Best Cooking Class in Venice

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Piazza San Marco – Venice

Some people shy away from Venice. They say it’s too crowded…too many tourists.

There’s some truth to that.

But there’s more truth here: Venice is like NO OTHER PLACE. It’s a beautiful history captured in space and stopped in time. To go to Venice is to time travel. Back centuries. And centuries-old wonders have all been preserved.

If you want to avoid crowds, it’s easy to steer yourself off the beaten path and feel like the city is all yours. Intriguing and relaxing neighborhoods are everywhere.

 

One of my favorite experiences is cooking with Chef Marika of Acquolina on the Venetian island of Lido. Her cooking classes are hands-on with all local fresh ingredients, and her personality is buoyant and encouraging. If you take the full day class, you start by meeting her in the center of Venice at the famous Rialto market, where dozens of tables and booths are spilling over with produce, seafood, pastas, and spices.

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Chef Marika shopping with students at the Rialto Market

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Here you go shopping with Marika to choose what you will cook. She’ll listen to your requests and also make some knowing suggestions. She knows where to shop, which are the best vendors…her favorite produce, the best fish.

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Chef Marika talking about the artichoke bottoms we’re about to buy

My group from Nashville shopped with her…picking out baby scallops in the shell, small soft-shelled crabs, prawns, and baby squid. We bought fresh whole artichoke hearts (just the bottoms, which we braised and ate like steaks), cherry tomatoes, and fresh peas.

When her rolling shopping cart was completely full, we made a couple of other short stops before boarding a taxi boat to the outer island of Lido. Marika took us to the classic age-old wine bars hidden behind the market. We sipped small glasses of wine and nibbled cichetti — bite-sized appetizers.

 

Then we took the short boat ride to her home on Lido…

 

Marika’s home is just a short walk from the boat stop on Lido.

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Marika’s home on Lido

As soon as we arrived we started cooking!

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Chef Marika showing us how to clean the seafood

We learned to clean baby squid and scallops, how to make a batter for deep-frying small soft-shelled crabs called moleche. We sautéed prawns, and made a fresh tomato sauce for pasta….we prepared all of the wonderful seafood and vegetables.

 

And then sat down to a fabulous feast.

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On our boat ride back to the center of Venice, we were happy, sated, and full of wonderful recipes!

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for info about Chef Marika’s classes, contact:

Chef Marika Contaldo Seguso

Acquolina – Villa Ines
Via Lazzaro Mocenigo 10
30126 Venezia-Lido
Tel/Fax (+39) 041 526 7226
e-mail info@acquolina.com

Italian Cooking Party cookbook!

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It was a while in the making but it’s finally here! My new cookbook.

Italian Cooking Party

A Little Bit of Italy at Home

“Italian Cooking Party” captures the spirit and excitement of my Nashville Italian cooking parties. Over 100 authentic Italian recipes to cook at home and inspire your own Italian cooking parties.

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With hints on how to stock your Italian kitchen, recipes for each course of the Italian table, scrumptious menus, how to linger at the table Italian-style, plus taking it on the road to Italy.

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I’ve been leading Italian cooking parties in Nashville since 2009 to an enthusiastic circle of cooking enthusiasts. The intimate parties inspire Italian culture in the kitchen and at the table.

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That authentic Italian touch fills the book with my recipes and tips for everyone to bring a little bit of Italy home: Italian Cooking Party

Alimentum Books

178 pages

$30

Click here for more info.

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it’s time for butternut squash ravioli

Oh, yeah.

We made them in class tonight and all of us cooks in the kitchen flew around the dining room on an autumn breeze (even tho in Nashville it’s been averaging a sunny 80 degrees in the afternoons).

No matter. We whipped up this elixir of creamy filling in delicate pasta and bathed it in parsley-mint-walnut pesto. We couldn’t believe our tongues. Palates lighting up with sparks of tasty joy.

Join our journey. Recipe at end.

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli boiling (just 3 minutes)

butternut squash ravioli boiling (just 3 minutes)

parsley-mint-walnut pesto with some pasta water mixed in

parsley-mint-walnut pesto with some pasta water mixed in

butternut squash ravioli with parsley-mint-walnut pesto

butternut squash ravioli with parsley-mint-walnut pesto

Fresh Butternut Squash Ravioli w Parsley-Walnut Pesto

For the dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra

¼ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash

1 cup ricotta

½ cup grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano)

1/2  teaspoon of ground nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

For the Sauce:

2 cups fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup mint leaves

1 garlic clove, peeled, rough chopped

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheese

Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, and shape into a mound. Create a “well” in the mound and add the eggs. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough comes together and most or all the flour is mixed in. Gather the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Make the filling: Rinse the squash and dry. Cut into quarters and spoon out the seeds. Place cut-side down on foil-lined sheet pan or casserole pan. Add about 1/2 -inch of water. Roast for about 40-45 minutes until flesh is tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the squash into a medium mixing bowl. Mash the squash with a fork and add the cheeses, nutmeg. Combine well. Season with salt & pepper.

Make the ravioli: Cut the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner (lower to higher) one at a time until you reach the next-to-the-last number on the machine. Dust the sheet with flour in between every couple of numbers to keep it from sticking in the machine.

Lay the sheet on a table. Place scant ½-tablespoons of filling in row on the bottom half of the sheet, about an inch apart. Fold the top half over the bottom half. Press all the edges closed to seal well. Cut in between to make the individual ravioli. Place the finished ravioli on a flour-dusted sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Make the Sauce: Add the herbs, garlic, and walnuts to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until minced. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Transfer to your pasta serving bowl.

Cook the ravioli: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt water. Drop in the ravioli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Add a few spoonfuls  of pasta water to loosen and turn it from a paste to a sauce. Combine with ravioli. Sprinkle grated cheese on top.

Is it a class or a dinner party?

Well, both.

pasta-making

pasta-making

When I hold a cooking class I always feel like I’m hosting a dinner party.

A dinner party where everyone cooks.

And, of course, everyone eats.

We’re all in the kitchen.

cooking class

cooking class

Someone is chopping, someone sautéing, someone zesting, someone stirring,

someone seasoning…we’re all busy.

students whip perfect egg whites

students whip perfect egg whites

Chatting, laughing, learning about each other’s lives as we put together each dish…

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

…as we crank the handle on the pasta machine…

making fettuccine

making fettuccine

…as we teach our fingers to shape orecchiette and farfalle.

busy in the kitchen

Chef Paulette busy in the kitchen

Roll ropes of gnocchi. Roll out pliable pastry dough.

 

pastry

pastry

And any number of small and big tasks that go into making a great dinner.

And then we eat.

Yum!

Yum!

 

Fresh Pasta Cannelloni Stuffed w Spinach & Shrimp

cannelloni stuffed with shrimp & spinach

cannelloni stuffed with shrimp & spinach

Wednesday night’s class was a knockout!

Here are some pix…this is a delicious dish. Let me know if you’d like the recipe!

Cannelloni ingredients

Cannelloni ingredients

great cooks in my kitchen rolling up the cannelloni

great cooks in my kitchen rolling up the cannelloni

cannelloni almost ready to bake!

cannelloni almost ready to bake!

time to eat the cannelloni!

time to eat the cannelloni!