When you meet Elisa Venturi, within moments it will be 100% clear why she named her business Elisa Cuore (heart), Cucina (kitchen), and Chiacchiere (chat).
Ten American women recently descended on Elisa’s home kitchen in Pesaro, Italy, for a cooking class. She was admittedly nervous. So were we! It was our first evening together as a group at the launch of a weeklong tour of Italy’s Le Marche region. Elisa posted this anxious message to her 29,000 Facebook followers:
(My friends said) Eli you’re crazy to have accepted a job like this: 10 strangers at home and on top of that only speak English. If I had to wait to be perfect I would never do anything and then I jump…this time without parachutes, but with the desire to give them an unforgettable experience? I’m going to be myself. Let’s see if across the ocean they appreciate me.Elisa Venturi on Facebook
Let’s just say, had we American women known the nature of the adventure that awaited us, we might have been the nervous ones! Elisa is an accomplished home chef and taught us simple, yet complex, dishes with a twist of Le Marche!
Rest easy, Elisa! We appreciate you. It was an amazing experience—warm, inviting, engaging, and delicious with lots of laughter (more as lovely wine flowed). Elisa’s husband Nicola alternated between videographer, sommelier, and sous chef. Her dear friend Romy intuitively filled every small cooking and service gap with grace and a smile. I highly recommend this experience!
Our first lesson was piadine, which Elisa described as “our street food” in Le Marche. The recipe is simple, distinguished in Pesaro—or at least in Elisa’s kitchen—by using lard rather than olive oil in the recipe. The recipe for 12 “doses” follows below, but a second important secret is to cook the piadine in a very hot skillet with no oil of any sort in the pan. There’s plenty in the dough!
About the formaggio. Elisa’s cheese of choice is a local favorite called squacquerone. It is a fresh, creamy cheese—tangy, soft, fluffy and spreadable. It is slightly bitter, thick like yogurt, with a consistency somewhat like cottage cheese. You are unlikely to find this cheese in the United States, so an alternative is stracchino from your favorite Italian deli. And if that’s not available, you can make your own version with cream cheese, crème fraiche, buttermilk, yogurt, and lemon juice. Using this recipe for home made cheese, let stand in the fridge for 1-3 days and use within 6 days.
Elisa’s husband Nicola did some serious research to select perfect pairings for our cooking class menu.
The white wine selection was a fantastic surprise! I have always wanted to try wine from Lugano DOC, a small region on the southeast corner of Lake Garda straddling both Veneto and Lombardia regions. The Turbiana grape is a close relative of Verdicchio, which is the most important white grape of Le Marche. While it wasn’t a local treasure per se, it was a delightful selection. Giulio Pasotti 2020 was an easy drinking wine, with salty and citrus character, that easily carried chiacchiere (chat) while we prepared padine in la cucina.
Negroamaro is a dark-skinned grape native to the Salice Salentino DOC region in Puglia which the red wine fans found to be quite satisfying, especially with the pasta course. The name of the winery, Cuor di Pietra, oddly means “heart of stone” in contrast with the sweetness and light of Elisa’s cooking classes. Apuglian wines from the southernmost tip of Italy’s heel are deeply colored, powerful, hearty, and sun-kissed. The 2017 had time in the bottle to become nicely balanced.
There’s no doubt it would be easier to make tagliatelle using a pasta machine. But not in Elisa’s kitchen! It’s all made by hand. Tagliatelle pasta is a simple recipe—just flour and eggs—but making it well requires finesse in the rounds of mixing, kneading, and rolling out the dough. The highlights of the process included a resounding “thwap” each time the dough was released from the massive rolling pin, and a rousing “magic moment” cheer each time slices of dough were released into strands of perfect tagliatelle.
To save time during class, Elisa had already prepared the final ragu of short ribs (costarelle), sausages, and beans which (of course) requires several hours to simmer. To learn the process, we made a fresh batch, walking through the simple steps of boiling the ribs and sausages, then creating a simple, classic tomato sauce starting with the “holy trinity” of carrots, onions, and celery, and then adding tomatoes, red wine, and EVOO. The unique twist in Elisa’s salsa recipe is adding beans, which are soaked overnight, cooked separately, and added toward the end of cooking the salsa.
Mille-feuille may be a French dessert, but it fits well in the Italian context: every lunch “worthy of respect” ends with a good homemade dessert! Again striking a balance between simple and elegant, Elisa showed us how to make mille-feuille with packaged puff pastry. The creamy filling was made from latte (milk), tuorli d’uova (egg yolks), zucchero (sugar), and farina (flour). After baking for 15 minutes, the yummy triple-layer squares are topped with powered sugar.
To contact Elisa by email:
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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