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Italian Classics to Cook at Your Group

By: Anna Hinds BA (hons) - Updated: 25 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Italian Pasta Cookery Group Pizza Food

What comes to mind when you think of Italian food? Pizza and pasta? The cuisine of Italy is far more sophisticated as any curious tourist will tell you. Cooked at home and eaten in the sunshine, Italian classics such as Carbonara, Gnocchi, Ragu, and stonebaked Pizza are among the world’s top dishes. Consider including this Masterclass as part of your Cookery Group itinerary. Italian Classics will soon be a valuable part of your repertoire.


This small, simple heading covers a breathtaking range of dishes. If you haven’t tasted homemade cannelloni or hand-rolled tortellini, and your experience has only been dry, supermarket pasta, this Cookery Group topic is bound to thrill your group. For this Masterclass, the elected presenter could bring the ingredients and equipment for the group to try making their own pasta. You could try covering any of the following:
  • Handmade Pasta. You don’t need a pasta machine to roll your own (although it does help) – and it doesn’t take days to do. No, you can make good egg pasta in minutes – use the best eggs and Italian ‘00’ flour. It does need to be rolled out thinly, but that’s hardly a demanding task. If you’re going to get your group to have a go at making pasta, go for lasagne, because it’s left in large sheets – easier than fiddly shapes. Once you’ve made the sheets, you’ll need to know what to do with it. If you like, use the cooked pasta to build an open lasagne by layering on plates with warmed béchamel, griddled artichokes and grilled salmon fillets, sprinkling with parmesan and briefly grilling.

  • Potato Gnocchi. These ‘dumplings’ are a bit trickier to make: getting a light consistency without using too much flour is the real challenge here. Experiment with butternut squash gnocchi, porcini gnocchi and spinach and ricotta gnocchi. You can involve your group in some hands-on trials, or you can discuss your findings.

  • Tortellini. This is filled pasta shapes; to make them, cut your pasta into squares and get the group to have a go at filling and shaping. Experiment with different fillings – herby goat’s cheese, cherry tomato and chopped chilli, mashed pumpkin and sage – and different shapes. (Look online to see what traditional tortellini looks like.)


Instead of the obvious pizza, let's move onto pudding. Italian desserts have a well-deserved reputation. Here are some that you, the host, might want to trial, bring, and discuss.
  • ‘Sfogato’. You’ll have to whip up an Italian gelato for this after-dinner delicacy. Vanilla ice-cream is served in small dishes or cups, and shots of espresso are provided to pour over it in a hot swoosh. The coffee melts the ice-cream for the ultimate dinner party finale.
  • Tiramisu. Italian biscuits soaked in delicious coffee, and topped with an egg-light mascarpone mousse and cocoa dust: do puds get any better than this? If you’re looking for a new version, try Nigella Lawson’s Irish Cream Tiramisu!
  • Panettone or Biscotti. If there is a holiday season coming up, you could introduce your group to Panettone –a spiced, fruity loaf from (it’s thought) Milan. Otherwise, why not bake some Biscotti? These twice-baked biscuits (almonds and chocolate chips optional and good) are just perfect for dunking in coffee or a sweet dessert wine like Vin Santo.


Modern Italian writers include Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers (aka River Cafe); Giorgio Locatelli; Antonio Carluccio; and Gino D’Acampo. If you want an authentic and definitive book, look up The Silver Spoon, a landmark in Italian culinary history and still given to many married couples as they start their life together. Of course, many British writers now include Italian-influenced dishes in their repertoire, quite naturally; the Italian cuisine is part of any chef’s training.

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