Rome has at least 50 museums where you can see everything from paintings to pasta, and I've spent a fair amount of time in a majority of them over the years. But I've learned that when you're traveling, it's nice to step away from museums sometimes and do something a little different. Something different... something fun... something delicious. That's what I did in between museum-hopping, boutique shopping and hunting down new gelato shops. There are many cooking classes to choose from in the Eternal City, but this one is conducted by a chef -- Fabio Bongianni -- not in a restaurant, but in his own home nearby the Spanish Steps. Come on now, how often do you get a chance to peek inside an apartment owned by a noble family that dates back to the Renaissance and Middle Ages? That family would be the Colonna family, who supplied a pope and many political leaders over the centuries and who are the owners of one of the largest private art collections in Rome at the magnificent Galleria Colonna.
So I signed up and even though I've shopped in many of Rome's less touristy-markets, I had fun tagging along as Fabio began the day by choosing vegetables in the Campo dei Fiori market.
Next stop was the old Jewish ghetto for some meat.
And some fish too. Can you tell Fabio has a good sense of humor?
We walked to his apartment on via Gregoriana, passing by the monumental Trevi Fountain.
Fabio stripped off his good shirt, we all put on aprons and got to work.... cutting fish....
making two kinds of pasta - one with eggs and flour for the ravioli, and one with just flour and water for the cavatelli.
Some people worked on squishing cooked potatoes through a ricer for the gnocchi:
Rolling out the cavatelli took a bit of practice but people caught on fast:
We ended up with a tray like this:
The ravioli were stuffed with ricotta cheese, zucchini that were cooked and mashed, parmesan cheese and an egg to bind everything together:
Fabio was an expert at tossing everything in the pan.
The best part was the eating. Three primi: ravioli dressed with butter, sage and parmesan cheese:
Cavatelli with cherry tomatoes, sea bass, olives and capers and a sprinkling of bread crumbs:
potato gnocchi with eggplant, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese.
Meat and vegetables too - chicken cooked two ways -- sauteed with a coating of breadcrumbs and olives, and braised in balsamic vinegar; baked eggplant, fried zucchini and ricotta "balls."
For dessert, we headed to one of Fabio's restaurants -- "That's Amore" and celebrated the birthday of one of the young and lovely participants with cake and coffee.
If you're headed to Rome and are interested in taking a class from Fabio, click here for more information. He plans to move his cooking classes from this apartment however, so I can't guarantee you'll be eating in this lovely dining room -- or gazing at the view of St. Peter's from his bedroom. (Yes, we were all invited in. His wife is very tolerant... to a point.) But you'll have a great time no matter where it's held -- and a delectable meal at the end.
Grazie mille Fabio per una giornata divertente.
printable recipe here
For the pasta:
10.5 ounces of water (about 1 1/4 cups)
21 ounces of flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 pinches of salt
1 medium white onion
1 stalk of celery
1 medium carrot
1 clove of garlic
1 pinch salt.
2 sea bass
For the Sauce:
1 package of cherry tomatoes
1 c white wine
1 clove of garlic
Pour flour on working surface and make a fountain with a hole in the middle of the flour. Pour the water into the middle of the fountain then add a little flour at a time with the tip of the fork. Keep beating and when all the flour is mixed and you have a dough consistency, knead the dough by pressing and folding gently with your hands. Now, work the dough with palm of your hands – holding with the left hand and pressing with the right, then fold the dough over and turn. Repeat this process for 5 minutes. Let the ball of dough sit for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Take your ball of dough and divide it into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, lay the dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide it into quarters again. Take a piece of the divided dough (now and 1/8 of the original amount) and roll it into a long tube 1/4 inch in diameter. Divide the tube into pieces 1 inch long with either a pastry cutter or a knife. Now this is the fun part. Using the edge of a butter knife or pastry cutter, with the device at a 45 degree angle, press on each piece of dough and pull across the length of it. You find that the motion causes the dough to curl up the edge of the impliment. If you don't get it at first, don't be discouraged. Just keep working with it using different amounts of pressure on the dough and eventually you'll get into the grove.
Debone the sea bass and use the bones for your stock. Place the bones in a pan with 1/8 c of olive oil and one clove of garlic. Then add the onion, celery and garlic to the pan to Sautee for a few minutes. Next add 2 cups of cold water and 2 pinches of salt. You need enough cold water to completely cover the ingredients so add more cold water if needed. Simmer for 20 minutes. Then drain the stock and save for the later step.
Saute cherry tomatoes cut in halves in a pan with one clove of garlic. Cook until the cherry tomatoes start caramelizing then glaze with white wine. Cook the cavatelli in boiling water until it floats. Add the pasta to the pan with the cherry tomato and white wine. Add the chopped sea bass and fish stock then cook until the sauce reduces. Reduce until you reach a nice creamy sauce.
Remove from the heat and serve with black olives, capers and fresh parsley sprinkled on top.