My summer motto is “just say yes,” so when I was asked to attend a green market pasta class at Chelsea Market’s Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina, I couldn’t back down. Considering I have never made pasta from scratch before, I had no idea what to expect as I stumbled into Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina in my little work heels and mint green skirt. Little did I know, I was in for three exciting/grueling hours of culinary labor and a huge reality check about what goes on behind the scenes at an Italian restaurant.
Set up in the center of the restaurant was a table with eggs, flour, and water. Considering I have experience with all three ingredients, I thought I had this in the bag.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have it in the bag. And fortunately, Chef Antonella Rana was extremely helpful, patient, and kind (plus she was able to help me get my act in line).
Instead of just giving you an overview of my cooking experience at Giovanni Rana, I am going to enlighten you by showing you how much I learned with a step-by-step manual of how not to fail this well worth it cooking class.
Things to remember when going to pasta class for the first time:
1) Pack your sweatband
What they need to tell you first of all, is do not come to one of these classes right after work. And if you do, pack your shape ups, sweatband, and lululemon spandex because doing this is going to be one hell of a 3 hour standing experience.
2) Copy the chef (or your neighbor) 90% of the time
When we got in our ready stances, Chef Rana instructed us on how to make the dough with our first ingredients: eggs, flour, and water. With her great amount of energy and help from staff (and her adorable daughter with more talent than I will ever have), she did her demonstration of how to mix each ingredient without making a mess. After Chef Rana gave her little demo, I realized I was too busy watching her that I forgot to mimic her work. So instead of being smart and looking around me, I kind of just dumped everything together. Word of advice: don’t do what I did.
3) It’s pasta dough, not Play-Doh
The minute my dough had a gooey consistency, my world stopped for a hot
sec ten minutes. In front of me was no longer this pasta dough that would turn into my sorry attempt at ravioli, but instead it was a mystical world of Play-Doh that had just become my oyster. Unfortunately/fortunately, the instructors noticed my momentary lapse of judgment and quickly stopped me from turning my pasta into a cat sculpture.
We made two different types of dough— the one pictured above and another with a hint of ground coffee beans for the dessert tiramisu tortelli. My hands were too dirty to capture the second process.
4) Your filling, your choice
The next step in the journey to authentic Italian ravioli is to make the centerpiece of your creation: the filling. For the green market tortelli, we were given mascarpone, ricotta, green beans, red peppers, carrots, peas, and asparagus.
NOTE: This is the 10% of the time where you will not want to copy your neighbor. Instead, you will need to use your brain like a normal human being with common sense. DO NOT just chop up everything and throw it into the bowl.
For dessert, we were given sugar, coffee, chocolate, marsala wine, mascarpone, and ricotta cheese. Add sugar according to taste.
5) Lunge and roll
This next part is where the “harder than Pilates” comes in — rolling out the dough (twice). Now, I tried many techniques to flatten my dough effectively, and the most successful technique was what I like to call “the lunge and roll.”At the beginning, I was taking my precious time rolling out my ball of dough. However, I quickly realized that while I picked up my roller to re-position, the dough would slowly shrink back into its starting shape.
In order to prevent this annoying setback, you can’t take time to rest. You have to push through, lunge, and roll as fast and firmly as you can until the dough is spread moderately thin. Once the beginning is over, you can slow down a little, but it is best to keep pushing through to make sure you can flatten your dough effectively and quickly.
6) Don’t eat your filling
Placing the dessert filling onto the dough is a testament to your mental stability. Do not eat it. Just pick it up and place it onto the dough in even increments. Then fold the dough over and start stenciling before you rethink your decision and get all sad inside. Getting through the vegetable filling is a lot easier than the dessert.
Here’s where it gets real.
7) Eat the professionally cooked meal instead
If you pay the $65 for Chef Rana’s pasta class this summer, you are treated to a complimentary glass of wine and professionally made green market and tiramisu tortelli at the end of the meal. This is why you should not eat your filling — their freshly prepared homemade pasta is and will always be much better than your raw filling.
Eating the prepared pasta was my favorite part of the experience because I got to see the potential of what I had just made. The green market tortelli was in a light butter sauce and topped with a bit of parmesan cheese. The pasta itself melted in my mouth and the filling was balanced between vegetables and cheese. While eating this ravioli, I realized that I put too much vegetable in my filling. When I prepared my tortelli the next day, the presence of the cheese was overpowered by the dense vegetables and unfortunately my hypothesis proved true. Always make sure you have a balance.
The tiramisu tortelli was served fried and topped with powdered sugar. On the side was a light strawberry sauce that had a fruity zing when paired with the warm, crisp cappuccino-inspired dessert ravioli.
Before I left, the staff brought out my two bags of ravioli with their written recipes and an extra bag from the restaurant’s kitchen. I also got a cute little “Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina” tote that could definitely serve as a reusable grocery bag.
I guess it is safe to say that the pasta class at Giovanni Rana was definitely an educational and exciting experience — even for the sweaty novice chef wearing heels.