CIRA Cooking School – ‘La Cucina Romana’ with Massimo Bianchi
CIRA (The Council Of Italian Restaurants In Australia) was started by 12 Italian-Australian restaurateurs for cultural and educational purposes, to promote the values of Italian food in Australia. Fortunately for us, CIRA has a cooking school with the best Italian chefs offering courses to the general public and specialized courses for students and the industry.
Massimo (ex Buon Ricordo, and about to open Uccello at Ivy) gave a very personal cooking course at the kitchen of Casa Barilla, next to a long communal dining table. The format was perfect – we learn one course, we sit down and enjoy it with wine, and then we move onto the next. One of the founding members Armando Percuoco (Buon Ricordo) was also there to offer his advice on truly authentic Italian cooking.
Fettuccine with prosciutto, pomodorini and pecorino
There is a common misconception that pasta can be cooked as soon as the water starts to boil. The water has to be violently boiling – and you can heavily salt it, not just a pinch, but enough so you can actually taste the salt in the water. Drain the pasta about a minute or two less than the packet instructions (if you taste it, it’s still slightly raw in the middle) because when you pour it back into the pan with sauce, it will keep cooking. Save a cup of the pasta water (as it is “starchier” than normal water) for the sauce later if it becomes too dry. But in Rome, the sauce can never be watery, it has to stick to the pasta and be as dry as possible.
Scottadito d’abbacchio alla Romana (Scottadito means ‘by the finger’; d’abbacchio is young lamb – lamb chops you can eat with your fingers)
True Italian cooking only requires you to slightly crush garlic bulbs with your palms. Brown them in olive oil until they’re almost burnt (dark brown) and remove them from the oil. There is no need to chop it up as the flavour in the oil is enough. Garlic that is cooked through also makes the food taste less heavy, compared to say, French food. The same goes for the Rosemary – put the entire sprig in the pan, cook, and then remove. Keep the pan at high heat at all times so the lamb doesn’t end up broiled.
When the lamb chops are ready, the remaining fat can be made into a beautiful creamy sauce (without the help of cream or butter) by reducing with some anchovies, wine and vinegar.
Ricotta cheese – made into a pattie, dusted with flour, covered in egg wash and deep fried in Strutto/sugna (pure pig’s fat) until golden brown. Dusted with cinnamon and sugar, cholesterol never tasted so good. Served warm.
This is truly sinful - but it tastes somewhat light.
If anyone is interested in the recipes I can scan them (with my notes included) for you to download.