Today I took my seventh cooking class. I returned to Le Cordon Bleu for a class focused on pasta sauces. This was a fun class to take, not only because I got to learn five great pasta sauce recipes, but I also got to learn the background of each dish. Each sauce comes from a different region of Italy.
First, we made Pasta alla Norma which comes from Sicily. This was served with a short penne pasta, but the shape of pasta isn’t critical in this dish. We made a fresh tomato sauce by simmering two pounds of tomatoes in some olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Once the tomatoes were soft and had released their juices, we removed the lid from the pan and let the sauce reduce. We then put the tomatoes through a food mill, adjusted the seasoning as necessary (salt for flavor, sugar if the tomatoes are too acidic) and added a few leaves of torn basil. Meanwhile, we cubed a large Sicilian eggplant (which is sweeter than the traditional eggplant we find in the US) and fried the pieces in sunflower oil. To finish, we tossed the pasta with the tomato sauce and topped it with the fried eggplant and then some shaved ricotta salata cheese.
Second, we made Spaghetti alla Puttanesca which comes from Naples. Whereas the shape of pasta wasn’t critical for Pasta alla Norma, Puttanesca is always served with spaghetti. We started by cooking chopped onion and red pepper flakes in olive oil. We then added garlic and anchovies (the anchovies were chopped and we added a small amount of water at the same time which caused the anchovies to melt into the sauce). We then added chopped tomatoes and cooked until soft. Lastly, we added chopped capers, olives and chopped parsley. The finished dish was garnished with extra virgin olive oil, grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and chopped parsley.
Third, we made Bucatini All’Amatriciana Bianca which comes from Rome. The traditional version of this sauce does contain tomatoes, but because we already had two red sauces, they taught us a white version of this sauce. And like Puttanesca with spaghetti, Amatriciana sauces are always served with Bucatini. We started by pan-frying some chopped pancetta with red pepper flakes. We then added chopped onion and cooked until soft, then deglazed with some dry white wine. This was then simply tossed with the cooked pasta and topped with grated pecorino romano cheese.
Next we made Spaghetti alle Acciughe e Mollica (spaghetti with anchovies and breadcrumbs), which comes from Tuscany. We sauteed chopped onion in extra virgin olive oil until translucent, then added garlic, red pepper flakes and chopped anchovies. We again added a little water which made the anchovies melt into the sauce. In a separate pan we toasted the breadcrumbs in olive oil. We tossed the spaghetti with the anchovy mixture and then topped it with toasted breadcrumbs, parsley, and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.
Last but not least, we made Salsa alle Noci (walnut sauce) which comes from Liguria in northwestern Italy. First we peeled walnuts (yes, walnuts have a skin that can be peeled off – I never thought I’d peel a walnut!). Once peeled, the walnuts were chopped finely in a food processor. In a pan we cooked some garlic in butter (more commonly used in northern Italy) and then added the walnuts. To this, we added cream and salt and pepper to taste. Short-shaped pasta is best for this dish, but the specific type doesn’t matter. Today we used trofie, which is a short, thin, twisted pasta that comes from the region of Liguria. Once the cooked pasta was tossed with the sauce, it was topped with grated parmigian reggiano cheese. And I will admit, peeling the walnuts was worth it because the sauce was really creamy and smooth.
This was such a fun class to take! I absolutely loved learning how to make and trying each of the pasta dishes. If I had to choose a favorite, I would choose Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. The flavors were so vibrant! But they truly were all good and for different reasons. Pasta alla Norma tasted extremely fresh and light. Bucatini All’Amatriciana Bianca was rich and hearty. Spaghetti alle Acciughe e Mollica was the least like anything I have had before, but was super flavorful (not as “fishy” as you would expect) and the bread crumbs gave the pasta incredible texture. And the Salsa alle Noci was creamy and decadent. I’m sure I will make some of these more often than others, but I do plan to make every one of these at some point after returning to Minnesota.