While planning our trip to Italy, we discovered that our blogging friend, Agata of the travel blog, Null & Full, was going to be there around the same dates we were traveling. I was very excited to meet her. When she suggested that we spend the day in Ferrara and join her for a cooking class, I was thrilled at the prospect. Agata offers small group guided tours in Ferrara, including bicycling tours, wine tastings, and cooking classes at ILoveFerrara.It. Even though it was her first time attempting it, Agata offered to teach us how to make authentic, Italian cuisine prepared completely vegan! We couldn’t resist.
Agata and her husband, Andrzej picked us up at the train station and brought us back to their place. They were staying at a home in the oldest part of Ferrara with an adorable backyard where we later enjoyed our feast. Though Agata is originally from Poland, she has fully immersed herself in Italian culture and considers Italy to be her second home. Having attended school in Milan and living for years in Ferrara, she gained many insights about the town, its history, and its people. Agata told us many fond stories about Luisa, a woman who lived in her neighborhood. They spent many hours together as Luisa taught her how to cook traditional Italian food. Agata offers cooking classes using these tips that have been passed down through generations of women.
Although Agata had never prepared this particular meal without meat, dairy, or eggs, she was up to the challenge. Her and Andrzej prepared a filling ahead of time, with the primary ingredient being the red leafy vegetable, radicchio. Every time I think about radicchio, I think about the time a girl working at the grocery store check-out counter exclaimed to me as I purchased it, “Radicchio? That’s rad-eek-u-lous!”. The pasta filling was also prepared with onion and fresh sage.
The most important part in preparing the fresh pasta was making sure the dough was just right. Without using eggs, we created a dough out of flour and warm water. Agata was a very patient teacher and explained each step clearly along the way. It was really easy and fun to make the pasta! I used a fork to work the flour and water together.
Then, the dough had to be kneaded for several minutes. Afterwards, the dough was placed inside a plastic bag for a short while to keep it moist. In the meantime, we prepared a fresh green salad topped with cherry tomatoes, olives, spices, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.
As we cooked, Agata told us many stories about her time in Ferrara – learning how to cook, learning a new language, and making new friendships. Although she learned a very traditional method of rolling out the dough with a giant rolling pin, we decided to use a pasta machine instead. The pasta machine worked like a dream. The dough rolled through the machine with ease until it was thin enough to be decoratively sliced into squares. A small amount of filling was placed on each square, and those squares were artfully folded into shapes. The pasta was cooked in boiling water. Fresh sage was sauteed and placed on top of the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil.
In addition to the fresh salad, we also enjoyed a sweet treat of strawberries dressed with sugar and lime juice. Justin and I brought Agata a gift from Canada – maple syrup, of course! She made one “Italian” version of the strawberries and one “Canadian” version using the maple syrup in place of the sugar. The four of us enjoyed our meal together outside in the garden. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We sipped some wine and shared stories. It was such a lovely day and one of my fondest memories of traveling in Italy.
We put together a short video that truly captures our experience taking a vegan cooking class in Italy.
Stay tuned for part two of our day in Ferrara where we tour around the town with Agata. We highly recommend that you travel on one of Agata’s organized tours in Ferrara. For reasons that I’ll explain in our next article, Ferrara is a unique, historic town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that isn’t frequented as often by tourists. You can enjoy small group tours with a local showing you all of the best spots. The cooking tour can be catered to your personal dietary needs, such as a vegan diet. It’s not too often that we come across vegan cooking classes, so it was very refreshing to be able to participate in this activity! Please visit ILoveFerrara.it for the latest information regarding booking a cooking class or a tour.
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Have you ever taken a cooking class while traveling? Do you know of any great vegan cooking classes? We’d love to hear about them!