After a hike at Baldwin Hills in Culver City, I stumbled into New School of Cooking Cafe for a coffee. When I left the cafe, directly next door I saw a huge kitchen with a plethora of tools and I totally geeked out. I had to see what was it was all about, so I popped my head in an office part of the building. This is how I learned there was a professional culinary school in Culver City, The New School of Cooking Academy, which is really exciting cause I’ve been flirting with the idea of entering some sort of culinary program. I got even more excited when their staff member told me they offer weekend workshops for hobbyist cooks and gave me a schedule. I went home and researched the classes they offer and I was blown away with the variety of workshops. The workshops that caught my eyes were Essential Knife Skills, Artisan Bread Making, Sausage Making and Baking With Chocolate. While these all sounding amazing, I decided to take the Fresh Pasta Workshop. I’ve had it in my head for so long that pasta is such hard item to make and that I could never do it. I was so wrong.
The New School of Cooking Academy
8690 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
This workshop was taught by Chef Ken Lee, a graduate of Dublin School of Catering and a “Top Chef” season 1 contestant. He started off by teaching us how to make traditional pasta dough. Semolina and all purpose flour, with 2 – 3 large eggs are needed. I loved that I could see in a mirror above him, what exactly he was doing. There is also a screen for when instructors cook on the stove.
He prepared his “volcan-dough” (I seemed to be the only one calling it) effortlessly.
Then he used a standard fork to gently beat the eggs into it the flours, creating his firm pasta dough. After a lot of kneading and adding flour, this creates the finished product, which is rolled out thin enough that if you blow under it, it will lift.
After he did a demo on making the pasta, it was time to get cooking. We were assigned tortellini, cappelletti, ravioli and tagliatelle pastas.
For this workshop, classmates work in pairs in the training kitchen. I kind of felt like a “Top Chef” contestant myself, since I didn’t know my partner, Cheryl, before this. I felt like we were on a mission to impress the other classmates, so the pressure was on. Luckily, Cheryl is a regular student at NSOCA, so she was able to show me the ropes around the kitchen. The assistants Alyssa and Imran were also very helpful if we had any questions. The students are assigned a different style of pasta with a different sauce and/or filling.
Cheryl and I were assigned tagliatelle with a brown butter and rosemary sauce. The fresh ingredients for the sauce was nicely prepared for us.
I know my volcan-dough isn’t as professional looking as Ken’s, but it was also my first one, so go easy on me!
And besides, the end product is what matters, and my doughball was pretty sexy. While Cheryl wrapped our doughboys in cellophane, I finely chopped our rosemary.
The time came to hop on the stove and get saucy. At a medium-low heat, the butter sauce started as a yellow color, which me a little concerned, cause it’s not the prettiest color. But then, once it cooked more, it turned into a lighter brown, with a cream foam bubbling, which is more appetizing. Whew!
After the sauce was made, we let it cool and moved on to rolling out the pasta dough. Oddly enough, this was my favorite part (second to tasting), using the rolling pin made me feel like an honorary Italian Grandma. Rolling is also a great workout, my arms totally feeling like I pumped iron.
After the dough is rolled out thin, it’s time to cut the pasta. I’m already in love with KitchenAid mixers, but I never used the pasta roller attachment.
It’s a little tricky cause if the dough moves over to the side, it can throw the cutting off balance. So make sure you’re paying attention when you gently assist it through.
After the pasta boils in hot salted water and cooked al dente, it was time to taste. While our pasta was certainly the best (I’d be a traitor if I didn’t say that!), the other top two dishes were the tagliatelle with peas in a panchetta sauce and the meat filled raviolis in a marinara sauce.
After this workshop, I don’t think I’ll ever buy pasta from the store again! I’m now sold on always making it fresh, cause it really does taste better that way. I cannot wait to take another workshop and get more educated, so I can provide my foodies with more exclusive Girls on Food recipes!
Read more at The New School of Cooking Academy here: http://www.newschoolofcooking.com