Casa Barilla Cooking School is located in Annandale just in a small street away from the busy Parramatta Road. We were invited to Casa Barilla Cooking School by the lovely Silvia Gardin. She greeted us with the biggest smile and we started the morning with a flourless chocolate cake and drinks. Once all guests arrived, we moved to our assigned cooking stations.
We would also like to note the quality of all the ingredients used in Casa Barilla's cooking school. The Prosciutto Di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano were of very high quality and tasted amazing. So good that the Parmigianno Reggiano is one of the highest counterfeited goods in Italy!
Just showcasing some Barilla pasta sauce. Our favourite includes the Pesto alla Genovese, Bolognese, Arrabbiata and Napolitana. Just thought I would share a quick story with you. I'm in love with Barilla's pasta selection, the taste and texture is different to other brands (main reason why I switched to Barilla). I then discovered their range sauce and I am hooked...
Egg Tagliatelle with Parma Ham, Asparagus and Roasted Capsicum Sauce
Our first hands on cooking experience was the Egg Tagliatelle with Parma Ham, Asparagus and Roasted Capsicum Sauce. Usually, I am not a fan of capsicum but the sauce was amazing. Chef Andrea blends Barilla's pasta sauce with the roasted capsicum and olive oil and surprisingly, no cooking of the sauce was required. We also learnt how to make a crispy Parmigiano Reggiano disk. Below are some shots of the cooking demonstration.
Add some extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and add shallots, sliced parma ham and saute until golden. Then add asparagus and season to taste.
Using a hand mixer, mix the roasted capsicum, half a jar of Basilico sauce and a teaspoon of olive oil. Meanwhile, create a crispy Parmigiano Reggiano disk and cook the pasta.
In a non stick pan, create circles and cool the pan once you see one side bubbling. Flip it and repeat on the other side. Mmmm....
Bring water to a boil and add 7g of salt per litre of water. The pasta should be cooked for 5 minutes to give you a perfect "al dente" texture. You will note that the time is shorter than other competing brands, because there is a higher percentage of eggs used, and as a result the extra protein cooks quicker. After four minutes are up, toss the pasta into the frying pan with parma ham and asparagus and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add some cooking water to allow your pasta to finish cooking creating that 'al dente' texture.
Viola! Main is served. While we followed instruction by the chefs, this was our plating and we are damn proud of it!
Veal tenderloin with Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Our second hands on cooking experience was the Veal tenderloin with Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction. Cooking this dish is harder than it seems.. making sure that veal tenderloin is cooked to perfection is crucial in this class. It definitely is hard work, and Casa Barilla cooking school really make you work for your food! But when you get to the final result, and you have the perfect succulent pancetta wrapped veal tenderloin with a bed of olive oil tossed spinach, mushrooms and the ever so tasty parmigiano reggiano and balsamic sauces... you almost wish you didn't have to share!
Wrap the veal tenderloins with the pancetta and tie with a kitchen string. Season the meat with salt and pepper. When MKR/MasterChef is on TV, I would just sit back, relax and watch the experts cook. Actually doing the tasks on hand is another story.. and it is nerve racking to say the least! The one instance we remember is when Chef Andrea demonstrated tying the Pancetta and Veal Tenderloin, I was hoping it would be pre-prepared for us. Please bare in mind that we are not home cooks so this looked like it was going to be a huge challenge for us. Surprisingly, it was quite easy in the end, PHEW!
Saute in a frying pan with olive oil, garlic and thyme. Make sure the pancetta has a nice golden brown and cook the veal tenderloin for 2 minutes each side. When finished, add the mushrooms to the pan.
Make sure you have enough garlic, you can never have enough garlic!
Add white wine to the pan and cover to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Cook like this for 5 minutes to let the veal tenderloin soak up all the flavours of the thyme, garlic and white wine. Remove the veal, cut off the string and wrap it in foil to rest.
Next step is to make the balsamic reduction by adding a significant portion to a pan, and cooking on high to reduce the sauce and intensify the flavour. In a separate pan, bring creme to boil, take it off the heat and add your grated parmigiano regianno and stir vigorously to create your cheese sauce!
Did you know that a typical store bought off the shelf Balsamic Vinegar reduction is nothing when compared with aged balsamic vinegar? You can see the consistency above between store bought (5-8 years) and aged balsamic vinegar (25 years+). A small bottle of Academia Barilla Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Extra Vecchio costs around $200...YIKES. Because we are not made of money, we just used store bought balsamic vinegar and created a reduction.
Christie's presentation (she sure loves her cheese)
Chef Andrea's dish.
We were fortunate to have Andrea Tranchero assist us throughout the class. Andrea Tranchero is Casa Barilla's executive chef, Andrea has cooked for Giorgio Armani, Richard Branson and the Italian president. He also cooked for many Michelin star restaurants around the world. His right hand man is also known as the Italian Richard Gear and had a great sense of humour. Seeing the pair work together in the kitchen was admirable.
Pure Gelato Croydon
It was a lovely surprise when Silvia brought out colourful mini gelato cones from Pure Gelato. Pure Gelato has over 150 flavours available but the mini cones included mint with choc chip, strawberry, chocolate, hazelnut and mango!
Thank you again Silvia for coordinating the event, it was very fun and entertaining. The food was amazing and we're very proud to have recreated (with assistance from the professionals) amazing dishes at Casa Barilla Cooking School. Thank you again for the goodie bag, we will surely cook up a storm of Italian dishes in the weeks to come!