I recently received an invitation to attend a cooking class with Casa Barilla. It was upon receiving this invite that I realised I had never done a cooking class before. I wasn’t sure what to expect and dreaded reliving my high school food tech classes. Dark and dingy, our classroom (and makeshift kitchen) was a breeding ground for disaster – not to mention salmonella. Our teacher was fairly uninspiring and the dishes taught were equally bland.
In complete contrast, Casa Barilla was a breath of fresh air and the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed: no one was here to be the next Guy Grossi, they were just looking for some inspiration to jazz up their tired repertoire. Plus, there was plenty of bubbles and vino to go around.
“We try to keep it as much fun as possible and to give a true Italian experience to the attendees from the minute they walk through our doors, until they leave. The locals love it and embrace it, so we keep working hard to improve it at all times,” says Luca Ciano, Casa Barilla’s Executive Chef who explains that Casa Barilla opened in 2008 with the aim of sharing the diversity of Italian cuisine with Australians.
“We only focus on Italian cooking, no twist no gimmicks, it’s simple and easy to understand and people can go home and truly replicate the dishes demonstrated.”
The class format is relatively easy to follow – first, Luca demonstrates the steps involved in putting the dish together and then the class breaks to their stations and replicates what they’ve just seen. The process is made a little easier with an elevated LCD which provides an aerial view of what Luca is doing.
I was won over by Luca and his assistant Angelo’s nonchalant attitude to cooking. They were also a great laugh and I really didn’t think a cooking class would be this enjoyable. Luca doesn’t profess to be an expert, but simply provides you with the basics for creating great dishes at home and giving you freedom to interpret and adapt however you wish.
Many of the classes are built around different regional dishes in Italy. The class we attended was inspired by the region of Lombardy in Italy’s north. On the agenda was Osso Buco, Salame di Cioccolato (Chocolate Salami) and Polenta.
Osso Buco is a Milanese specialty of veal shanks cooked in meat broth, flavored with white wine and vegetables. Slowly braised, this relatively tough, yet flavorful cut of meat becomes meltingly tender, and the connective tissues and marrow dissolve into the sauce, making it rich and creamy. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of time with our Osso Buco. I would really like to give the recipe a go in a slow cooker: a slow braise over six or seven hours will really soften the meat and bring out greater flavour in the dish.
Osso Buco alla Milanese
½ onion, finely chopped
½ carrot, finely chopped
½ stick of celery, finely chopped
100g unsalted butter
4 veal osso buco (300 – 350g each)
100g plain flour
1 glass white wine
2 glasses veal stock
1 tin peeled tomatoes or 3 fresh vine-ripened tomatoes (optional)
100g green peas
30g lemon zest
¼ bunch parsley
1 garlic clove
Salt & pepper and olive oil
1. In a large casserole, gently cook the onion, carrot and celery in butter until golden.
2. Coat the osso buco in flour, season them and sear on both sides in the same pan.
3. Add the wine and let it evaporate. Add the stock and tomatoes and simmer with a lid on for an hour and a half.
4. To make the gremolata, finely chop the lemon zest, parsley, garlic and mix with a little olive oil and season to taste.
5. Five minutes before serving, add the peas and season to taste. Serve with gremolata.
375 grams Barilla polenta flour
1.5 litre water
1 tbs salt
1 tbs exra virgin olive oil
60 grams grated grana padano
20 grams unsalted butter
1. Bring to boil the water in a large pot, add salt and oil.
2. Once boiling, add the polenta a litle at a time, whisking constantly.
3. Cook on gentle heat for 3 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and add butter and grana padano, allow melting and mix well.
Salame di cioccolato
100 grams dried biscuit, crumbled
50 grams almonds finely chopped
80 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
150 grams caster sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 tbs dark cocoa powder
1 tbs rum
1. In a large bowl mix the eggs with butter, sugar, cocoa and liquor.
2. Add the biscuits and almonds and mix well.
3. Place the mix onto the grease proof paper and roll it into a salami shape.
4. Allow to rest for for 2 hours in the freezer before serving.
For more information about Casa Barilla’s upcoming cooking classes, please visit www.barillaaus.com. Classes are priced from $50 per person.
4 Annandale Street
Annandale NSW 2038