Making pasta in the Roman Countryside… Life could be worse!
Good food. Good wine. It gets people talking. It feeds the soul (and the stomach!).
But importantly it brings people together.
This week I had the privilege of participating in a Roman Countryside Cooking Day organised by Fabio Bongiani’s cooking school – aptly named Fabiolous Cooking Day. And ‘fabiolous’ it truly was! I can’t thank my brother and sister-in-law enough for this birthday present of a lifetime! (Yes, I have a fantastic family 🙂 )
Born in Rome, Fabio is a lawyer by trade but discovering that his passion in life lay in cooking, he opened a steakhouse and then That’s Amore restaurant right near the Trevi Fountain in 2004. That’s when he began offering cooking days and tours in the historical centre and on his beautiful property in Mazzano Romano, just 40 minutes north of Rome.
I, for one, am glad he did! After all there are enough lawyers in the world. But food tours and cooking schools? Now that’s an area I will never tire experiencing or exploring!
Our day commenced at 8:30am, where I met Shuhan and her daughters Paula and Jen from the USA, Mike and Trish and John and Carole from England and of course our cook and guide for the day, Monica who is a Roman born and bred.
We headed out of the historical centre towards the northern countryside. Weather permitting (and when it’s not a public holiday as it was on this day), Monica takes the group to a market and local food stores to source products. Instead, we stopped in Calcata (Province of Viterbo) about 40 minutes outside of Rome.
Calcata is a tiny and stunningly beautiful medieval town and home to about 50 people of all art walks of life. It is basically an artist commune which over the years has attracted artists, writers, sculptors and all kinds of artisans. They live a pretty simple and tranquil life here and I noticed many of the houses with doors open despite the owners not being home.
I was secretly thrilled by this slight program change as some of my Roman friends have spoken so highly of Calcata and I’d been dying to visit.
After a coffee break we left Calcatta and made our way to Mazzano Romano (Province of Rome, population approx 3,000), not realising fully at this stage the amazing experience that was about to be had.
Fabio’s villa in Mazzano Romano – and our home for the day – is nothing short of breathtaking. The view from the balconies has to be seen to be believed – lush green countryside and so tranquil but for the sound of a small stream below.
After a quick tour, the cooking commenced!!
I’m going to do nothing further than tell you that we prepared a 7 – yes 7 – course meal and then sat and ate it with local wine. Here is a brief rundown of our menu:
Bruschetta with tomato and basil
Ricotta and Artichoke Ravioli with an Artichoke reduction (egg pasta)
Cavatelle (semolina based pasta) with a tomato sauce (simmered with pork ribs for flavour)
Tagliatelle (egg pasta) with roasted zucchini, eggplant and capsicum sauce
Balsamic and rosemary marinated chicken served with roast potatoes and sautéed mushrooms
Chocolate fondant cake served with fresh cream
Macerated strawberries (soaked in balsamic vinegar)
I think the pictures tell the rest!
Monica is just amazing in the kitchen. It wasn’t so much about her technical skill, as her evident passion for food and storytelling. I learnt so much from her and some of the tips (which I can’t reveal of course!) are invaluable. The cooking highlight for me was making of the homemade pasta. It was so much fun to learn in an interactive, casual and happy environment.
Overall what I loved most about the day was meeting people with a shared interest and passion for cooking and learning.
We laughed a lot, ate so much and consumed a little too much wine. All this without any phone coverage which I have to admit was quite nice – being completely out of touch with the world for a day doesn’t happen often enough!
Check out this short clip for a little taste of the Fabiolous experience.
Thank you again to Shuhan, Paula, Jen, Mike, Trish, John, Carole and of course our amazing cook and teacher Monica and lovely assistant Roberta. Monica – sei veramente fantastica!
I can’t recommend Fabiolous Cooking Day enough – whether you’re holidaying in Rome soon or even living here. The memories of this magnificent day will be emblazoned in my mind and heart for the rest of my life.
For more information or to book yourself in, visit www.fabiolouscookingday.com.
Signing off from Rome (a little heavier),
PS (just to make you more hungry, my new friend Jen writes her own food blog and you should check it out.. her food pics are fantastic – www.photo-hungry.com)