Seasonal cooking classes at Latteria Studio in Rome
I have a disclaimer, right off the bat. I love the Latteria Studio and the people involved in it.
Alice Adams (pictured here above) who runs the show, is a longtime resident of Rome, a food stylist and recipe developer from Melbourne with an Italian husband and two bilingual kids. She worked on my latest cookbook with me and we hired many of the beautiful props from the studio. I feel like she is the big sister I never had and after the week we spent shooting Acquacotta, it felt like we have known each other since forever.
Then there’s Rachel Roddy, who you probably already know. Rachel is a dear friend though before we met I read her blog and hoped one day I’d be lucky enough to meet her and talk about food (or rather listen to her talk about food!). She is always an inspiration to me in so many ways, as a mum, a writer, and generally lovely human being.
The generous and knowledgeable Carla Tomasi was the only one I hadn’t actually met in person when I came to do one of the infamous Market to Table classes at Latteria Studio, but I felt as though we already knew each other, simply through our connection with Rachel and Alice but also because instagram has a funny way of doing that.
So I knew immediately when I came along to one of Carla and Alice’s classes (that’s Carla above left and Alice at the stove top; Rachel is normally there too), that I would feel right at home in the studio, which is one of the loveliest things about it. It’s made like a home kitchen, rather than a professional one, with a large marble table that runs down the middle so there’s plenty of bench space for rolling pasta. At the end, everyone sits down on a beautifully laid table to eat and drink and chat together and by then (or even well before it) it feels like being amongst friends, even though hours earlier we’ve all only just met.
We start the morning in the Testaccio Market, with Alice picking up puntarelle, artichokes, beautiful wild mushrooms and other goodies from her favourite fruttivendoli. She talks us through the seasonal produce and typical Roman specialties, while we nibble on some of the sweetest mandarins. We waltz past da Artenio for a snack of Roman pizza topped with red onion (and the lingua della suocera, “mother in law’s tongue” bread sticks studded with olives, looks good too!). After our market visit, we stroll to the studio, where Carla waits for us with open arms and negronis — a wonderful combination.
The class format is an enjoyable, natural mix of Alice poaching pears in spiced red wine for topping an Elizabeth David-esque walnut and chocolate cake, Carla showing us how to make a silky focaccia dough or mincing wild mushrooms for the filling of her chestnut ravioli, us jumping in here and there to chop, stir, knead, sip, and all the while listening to Carla and Alice’s stories and instructions. There are some classic Roman vegetable dishes, carciofi alla romana (artichokes stewed in garlic, wild mint and wine) and a beautiful salad of puntarelle shoots, which are pushed through a handy puntarelle cutter (can you see it in the photo below right, a little wooden square with a wire grid?) for perfect, thin, crunchy wisps of chichory shoots dressed in anchovies and garlic. It’s one of my favourite things, ever.
Anyone who knows Carla knows that pasta is one of her (many) specialties. Watching her make pasta is absolutely mesmerising — as she rolls the dough through the pasta machine, it’s as if the sheets of pasta are an extension of her hands. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Sheets of chestnut pasta were rolled to make ravioli, filled with an intense, delicious mushroom paste that had been cooking slowly and carefully on the stove top. She also shows us maltagliati, with parsley leaves pressed between the sheets of dough for pretty, green touches nestled in the frilled-edged pasta.
There’s so much to learn, but above all, to enjoy at the Latteria Studio. It’s friendly, it’s delicious, it’s all done in real time, glass of wine in hand, with as much or as little involvement as you’d like. And whether you’re a long time expat or first time visitor to Rome, it’s a wonderful way to learn about and taste a little of the Roman way of life.
Latteria Studio’s puntarelle salad
With thanks to Alice Adams for sending me the recipe. It’s hard to find puntarelle outside of Italy (or indeed outside of Rome; even in Florence, it’s not a common sight), so this may be difficult to attempt if you don’t have it. BUT if you’re absolutely dying to get a taste of this until you can get your hands on puntarelle, I found it really interesting that Prune chef, Gabrielle Hamilton, suggests substituting belgian endive for puntarelle — indeed it has a similar bitter, juicy, crunchy texture.
- 1 bunch of puntarelle (chichory shoots)
- 1 garlic clove
- 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice or red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
To prepare the puntarelle, pull away all the long leaves and snap off or cut off just the short shoots found underneath the longer leaves. Finely slice them (or push them through a puntarelle cutter) and place in a bowl of ice water to crisp up (and they will get their characteristic curl from this too), while you prepare the dressing.
Blend the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, starting with the peeled garlic and anchovy fillets. Gradually add the olive oil and vinegar. Drain and pat dry the puntarelle, then toss with the dressing and serve immediately.
For Latteria Studio class information and event schedule, see here.