2018 Spring Julia Press Temple Rome Temple Semester

Top Chef: Italian Class

This semester, I’m one of around 14 students enrolled in Intensive Italian, a class that combines Italian 1001 and 1002 into one semester of rapid-fire learning. In addition to meeting twice as frequently as an ordinary Italian course, our class is lucky enough to have a fantastic professor, Daniela, who is committed to making our experience here as immersive as possible. To this end, on Monday night, our class convened at Daniela’s home for a night of Italian cooking.

Our task started before we even arrived for the cooking class: we were each responsible for buying the ingredients necessary for the recipe we had been assigned, not from any generic supermarket but from a smaller vendor with whom we could practice ordering in Italian. When we arrived at Daniela’s home, we split into five teams and, with the guidance of Daniela and her neighbor, proceeded to each tackle an Italian specialty. When the cooking was over, we all sat down together to enjoy a delicious meal, all the tastier because we had made it ourselves! We paired our meal with wine, labeling our glasses with the Italian versions of our names we had been assigned at the beginning of the semester. I’m lucky that my name translates so easily, and am tempted to ask my friends at home to start spelling my name the Italian way.

Our first course was zuppa di lenticchie, a flavorful lentil soup thick with veggies, served over homemade croutons and drizzled with olive oil. Next up was pasta: the pasta team made one of Rome’s classic dishes, penne all’arrabbiata. Literally translated as “angry” sauce, this tomato-based dish is known for its kick of spice, but can contain a whole variety of different ingredients to provide its flavor. Our recipe was centered around olives and capers, giving the pasta a deliciously salty taste.

Our next dish was Daniela’s mother’s signature recipe for mozzarella in carrozza, a traditional Sicilian dish that we compared to a cross between French toast and mozzarella sticks. The dish involved slices of crusty bread and mozzarella, dipped in flour and egg and fried.

For vegetables, we had cavolo romano gratinato, Roman broccoli and cauliflower baked with breadcrumbs and olives. To finish off the meal on a sweet note, we enjoyed homemade tiramisu. As someone who doesn’t typically love tiramisu, I was blown away by this recipe. Apparently the secret involves using Pavesini cookies instead of traditional ladyfingers because the Pavesini absorb less of the cream, enhancing the flavor. Due to confusion when food shopping, we ended up topping half of the tiramisu with sweet cocoa powder and half with bitter, as the recipe called for, but all of it was just delicious. At the end of the night, we all left with five new Italian recipes in our arsenal and lovely memories of a night spent together.

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