What could be more fun on a Saturday morning than learning to make - and then sitting down to eat - a variety of pastas with a dozen lively women?
Michele Morris, owner of Cooking with Michele, offered the class in her home, where the former kitchen-dining area now held a work island with prep stations for 10 to 12 students. She had placed cutting boards at each station and utensils and ingredients in the middle of the island.
The first pasta combined finely ground hard durum wheat flour with a little barley flour, all done without measuring.
The wheat flour "is called semolina in the U.S.," she said. "But in Italy, it's more finely ground and lighter. If you can find '00' flour, it will be better to use."
Once the flours were combined, a well was made in the center of the bowl.
"Add a generous amount of water to the well," Morris said. "It's much easier to add more flour later if it's too wet than to try to add more water."
We pulled the walls of flour into the water until it started coming together. The dough was shaped into a ball and kneaded. She recommends kneading for five to 10 minutes.
After rolling out the dough into a rope, we cut off half-inch pieces and shaped them into orecchiette, which look like tiny ears.
Later they would be boiled in salted water, drained and tossed in steamed broccoli that was mashed and thinned with pasta water to make a sauce.
While the orecchiette dried on a baking sheet, the focus shifted to traditional egg pasta. Flour, eggs, salt and olive oil were placed in a food processor and combined into a ball of dough. After being divided into fourths, the dough was passed through pasta rollers to produce a long, thin piece. This was used to make ricotta and Swiss chard ravioli, which was tossed in sage brown butter sauce.
"The filled pasta can be frozen," she said. "I like to make a big batch once I have everything set up for making the sheets of pasta."
To freeze ravioli, place uncooked squares separately on a baking sheet so they don't stick together. Once frozen, place in bags or a container to store in the freezer.
My favorite was fettuccine alfredo, which Morris called "traditional" because "the cooked fettucine is sauced literally on the serving plate."
To save time, we used store-bought dried fettucine. A pound of it was cooked in salted boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile, we thinly cut two sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature onto a large, bowl-shaped platter. The drained pasta was placed over the butter. About three cups of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano was sprinkled over the pasta, and one-fourth cup of the hot pasta water was drizzled over the noodles and cheese. The noodles were gently tossed together until the cheese and butter were fully melted and pasta coated.
Bada bing! Lunch was served.
Beyond offering learning and a great time, the class raised money for Les Dames d'Escoffier International Colorado Chapter's scholarship program. Morris, a member of the chapter, donated the proceeds from the class to support the program. LDEI is an invitational organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality whose mission is education and philanthropy.
Morris not only teaches cooking classes, but also conducts culinary tours to Italy. Visit cookingwithmichele.com.