life in making one’s kitchen a haven for all kinds of Italian dishes, from hearty Northern Italy recipes to the lighter dishes of the sunny Southern regions and Mediterranean islands. It’s no coincidence that Margarita established Casa Artusi Philippines as a Filipino linkage to Casa Artusi which is located in Forlimpopoli, in the heart of Emila Romagna. Thanks to this partnership, Chef Carla has been making annual visits to Manila for some years now.

These Casa Artusi sessions are very hands on, with recipes, aprons, and certificates provided. Chef Carla first demonstrated how to make fresh pasta with a myriad of shapes and types. Then the ‘students’ were thrown into the deep end of creating their own.

 

 

When making the pasta dough, local duck eggs are recommended as they provide better consistency then the eggs of our local chickens. As Carla showed us, our fingers are utilized much like the tines of a fork, with our other hand used for maintaining the shape of our work surface. 

 


 

I love how all the different shapes of pasta were explained, often with a story or legend behind a shape we often take for granted. This was Italian culinary culture coming to vivid life. For example, some pasta shapes are better for heavier sauces, while others are reserved for broths or soups. We were also instructed on the proper proportion of sauce to pasta. Italians are proud of the quality of their dough, so whether it’s a pasta dish or pizza, we shouldn't drown the dish in sauce.

Chef Carla showed the class how to make piadina or unleavened bread, and how different countries have their own versions of this staple. Raw flour, salt, a pinch of yeast, and pork lard is the Italian way; and Margarita made sure to mention that the pork lard used came from Zubuchon. In other countries, ingredients such as chickpeas, wine, and so on, are used, as each country, region, even family has its own special version of this bread. 

 



The session also offered a wonderful lesson on balsamic vinegar; how high quality balsamico from the Emilia Romagna region comes in a bottle with a very specific shape, and how the only indicator of how many years it has been aged is a colored strip on the bottle’s neck.

It is this kind of information that made the session so worthwhile; as it wasn’t just about learning how to make pasta or cook dishes, but developing a better appreciation of things Italian, arming us for when we next step into an Italian restaurant, or visit the country. There was even a quick talk about how being taught to cook Italian in America is radically different from how it’s done in Italy.

It’s stuff like this that made the hours fly by, and made me appreciate why the Hub Series is conducted with a limited number of participants, so that each student is really attended to, and supervised. And yes, we were constantly being fed and plied with wine!

 

Discovery Primea, 6749 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, (02) 955-8888, www.discoveryprimea.com

Visit www.casaartusiphilippines.com