There’s almost nothing as comforting as a rich, hearty plate of pasta. No other cuisine in the world is as well-known or widespread as Italian cuisine. I have to admit though, having been to more than a handful of cities in Italy, I found that even highly rated restaurants often serve mediocre, bland pasta. So in search of an incredible Italian pasta experience, we took a pasta-making class in Milan.
Booking a class
If you search online for pasta-making or cooking classes in Milan, you’ll probably be horrified to find that some of them are as much as $100-200. Sometimes they pair the cooking instruction with a trip to the market or some similar excursion. Generally the courses are around 3 hours, but can go as long as half a day if they have add-ons to justify the extra expense. I was getting ready to give up on the idea when I remembered Airbnb Experiences.
The fairly new section of Airbnb puts you in touch with guides, instructors, and other locals to provide unique experiences. A quick search of available cooking classes in Milan, of which there were plenty, showed many affordable options. So I went with one of the most highly rated courses that was reasonably priced and looked like it had a certain degree of professionalism to it. Also, the host has a dog and I’m a sucker for animals. You can book this course through Airbnb and through Get Your Guide.
Everything you need to know about the pasta making class
One of the coolest things about the class is that it’s in someone’s home, so it feels very much like a meal your mom is helping you cook. The class was held in a cozy rooftop terrace, which is covered in fruit trees and fresh herb plants. We were lucky enough that we ended up being the only two people in the class that day so we had a private lesson with our very charming and knowledgeable host, Bruna.
As soon as we arrived, we put on our aprons and got to work. We started with the dessert, making tiramisu from scratch. You have to start here so the dessert has time to set while you make your pasta. As she went over the steps of coating the lady fingers in coffee and making the tiramisu cream with eggs and mascarpone, she gave us some historical background about the food. She also described the steps in the same way her grandmother had taught her when she was a little girl, which was so nice. It really made the experience feel like sharing an afternoon with family.
After the cream was thick enough, we layered the tiramisu and put them to chill, while we got down to the main event: making pasta.
The pasta-making process
One takeaway from the whole experience is that making pasta is really easy if you have the right tools. Bruna guided us step by step in making the dough – a messy, but quick process. Then it was time to thin out the dough using the hand cranked pasta machine. This part was the most fun, and we got to try it alone and together, with one of us feeding the machine and the other pulling the long strip pasta on the other side so it didn’t break.
In the end, we had two long pieces of flat pasta. If you were making lasagna, you’d be pretty much done at this point, but we were just getting started. With an attachment on the pasta machine, we cut one of the pieces into tagliatelle. I can’t tell you how delightful it is to see the pasta that was dough just a few minutes earlier come out in perfect little strips.
I was under the impression we would have to choose between making tagliatelle and making ravioli, but I was excited to find we were going to learn to do both. With the second long strip of pasta, she gave us detailed instructions on how to make different pasta shapes. So really to say you’re making ravioli is a generalization, because you learn to make several kinds of stuffed pasta, including tortellini and mezzelune. Once again, she gave us sweet anecdotes to exemplify the pasta-shaping technique that her grandmother taught her.
After the short period of explanation, we started stuffing the ravioli with a spinach and ricotta cheese filling, and cutting out the shapes. We got to try all of the techniques she mentioned using various tools, and then it all cooked together.
Bruna gave us a couple of options for the sauces, all simple stovetop recipes that require just a few ingredients. We had the tagliatelle with a gorgonzola sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan. For the ravioli, we decided against the tomato sauce (though she still sent us home with the recipe), and went for a butter and sage sauce. She went out and picked the sage from the garden and threw it on the stove. The whole meal was ready in a matter of minutes.
How was our meal?
That spinach and ricotta ravioli was hands down the best plate of pasta I’ve had anywhere in Italy, and one of the best I’ve ever had. The meal was paired with the wine of our choice, included with the cooking class. After we ate, she gave us a shot of limoncello which was made with lemons from her tree.
We finished up our meal with the superb tiramisu we had prepared earlier, dusted using the stencil of our choice with cocoa powder. As we ate, we chatted with Bruna, talking about cooking and travel. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget, and one I highly recommend. It feels as though you’re sitting down to dinner with your mom, if your mom was a bad ass Italian chef.