The more I eat out at restaurants for work, the more I’ve come to appreciate the real luxuries in life, like taking part in an old-fashioned cooking class in Rome and gathering around the table to enjoy it in good company. There’s something wonderful about making something from scratch, instead of ordering off a menu, and seeing ingredients come together to create something that is much more than the sum of its parts. Part of the appeal, I think, is the slowness of the whole process – and it’s nice to wind down and focus on one thing at a time. Especially when that thing is fresh pasta.
There are few things I enjoy more than fresh pasta so I was thrilled when Dragonfly Tours invited me to make fresh tagliatelle with them during a market-to-table cooking class. Dragonfly Tours is a luxury tour operator with roots in the US and a team based in Italy: the company offers private customized trips in Italy, including tailor-made experiences and vacation packages. Food and wine experiences are one of their fortes and Dragonfly Tours offers everything from vineyard tours and visits to Parmesan factories to street food tours in Venice, where you can enjoy bacari on the back of a gondola.
On this particular Thursday morning, I met my hostesses Valeria and Valentina at the Mercato Parioli, a small fruit and vegetable market in north Rome. The market has a dozen stalls with seasonal produce as well as a handful of bars, gelaterie street food eateries that open in the evening for aperitivo. We perused the stalls shopping for fresh ingredients for our three-course meal: farm fresh eggs, basil leaves and the last of Rome’s springtime artichokes. Then, we headed to Valeria’s home to start cooking.
After sipping on a glass of Aperol spritz, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work preparing our meal for the day: Tagliatelle, Pesto alle Mandorle (basil & almond pesto) and Carciofi alla Romana (Roman-Style Artichoke). The recipes are included here below.
- 3 1/2 cups of “00” wheat flour
- 4 whole eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 cup almonds (or pine nuts, or pistachios)
- 3/4 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Roman cheese
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- a pinch of salt
- 4 artichokes
- 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 lemon (to keep the artichokes from turning brown)
The best part of the cooking experience with Dragonfly Tours was not only preparing fresh food and enjoying it in great company but the sense of home that you get from cooking and eating in a private residence. Posh Italian palazzi often have a feeling of being delightfully stuck in time, with family heirlooms and vintage pieces, and this home was no different: we prepared our tagliatelle, pesto and artichokes on a marble table in the living room – and our work station was carefully arranged so we won’t accidentally drop eggs on the precious wooden floors. And once our meal was prepared, our entrees were plated on fine porcelain plates, a wedding gift from decades ago that made an appearance for our special occasion.
To begin planning your personalized vacation of Italy with Dragonfly Tours, visit the website or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. See Tripadvisor for past client reviews and get inspired to plan your own trip.