Jody Adams is pretty much a household name in the Boston area (and beyond) among those who love good food. Most people know of her Harvard Square restaurant, Rialto, which she opened back in 1994. It's one of my favorites. Some have probably already been to her newer restaurant, Trade (still on my must-try list). Those who don't live nearby may have seen her on Top Chef Masters. Or perhaps you've been reading her blog The Garum Factory. Chances are you've heard of Jody in some capacity or another. I think she's pretty amazing, so when I was invited to take a class at Rialto and learn how to make pasta from her, it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.
One Sunday back in April, I drove over to the Charles Hotel and waited outside Rialto with other class attendees to be let in for the class.
Once we walked in, we were invited to grab coffee and scones that were set up on the bar and then find seats in front of the demonstration kitchen. I sat in the front row but off to the side so as not to annoy people with my picture taking, but I soon wished I had sat in the middle as I didn't have the best view of the work surface reflected in the overhead mirror. But I could see Jody just fine.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Jody led us through a handful of recipes, teaching us how to make and roll out different kinds of pasta (egg pasta, whole-grain pasta, and even gluten-free pasta), cook up amazing tortelloni filling, a flavorful stock, nettle risotto, and bolognese sauce; and assemble dishes with everything she'd made. As Jody taught, she would pass around any ingredients that people were unfamiliar with so we could look at them, smell them, and experience them. She also answered questions all throughout the class. She was so down-to-earth and relaxed in the kitchen and was easily able to just go with the flow and bring all of us along with her.
During the class, we got to try two of the dishes: tortelloni in brodo and floppy lasagna bolognese. Jody had made the pork tortelloni with the egg pasta during the demo, but I think the kitchen may have swapped them because we got ours with whole-grain pasta. No big deal! The tortelloni was in a flavorful broth with Southeast Asian flavors and influence. Jody called it "an Italian version of a Southeast Asian noodle soup." There were some nice veggies in there as well. I enjoyed it but, having been to Italy and more specifically the Emilia-Romagna region where tortellini in brodo is from, I really wanted a version with the traditional flavors too! I think I'm going to make Jody's tortelloni at home and craft a broth with the Italian flavors I remember.
The floppy lasagna bolognese featured sheets of the egg pasta and Jody's bolognese sauce and it was incredible. I'll definitely be making this dish at home (luckily we got copies of all the recipes to take home). While it's not traditional, she adds some tomato to her bolognese to provide an acidic balance to all the rich meat.
After the demonstration, we were led into the dining room for a light lunch of the remaining dishes paired with wine.
The nettle risotto was made with a nettle pesto and topped with sauteed mushrooms. I'm not really a risotto person, but I did appreciate the flavors in here and found it interesting learning about nettle leaves and how to prepare them. The mushrooms, which get sauteed with shallots, garlic, marsala, and thyme were simple and tasty -- a good pick-me-up for the risotto.
The gluten-free pasta came out with a mixture of spicy kale, chickpeas, and Pecorino Romano, as well as charred eggplant puree. I was beyond impressed with the gluten-free pasta. It was a little more toothsome than the regular egg pasta, but I didn't detect any off-flavors or anything off-putting about it. Jody came up with the recipe for it herself and uses Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking flour along with xanthan gum to make it.
I loved learning a little more about pasta making, and Jody took some of the intimidation out of it. Now I just need a free Saturday afternoon to spend in the kitchen cranking out sheets of pasta and shaping tortelloni.
The last class of the season will be on June 23 and it's a farmers' market and grilling class. I highly recommend checking it out. I love (and miss being so close to) the Charles Square Farmers' Market, and I have no doubt that Jody can do amazing things with the goods to be found there. The menu includes prosciutto with grilled asparagus and truffle oil and a spring salad with grilled onion, strawberries, and pistachio pesto. Plus, that lunch will be on Rialto's Terrace -- a lovely outdoor dining space behind the restaurant.
Have you ever taken a cooking class? Where was it, and what did you learn?
This class was complimentary, but as always my opinions are my own.