“I love to cook with wine and sometimes I even put it in the food”—Mama Theresa Viva
I don’t consider myself a chef by any means. I’m just a mom who likes to experiment with recipes and flavors. I learned to cook by doing, trial and error or trial by fire in some cases. I watch cooking shows (and have since I was a teen – Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Frugal Gourmet , the whole PBS line up on Saturday mornings) since I learn much better by seeing rather than reading a recipe. That’s why I love to take a hands-on cooking class.
|Mama is hard to photograph. She is constant motion!|
I recently had the pleasure of taking a class at Forno Bistro here in Saratoga Springs with Mama Theresa. I have to admit I had never been to Forno Bistro before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. The restaurant itself looked like what I thought a restaurant in Italy would look like. I was greeted at the door by Mama. She told me where to hang my coat and to wash my hands thoroughly. What Mama says you do!
From there we went into one of the dining rooms that was all set up for the class.
|Mama gives us "the scoop" on what size scoop to use to fill the ravioli|
|The class is busily filling, folding and crimping the ravioli|
The tables were set up in a square, covered with brown paper. Mama stood at one of the tables with her pasta machine and all her ingredients for making ravioli dough. This wasn’t a dry, step by step instructional class. Mama has anecdotes that range from how and why she lost weight to her relationship with her Italian husband. Her humor keeps it light and entertaining while you’re still learning all her secrets.
Mama makes her pasta dough in a bowl using a simple spoon. The dough is made from all purpose flour, eggs, salt, water and olive oil, with a little bit of a secret ingredient. She tears fresh basil right into the dough. The class was full of tips and tricks like this. Mama made some sample ravioli using different techniques to gives us ideas on what to use to seal the ravioli. Some of them included simple cookie cutters, pastry wheels, a shrimp fork, a cutter/crimper tool and a skeleton key that she used to use when she made ravioli with her grandmother.
The filling that she prefers is made with ricotta. To make the ricotta filling she recommends that you wrap the ricotta in a towel, weigh it down and let it drain at least overnight. Then the filling won’t be too wet for the dough. On top of the ricotta you can add other fillings too, as long as they have been cooked beforehand and cooled. Some suggestions: salami, prosciutto, artichokes, spinach, mushrooms, sausage, and shrimp just to name a few.
Mama uses a simple pasta machine to roll out the sheets of pasta dough to make the ravioli then she cuts them into squares. Once the dough is cut, brush with water and fill. To create the ravioli Mama suggests that you either fold it over and crimp it or use a cutter. She absolutely doesn’t recommend using a mold that comes in two pieces.
|Mama shows 2 of the students how to roll dough with a pasta machine.|
Mama encourages you to experiment with all the fillings and to come up and try the pasta machine. It’s a complete “hands-on” class. Get the feel for the dough, use the machine, try the different cutters and create a one of a kind ravioli.
|Some finished ravioli|
At the end of the class (which ran about 2 hours) we went into the dining room to feast on our creations.
|Yes, there were as delicious as they look. Lost count how many I ate!|
The dining room was set up with two tables complete with china and wine glasses. Once we were all seated platter after platter of ravioli came out of the kitchen, cooked and covered in Mama’s marinara sauce. We lunched family-style on bread, wine and our delicious ravioli. We passed around the huge platters of ravioli that came out of the kitchen seemingly endlessly. While eating we were able to chat with each other and fill out a comment card that was left at our place.
I’d like to share all the secrets that Mama shared with us, but I think you’ll just have to take the class yourself to learn them all. But I will share a few….
In the instructions for the pasta maker it says never to wash it. Mama says wash it (once a year) and then put it in a very low oven to dry. That way it will never rust from being put away wet.
Ravioli can be frozen. Prepare them, then lay them out on a sheet. Once frozen then, store then in a zip top bag.
Be gentle with the ravioli. Cook them in a large pot, with salt. Bring the water to a boil, add ravioli and stir gently. Remove with a slotted spoon – no colander.
Lastly, when you serve them – heat your serving platter first, either in a very low oven or by running under hot water and drying completely. You should never put hot food on a cold platter.
There are many, many more secrets that Mama shares along with stories and fool proof methods that will have you making ravioli like a true Italian! But to get all these secrets, and have the experience of learning from Mama Theresa well, you’ll just have to take the class yourself! If you’re going to be in Saratoga Springs or live in Saratoga Springs taking a class at Forno Bistro is the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Meeting other foodies, eating delicious food you created yourself in a warm and beautiful atmosphere. And on top of that you get to meet and learn from Mama Theresa!
Not interested in learning to make ravioli? Forno Bistro offers other classes too. Give them a call or check out their website for more info. As for me? I need to take the sauce class so I can top my homemade ravioli!