4.05.2014

A Class Act

Meet Jason and Ashley Bartner! They run La Tavola Marche cooking school, near Urbania in Le Marche, Italy.

Photo: Studio Fotografico Righi. From latavolamarche.blogspot.com
I got an email one day from our friend Joanne, with whom we have visited Italy three times. She knows how much we love Italian food, and also that I dream of attending a cooking school in Italy. The cost of cooking schools can be prohibitive and, to be honest, there would be difficulties with my participation due to my garlic allergy. Joanne’s email had a solution, though.

She told us about La Tavola Marche, and their online cooking classes. Naturally, I was intrigued... I had missed the first class, but signed up for the second and have attended several since.

They are set up as webinars, and each class lasts about an hour. As soon as you sign up, you are sent the list of ingredients for the class, and what you need to have ready when the class starts (oven preheated, water boiling, etc.). Once the live webinar starts, you and Jason are cooking together - on different continents!

The classes are taught in real time, meaning that, when you are done, it will be time to sit down to an incredible meal. Make sure the table is set beforehand and your wine Is open and ready!

If you have questions, you can ask Jason and Ashley by typing into a dialog box, and they respond quickly. You can see everyone else’s questions and answers too, and they will often weave responses into their live dialogue. One really great advantage to is that, when done, the Bartners send all participants a video so that they revisit the class, take notes, etc.

They offer classes on Sundays at 1:00pm and 4:00pm (both U.S. Eastern Standard Time). Knowing that, you can figure out when it will occur in your time zone. I like to take the early class, which means we sit down to a noon dinner in our time zone.

Another nice advantage is being able to tailor the meal to your needs and preferences. Can't eat garlic? Omit it, or use a shallot. Don't eat rabbit? Use chicken thighs. Jason is very careful to identify what is authentic to his region and distinguish his own departures and innovations.

In this regard, my favorite moment was when we were roasting potatoes and he said we could leave the skin on or peel them - it was up to us. He then said that, in Italy, one never leaves the skins on. He once did, and every plate from every Italian came back to the kitchen with little piles of very meticulously removed skins. Don't mess with culinary tradition in Italy!

Today I am sharing a pasta recipe they shared with us: Pasta alla Norcina. Like most authentic Italian pasta recipes, it is very simple, has few ingredients, and is incredibly flavorful. Jason explained that the recipe is from a town named Norcia – thus alla Norcina – which is famous for both its pork and black truffles.

I highly recommend you visit La Tavola Marche online - both their blog and website are beautiful, and I hope you will consider joining them (and me!) for an online class or two soon. Oh, did I forget to mention they are only $5 per class? Best bargain on the Internet!

My new dream is for Mark and me to visit Le Marche so I can cook elbow-to-elbow with Jason and Ashley! And eat well, of course!

Buon appetito!

~ David

Pasta alla Norcina (Pasta with Sausages & Cream)

olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
8 ounces sweet or hot sausage meat (homemade sausage recipe follows)
salt & pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
small handful of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 pound short pasta of your choice - penne or rigatoni are traditional

Shave truffles for garnish (when in season)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.


Add a few glugs of olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) to a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallot and gently sweat, stirring, until clear and just beginning to turn golden.
Remove shallots from the oil and discard. (They are just to flavor the oil.)

Add chopped carrot and sweat (still over medium-low heat) for a minute or two.


Add in the sausage meat. Raise the heat to medium and, with the back of a large fork, break the meat up as it cooks.


When no pink remains in the meat, add the cream, lower the heat, and let it reduce by half. Give it a taste and check the seasonings adjusting by adding salt and pepper, if needed.


Shut off the heat until your pasta is ready. Then on low heat, bring your sauce back up.


Drain the cooked pasta from the water and place directly into pan. (Do NOT discard your pasta water).


Over low heat, mix the pasta together with the sauce and a handful of cheese, adding a little pasta water if needed. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings, as needed.


