Hi All! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. Here in Northampton, I’m in full-blown elf mode: wrapping presents, writing cards, making gifts, and very soon, baking (Italian) cookies. All accompanied by plenty of Christmas music – Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Michael Bublé, and James Taylor are my favorites.
Our most recent Italian food adventure was a month ago now, when we attended a tortellini class at the Italian Cultural Center in Springfield, MA. I had a great time as always (can you tell I love the Cultural Center?) but it was even more fun this time because I brought Nick along. We arrived early to get good seats, peruse the gift shop (I got a fridge magnet that says “La cucina mia Italiana” – my Italian kitchen), and buy some wine to enjoy during the class. Lou, one of the ICC’s Co-Presidents was kind enough to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the pasta preparation. Lou introduced us to the pasta makers, including his grandchildren, some of whom are quite young but well-versed in tortellini making. We also got to see the ICC’s commercial-grade kitchen, which allows them to host large meals including porchetta, chicken cacciatore, and Lenten fish dinners.
The class began with a demonstration by Elaine and her daughter Lisa, both of whom have been making homemade tortellini for years with a recipe passed down through their family. Not only did they explain the process well, but they both had a great sense of humor and kept us all laughing. They taught us how to make a standard pasta dough and a pork and cheese filling; meanwhile volunteers rolled out the dough behind the scenes with a hand-crank pasta machine as well as an electric KitchenAid attachment. (If you have a lot of patience, you can roll out pasta dough with a rolling pin too.) After rolling, they cut the pasta into small squares, approximately 1″ x 1″. Then the kids brought out plates of cut dough and pork filling for us to make into tortellini.
Though the tedious work of pasta rolling was done for us, getting the proper folding technique down took some practice for both Nick and me. The teachers and volunteers came by to check on everyone and one of the teenagers was especially helpful, showing me how to properly fold corner-to-corner from top to bottom, then around the index finger so that the corners overlap, and finally flicking the corners up so that the tortellini resembles a small triangular hat. Nick and I both commented that making tortellini seems better suited to those with smaller fingers which is perhaps why it was a little bit easier for me.
By the end of the class, we had two small styrofoam boxes full of tortellini (I counted our yield at the time but have since completely forgotten – suffice to say, it was plenty!). When we got home, I spread the tortellini out on cookie sheets to freeze then put the pasta in freezer bags (2 servings per bag). We used some of the tortellini to make soup with homemade chicken broth (thanks to Nick!) and we still have some leftover tortellini in the freezer.
Western MA/Northern CT folks: you can get in on all the fun too! The Italian Cultural Center will host another tortellini class in the spring. Keep an eye on their website and Facebook page for details.
After class, Nick and I went around the block to Frigo’s, the Italian deli I wrote about in the spring. We split a Classic Italian grinder and also got a free hen dinner (!) and half off crab cakes to take home as they were closing for the day and the food had to go. Yes, please!
All in all, it was a great day!
Other recent highlights include a visit to La Fiorentina bakery in Northampton, reciting a blessing in Italian with my aunt (who also takes Italian lessons) at the Serafino Family Thanksgiving, teaching my brother Brandon how to make homemade pasta, and dining at upscale Italian restaurant Peppercorn’s Grill in Hartford for Brandon’s 24th birthday last week.