Monday, February 21, 2011

A Cooking Class at Ristorante Calagrana

I’ve mentioned the restaurant Calagrana on the blog multiple times, going on in effusive terms about how delicious it is, how friendly the folks working there are, and how if you come to this area (the Upper Tiber Valley, that is—but really, you can sub in “Italy” for the area if you want, or “Europe”) and don’t stop by for dinner or a Sunday brunch, well, your taste buds must be dulled. I fully figured that we’d stop by for eats there at least, oh, once a month while here, but never thought we’d be lucky enough to enjoy a cooking class there with Chef Alberto Chiappa (sometimes going as Alberto, or even Albi if one is trying to type quickly). Stars recently aligned however, thanks to a gift from my awesome sister Jill and brother-in-law JD, who gave me, Natalie, and my mom Trudy a class at Calagrana recently.  We went in early-ish for coffee, jaw’d a bit, and then headed into the kitchen to make lunch. The class was, in a word: fantastic. We made an assortment of dishes, but had to start by chopping vegetables for stock:
and dicing vegetables for one of the courses (julienning carrots, zucchini, and onions):
Along the vegetable way, and this is how it was when doing anything in Albi’s class, we learned about the best way to chop, cut, mix, and do whatever it took to put together our Italian meal. This included him teaching us how to peel and thinly slice eggplant:
After grilling said eggplant, Natalie rolled it up cozy around delish Italian ricotta (an aside: why can’t we get good ricotta in the States? Creamy but firm, tasteful but not overwhelming, yummy and yummy—why?) for eggplant cannelloni:
Once the veggies of various sorts (one I don’t have a picture of, but got the most out of learning about, was artichokes, for those completest readers) were sliced, diced, frying, and fried, mom put her lessons on puff pastry to good use:
After a little dessert-ing (we learned how to make the famous Calagrana molten chocolate cake, or “the Devil,” along with picking up a trick of two involving freezing--but hey, I can’t tell you everything. Take the class yourself pardner) we moved on to one of the key parts of the class, or any class at Calagrana I think: pasta making. Starting with just flour, eggs, and a stitch of oil, we went to mixing it minimally, and then on to using the pasta machine to knead and create pastas. All the while, Albi gave us pointed and hints and insight into how true Italian homemade pasta is made--and always made the learning fun:
For today’s class, we were making ravioli (beet for most, veggie for beet-allergic me—cause no-one wants to see me explode in red welts at the luncheon table). Look at Nat’s skill in crafting the ravioli:

Nat was so influenced by the pasta-making that she wrote a whole pasta post at Bella Cinghiale and promises to make homemade pasta as much as possible (which is darn fine news for me). After the above (and let me tell you, it’s an abbreviated version, cause this is a blog of course, and my posts tend to go on too long anyway, but we learned oodles during our three hours of cooking with Albi) the best part of any cooking class happened: we were able to eat our work. Think about how much better school would be, and how much more excited students would be to learn if after ever lesson they had a delicious chance to eat what they learned? Before the final dish pics, naturally, we had to go out of the kitchen and sit down at a table in the restaurant proper. Look who was waiting for us:
Albi and Ely’s son Oli (or, Oliver). Isn’t he cute? We could have played with him for hours, but he was as hungry as we were, so on to the appetizers. We started with puff pastry topped with sautéed veggies and a gorgonzola fondue (or cheese sauce) so scrumptious I ordered it again the next time I was at Calagrana:
Next, we had the ingeniously flavorsome eggplant cannelloni mentioned above, where eggplant takes the place of pasta, rolled around that rich ricotta filling (the pic is in pre-bake stage, due to photographer fluxuations):
Following up the antipastas (though many might think the first two stops would be a full lunch) we moved into the ravioli, which had the various fillings and pasta made with our own little hands (by the way, we did an admirable job):

Now here’s the one downside of the whole day, the one smudge on the menu, the one sour burst in the biting—I forgot to take a picture of the artichoke risotto. I mentioned missing taking a picture of the artichokes above, but how could I also forget the risotto? The risotto? I love risotto. It’s one of my favorite dishes on the planet and I believe Calagrana’s is among the best I’ve had. And I learned some key risotto-cooking-tips to boot. But no pictures. So, take the darn class yourself and you’ll learn what I did, then take a picture and send it to me. I did, however, take a pic of the deluxe Devil dessert, which may help make up for the lack of risotto:
Now that, cooking lovers, is quite a class: five courses, lots of inspired learning, lots of laughs, and wine to boot. You know what’s best? Calagrana does cooking classes for everyone, not just pre-tirees like us. So you can sign up, take a class, make some tasty food, and learn a bunch of helpful cooking secrets. Because that’s the only way you’ll learn them—I’m sure not telling you.

*Want to set up your own Calagrana cooking class? Click right here.


  1. Wow! That is just incredible! I did the homemade pasta once.... and should try again. It was very very tasty, that is for sure.

  2. It was pretty great--and the homemade is always better, so you should do it up.