Serve immediately.


(If you are able to find truffles, shave over the top just before serving or at the table.)


Serves 4.


Homemade Italian Sausage

1 pound ground pork – not too lean

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
2 teaspoons freshly chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon dry red wine


Mix all ingredients together until the spices and herbs are evenly distributed. You will need half of this amount for the Pasta alla Norcina recipe.



Makes 1 pound.

32 comments:

  1. Haha, we do the same in Greece. We never eat potatoes with skins on :)
    What a beautiful recipe David. I love the simplicity of authentic Italian food as the same applies with authentic Greek food.
    I hope you realize your dream of cooking elbow-to-elbow with them!

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    1. The one thing I have learned from all my travels is this: don't mess with tradition! Don't try to "improve" upon another country's cuisine - often the improvements are not improvements. Magda - traditional Greek food (and Mediterranean cuisine, in general) is so perfect in its simplicity. Thanks for your comment; I will never serve you potatoes with skins!

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  2. Oh we are drooling over that bowl of pasta....your beautiful dish has got us hungry...going to try this out for dinner....thanks so much for sharing...HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!!! :-)

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    1. I have missed you, Rakesh and Swikruti! Thanks for your lovely comment - and know that you can make the sausage with any meat you choose!

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  3. David, now that spunds very tempting - an online cooking class from Italy and with you cooking along...I will have to think about that for a while...I am awfully tempted to join...and your pictures are just wonderful, they just make me want to run in the kitchen and try out that recipe - love all your pretty bowls, tablecloth, and that shot of the finished pasta is making me hungry again.
    What a truly delightful post!
    There is the so-called "Sahara dust" clouding the skies around here and the sun seems to have taken a break. No picture taking. And tomorrow there is the Bonn Marathon - we shall cheer on the participants!
    Ganz liebe Grüße an euch beide und noch ein schönes Wochenende,
    Andrea

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    1. Thank you so much, Andrea. In many ways, these classes (and photographing them) inspired me to use all the prettiest things I have!

      So sorry to hear about your weather... Maybe the Sahara Dust will leave soon... Liebe Grüße!

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  4. Gorgeous pictures and a delicious dish. Isn't it amazing how well a little cream finishes a dish? Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Monet - you hit the mark with that comment! Too often we use too much cream when only a little is needed. This was just perfect!

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  5. YUM! The online cooking classes sound like a hoot (and to actually be there...oh che bello! What I like the most about this recipe is the recipe at the bottom for homemade sausage. Do you know how hard it is to find GOOD italian sausage here?!

    I just did my first cooking class last week (as a guest teacher) in a wonderful woman named Lucia's kitchen - she's originally from Calabria and does classes in her HUGE kitchen - I've been invited back to do a few more ....can't wait! I'm also putting together a series to do at another spot in town. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be online video too!

    Thanks for another terrific post!! XOXO

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    1. Karin - I find it's hard to find good Italian sausage anywhere! Too many additives for my taste. This way, like last week's chorizo, we can spice and flavor it anyway we want!

      Teaching cooking classes is fun - I really enjoy doing it myself, and have thought about doing them here. I have a host in mind who has a table that seats 14. It could be fun!

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  6. The classes sound so much fun! I don't know if I could do them though, not right now, with kids running through the kitchen every 5 minutes. It would be a disaster! But it's so great to know about it and they sound like awesome teachers.
    This recipe looks perfect, simple and rustic. It has all the flavour without needing anything in excess. Love it, and thanks for the sausage recipe, I was looking for mine but don't know where its gone. I like to make it with ground chicken. I'll use this one now. Thanks David!! Have a great week and thanks for the email :) Loved the newsletters!

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    1. Haha - I am not sure I could do it with lots of kids around either! You can sign up for the class and then just get the video after to watch on your own time...

      Glad you got the newsletters! I do try to get them out regularly, but sometimes I miss! Have a great week!

