I recently took a cooking class at Columbus Park Trattoria in Stamford, CT with one of my best friends, Mariam.
About once a year, Maria Marchetti (owner of three local restaurants in CT) teaches a cooking class on how to make fresh pasta. Maria is the only person who makes the fresh pasta almost every day for all three of her family’s restaurants (Columbus Park Trattoria, Applausi, and Tarantino). In fact, before our class even began she was making fresh fettuccine for the restaurant since they just ran out. And she did this with a smile on her face while she was greeting everyone who showed up for the class.
The cooking class included not only a lesson from Maria on how to make ravioli & fettuccine, but also a three course meal and open bar. They basically had me at “open bar.” We started the evening with wine and appetizers- huge charcuterie boards full of different meats, cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes & olives. I would have been happy with just that- you can never have enough cheese!!
Next, Maria had us all gather around a large work table & explained her process on how she makes pounds & pounds of fresh pasta every day.
She uses a combination of Semolina & Durum flour. Both flours are derived from durum wheat- the difference is the texture. Semolina flour is heavier & has a coarse texture. Durum flour is like a fine ground powder & is basically semolina flour that has been further processed. Both flours are high in protein & have a yellow-ish color. Maria explained to us that back home in Italy, these are the two flours prominently used throughout the country in making authentic fresh pasta. I also found it interesting that she did not use a lot of eggs. She had 6 pounds of already prepared pasta dough for the class & only used 4 eggs (along with some water).
From there, we were taught how to roll the pasta out to the desired thickness using her pasta machine. We first made the ricotta & spinach filled ravioli. The dough was cut using a pasta cutter wheel into squares about 4-5 inches wide. Maria made the filling using her secret ingredient (nutmeg, who would have thought!) and we each took turns filling the squares & folding over the dough to create a triangular ravioli. The trick is once the dough is folded over, press down on all sides of the filling to get rid of any air bubbles. Then firmly seal all edges by pressing down. Then take your pasta cutter to make even, pretty edges. So simple to do & the pasta cutter makes all the difference.
Next up was the fettuccine! We used the same process of rolling the dough into the desired thickness using the pasta machine. This time we inserted the dough back into the machine so it could cut the pasta into fettuccine strips. The best part about making all this pasta- we actually got to eat it! The ravioli & fettuccine made during the “class” part of the night was then brought back into the kitchen to be cooked by the expert chefs. We had fettuccine with wild mushrooms, sausage & fresh tomato as well as ricotta & spinach filled ravioli with butter & sage. Both dishes were out of this world!!! We then had a choice of either salmon simmered with onions, black olives & cherry tomatoes or Wellington boneless chicken breast panko crusted and topped with an arugula, grape tomato & fresh mozzarella salad. Dessert was a choice between chocolate mousse cake or Torta Della Nonna (lemon custard cake). Needless to say I needed to unbutton my pants after this meal. Everything was absolutely delicious!
This cooking class was not only a fun experience & a great excuse to get together with my bestie, but also super educational. I had only made fresh pasta twice before but now that I have a little more knowledge of the whole process, I will definitely keep at it. One of the best parts of the night, was after all the pasta was made- Maria took some time to actually make a small batch of pasta using the two different flours & just a tiny bit of water. She then showed us how she hand rolls the different shapes of pasta- cavatelli looked like it would be really easy to make but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. I really couldn’t believe that this woman does this every morning. And none of the pasta is dried, it’s all served fresh- that’s how much pasta they go through on a daily basis.
I’m so happy I took this class & would definitely recommend it to anyone is who local here in Stamford! I’ve eaten at Columbus Park numerous times, but will definitely try out Maria’s other restaurants now (Applausi is located in Old Greenwich & Tarantino’s is in Westport). Thank you Columbus Park Trattoria & especially Maria Marchetti for this amazing experience!