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TREKKING DI UN GIORNO
Con merenda sinoira in cantina
VISITE DI CITTA' E CASTELLI
Con guide turistiche professionali
LA RICERCA DEL TARTUFO
Segui un vero "trifolao" ed il suo cane
TOUR GASTRONOMICI
Botteghe tradizionali, mercati e produttori
TOUR GUIDATI DEL VINO
Storie del territorio, cantine, degustazioni
QUAD, E-BIKES E VESPE
Immersi nei paesaggi collinari UNESCO
TOUR DEL PALIO DI ASTI
Visita esclusiva dietro le quinte di un Rione
LEZIONI DI CUCINA
Impara a fare la pasta e altre ricette tipiche
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Cooking classes are one of the most requested activities by our guests. The reason is much more of a simple desire to learn preparing food but it is a deep journey to our soul. I started to realize it after watching a documentary called "Cooked" from best-selling author Michael Pollan.

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We all have powerful memories of being cooked for by our moms: waiting for the food to be ready, the smell of it, gestures of our moms in the kitchen, are some of the first things we remember of our life as a child. An act of generosity that is still present in our head and it is still very powerful. Funny to see like nowadays most of us don't have much time left for cooking as we live in the vortex of our daily hectic routines. However, less time we spend cooking ourselves, the more time we seem to spend watching other people cooking on television: yes, cooking shows turned to be one of the most popular entertainment of the last decade or two. The food prepared and described on the show makes us hungry but we never get to eat it!

Since the 1950s we have gradually lost touch of how food get to our plate and we have forgotten how the food preparation around an open fire has been a ritual for many civilizations. Today we have access to any ingredient, at any hour of the day and we are supported by better technology in the kitchen too but all we want is everything to be instant.

So what is really missing is the time.

The slow and traditional way of cooking is missing in modern life: people work more hours and spend less time together. In the large urban areas restaurants and fast food chains are more and more accessible near train stations where commuters are forced to walk by giving them the chance to get their food ready on the way home. When we say cooking, for most people nowadays, it means finding the most simple and quickest way to have their meal ready. The pleasure of eating is replaced by the need of food (to survive). Yes, we still want good food and new dining experiences but no one wants to cook. The preparation is a job: buy, clean, chop and wait are steps that most people try to avoid.

Cooking reflects the geographical area

Putting a piece of meat on the fire is technically considered cooking because we transform the structure of the meat with the heat. However, that operation is the same all over the world. What we find unique in our cooking classes is that you learn to make something that belong to the geographical area where you are that day. Traditional recipes taught in a cooking class in Piemonte will never be the same in other Italian regions or in other Countries. Ingredients will taste different and the background of a local "mamma" ready to share her experience will be different too.

The place where you are cooking is reflected in the way you combine ingredients, spices, flavors: think to a raw onion (that no one will ever eat) becoming immediately sweet and appetizing once is chopped and gently roasted over the fire with some olive oil and rosemary. Adding and combining ingredients means to add acidity, sweetness, but also nutritious elements to your dish; it opens up a new palate of flavors. Many ingredients need water to soften them and bring them to life.  The broth is the best example: water is the medium where vegetables and meat exchange molecules and flavors giving birth to something new. And then, after the broth is ready, you use it to slowly cooking  Italian rice, adding an asparagus or a fresh mushroom or cheese and you obtain a creamy risotto.

Sitting at the table savoring that risotto, remembering what is inside and how you made it and the time it took to get to the final result, is the best satisfaction.

homemade pinched ravioli

A cooking class in Piemonte

Our cooking classes are all different depending on the teacher (a professional chef or a local "mamma"), the location (a restaurant or a private home), the season. Piemonte is unique not only for many of its dishes, but also for the way they are eaten and for the moment they are served throughout the meal. Here we still features many one-course meals such as "Bagna Cauda" (a hot-served sauce made with slow cooking garlic, salted anchovies and olive oil), "Fritto Misto" (about twenty deep fried things, from vegetables to meat , apples, amaretti cookies..), "Bollito misto" (seven cuts of meat served with garnishes and three sauces).

Risotto making

But what makes this region more unique is the varied and unusual assortment of "antipasti" , literally "before the meal" ("pasto" in Italian means meal).  It is wrong to call them "antipasta" as many think they come before the pasta course... well that's true too but we say "antipasto", with the O! When I was a child, having several "antipasti" was the prerogative to a big Sunday or Christmas lunch. We would judge a restaurant based on the number (and quality) of "antipasti" served. I remember my grandmother preparing up to five or six of them, starting with some "simple" prosciutto (Parma ham) with melon or pineapple (the only recipe that doesn't require much work) to more sophisticated "vitello tonnato (boiled veal topped with tuna sauce), a vegetable flan with cheese fondue, alternating the cold recipes with the hot one, soft consistencies to harder ones. The result was that we were all full by the time the first course was served (usually homemade ravioli) and the main course was generally skipped in order to save room for dessert.

Most of our cooking classes feature homemade pasta, which, again, has nothing to do with the past you would make in other Italian regions. Our pasta is reach in eggs and the yellow color well reflect that. On top of that, our pasta is rolled very thin as we don't like it thick. The typical noodles are called in dialect "tajarin", like angel hair, cut by knife after rolling the paper thin sheet of pasta.

As far as dessert, many chef like to teach the traditional "bonet" a sort of sweet flan made with eggs, milk, chocolate powder, amaretti cookies. In summer we make "stuffed peaches" where the fresh fruit is cut in half and baked in the oven with a topping of a light meringue flavored with almonds and chocolate.

A cooking class with Meet Piemonte

Written by Marco Scaglione.
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