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  7. What a great concept, and only $5? That's too cheap! I think I'll be taking a look! Thanks for sharing, David, it looks wonderful!

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    1. I know, John - and that is $5 per party of people! They really are fun, and I always learn something each time that I hadn't known before.

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  8. Oh, Italia. I wish I were there now.
    This is a lovely dish and Amarone is one of our fav reds.
    Thanks, D. xo

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    1. Italia ANYtime is good with me, Colette! Love that Trader Joe carries a very reasonably priced Amarone!

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  9. I am so excited to see this recipe for homemade Italian sausage! Ah! It sounds wonderful! Love the idea of the online cooking classes too. I am always up to improve my skill level in cusines that I'm not as confident with, so I think I need to try Jason and Ashley's schooling! Lovely post. Ah, you're giving me the travel bug again! x

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    1. Laura, I think you and Aaron should take the class with some friends. I can't even imagine what the time difference is (looks like maybe 1:00am and 4:00am - not exactly suppertime!), but if you register to take the class, they send you a video afterwards. While you wouldn't be able to comment or ask questions, it would be fun to watch and create a great meal!

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    2. You are completely right, I was thinking that there'd be a shocking time difference. I'm considering it though, I've had a chat with a friend of mine who is equally in love with learning/cooking so we might do it at a reasonable hour together with our husbands ;)

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    3. Yep - the video definitely makes a difference when the time difference is unmanageable.

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  10. I loved the idea of a real-time online cooking class. I had never heard of it or thought of it and think it is a brilliant idea. I think it is great that you can communicate with your teacher as you are making the meal, as opposed to just following a video.
    Secondly, I had to laugh about the potato story: it is so true, you just don't leave the skin on a potato here, unless we are speaking of patate novelle, the very small spring potatoes. That is why I always crave roasted potatoes skin-on, potato skins and baked potatoes when visiting back home!

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    1. Fiona - yes, the communication is a lot of fun. Sometimes one of the class members will ask a question and then be answered by another class member!

      I can see you sneaking into your Milanese kitchen and roasting potatoes with skins on! Who would have thought this was something to hide? :)

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  11. David,
    This global class really sounds like fun. If this recipe is anything like their others, I am interested! You should do a cooking class yourself! Thanks for introducing us to Jason and Ashley!

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    1. I think you and Towny would have a great time with this!

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  12. YUM! What a really great find. You know I am going to have to try this pasta recipe! But, I am really coveting your cat dish.

    This is such a fun and unique concept - I'm looking forward to more of your dishes from this class.

    Have a great weekend! xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Susan - the cat bowl is one of my absolute favorites! I think you would enjoy these classes. And they are a great excuse for a cooking party at home!

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  13. How cool -- what a fun way to do a cooking class. And this is beautiful recipe. I love simple pasta recipes packed with flavor!

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    1. The simplest dishes sometimes are the most amazing - you get to taste each ingredient! Thanks, Valentina!

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  14. How fun…a cook along in real time from Italy. I have been to Norcina and now have a recipe from there to try. It sounds very good.

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    1. Karen - until I made this recipe, I had never heard of Norcina... now I want to go and try this dish it is motherland.

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  15. I follow them on Facebook and agree, a class act! Continuing the authentic Italian traditions is SO incredibly important. There are so many versions and offshoots of Italian cuisine in the US and that is fine, but I truly feel we still need to have the authentic cuisine passed on for future generations, or it will be akin to a species of animal becoming extinct when we could have saved it. Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Christina! Recently, I one of their classes, they made Bucatini al'Amatriciana. Last time I had it, the recipe was from the Silver Palate cookbook; it was completely different from the simple and exquisite original. I agree with you - we can make changes but I always urge people to change the name. The dish I had those many years ago was not Amaticiana. It should have been called pasta in wine-tomato sauce as it had an entire bottle of red wine it it. (There is no wine in Amatriciana...)

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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