Move aside, buffets. Under Nonna Antonella's guidance, bruschetta is anything but basic.
While Vegas is a more extreme example, I experience the same conflict on every trip; my desire to indulge is constantly fighting with my will to survive and avoid scurvy. As such, I constantly have an eye out for a mythical perfect dish that manages to be both decadent and nutritious, enthralling my senses without destroying my stomach.
In Rome - in its own way, the original Las Vegas, a swirling, enchanting, hedonistic kind of town - I found exactly what I was looking for with humble bruschetta. And with our very own "nonna" (a real Roman grandmother and expert home cook) by our side for an evening, we couldn't go wrong. Nonna Antonella was dishing out recipes AND great advice!
Somewhere along the way, my passion for simple, sensational, local food got lost in the allure of glitzy buffets. It was time to get back to basics. A small group cooking class - with a focus on authentic, homemade Roman food and hosted by Nonna Antonella and the team from Eating Italy Rome - was the perfect way to honor my travel roots, leave those buffets behind, and - of course - hone my culinary skills.
We mastered the art of making homemade pasta dough, which we stuffed with ricotta and spinach filling and topped with a simple marina sauce. We pounded veal and carefully folded sage leaves for an incredible main of pan-fried "Saltimbocca Alla Romana" (veal with proscciutto and sage) and we whipped our tiramisu filling with two spoons - one for stirring, one for tasting! There was so much to learn and take in! But I saved most of my questions for the bruschetta prep.
Bread sliced 1 centimeter thick was toasted in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 8 minutes before the finishing touches were applied. A light drizzle of olive oil found its way to the warm, toasty bread and a clove of garlic, sliced in half and roughly rubbed over each slice, seasoned the dish without overpowering the more delicate flavors. It was at once precise and relaxed, restrained yet indulgent. And it was utterly delicious.
But I'm impatient. I never take the time to tear the basil by hand or let the mixture sit so the flavors can develop. And therein lies the beauty of our experience. A cooking lesson from Nonna forces you to slow down, smell the garlic, and experience food the Roman way. Nonna Antonella's passion for quality over quantity and her eagerness to guide us through any culinary challenge has stayed with me longer than the meal itself. Her measured, experienced, thoughtfully considered cooking and instruction left all memories of Vegas buffets in the dust. And I'll bet you'll feel the same way. We cannot recommend this experience highly enough.
- In Rome, we stayed at The Beehive and loved it. You can read its reviews (and that of comparable properties) on Trip Advisor, Hotels Combined, and Expedia.
- Eager to experience the same cooking class? You can check out all of Eating Italy's experiences here. (And they're all over Europe now too - perhaps we'll meet up on the road?)
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PS: Here's a peak at the rest of our meal!