a couple of weeks ago i was invited by the world loves melbourne to join the lovely lisa eats world at an italian food experience hosted by sandra from la cucina di sandra. i didn’t quite know what to expect when arriving outside a sliding gate on a residential street, but was soon warmly welcomed into sandra’s own house, where a beautiful seated bar ran along the kitchen counter for our small group of seven to sit, relax and enjoy a glass of wine before sandra’s class began.
with an italian background, sandra hails from abbruzo, and she begins the class with a brief history on various regions of italy and the food traditions that have come from each region – for example polenta and potatoes which are typically more traditional in the north-east region of italy; packet pasta originating from the southern naples area (not barilla as i had thought); and many other tid bits… i can’t give them all away on the blog – you’ll have to check it out for yourself to learn more!
the format is an informative display from sandra – who passionately takes us through where to source the best ingredients in melbourne, traditions, cooking methods and then serves each of us a generous portion to be enjoyed at the beautifully set dinner table, which takes pride of place in the vaulted-ceiling living room.
we were treated to a four-course dinner plus some delicious homemade parmesan biscuits during the night. starters were a delicious mussel and white bean soup with prosciutto served in beautiful glasses. sandra prides herself on sourcing only fresh and authentic ingredients, with most of her food purchased from one of melbourne’s markets that morning. this was really evident in the freshness of the mussels in this dish.
we then followed up with an entrée of pennette rigate al sugo di gamberi; or baby penne with prawn ragu. the pasta sauce (or ragu) was beautifully complex and really complimented the baby penne. i was amazed to learn that in italy, the sauce is carefully chosen to compliment the shape and type of pasta used. so no more throwing a tomato sauce with whatever i’ve got in the cupboard going forward!
main course was my favourite (savoury dish) of the night – a parmigiana di ricciola, burrata e melanzane con pomodorini; also translated as kingfish parmigiana with burrata, eggplant and pomodorini.
if you’ve never tried burrata, i’d recommend getting your hands on some asap. this creamy cheese is, what i’d describe, as a cross between a buffalo mozzarella, cream cheese and double cream. smooth, creamy and delicious, it paired exceptionally well with the delicate flavours of the kingfish and eggplant.
for dessert, sandra made a crostoli and cherry sandwich using pre-bought crostoli, creamy ricotta, cream, pitted cherries + a dash of kirsch, layered together. it was a perfect way to conclude the night.
an added bonus was that each guest was given a set of recipes of each of the dishes served that evening, to be able to try themselves at home. in summary, amongst all of the frivolity and conversation that evening i not only learnt a great deal about making and appreciating italian food, but also had the opportunity to share a meal with a great group of people not least of which is sandra herself. a thoroughly enjoyable, informative and educational evening – that would be perfect for a corporate event, special occasion or gift.
to find out more visit: http://www.lacucinadisandra.com.au/