(This story is sponsored by Vancouver Community College.)
Of all the skills we’ve hoped to master, Italian cooking is surely top of the list.
When we think of authentic Italian cooking, we tend to imagine a banquet table adorned with colourful plates of delicious food, surrounded by an animated group friends and family, eating outdoors among the vines.
And that’s the magical thing about food—it can transport us to another time and place.
But Italy will always have a special place in our hearts—and stomachs. After all, it’s the only country on Earth that dedicates a whole course on the menu to pizza.
The Italians certainly know a thing or two about living la dolce vita and below we’ve rounded up a few tips on how to get a taste of the good life in your own home.
Learn from the experts
There’s a whole cultural history behind the passion Italians pour into the craft and ritual of cooking. So the best way to learn Italian cooking is by experiencing it firsthand with experts.
And thankfully, the timing couldn’t be better. Starting immediately and taking place over the next three Tuesdays, Vancouver Community College has partnered with the Associazione Professionale Cuochi Italiana del Canada and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada – West, to put on an Italian Master Class Series.
Taking place from 6 to 9 p.m. at VCC’s downtown campus, each session can accommodate up to 16 students, promising an intimate, authentic, and unique class.
“You really get to have a hands-on experience because you are very close to what the chef is doing,” says Ilaria Baldan, the Italian chamber’s executive director. “You really get to be involved.”
Participants will be given the opportunity to prepare and sample delicacies from various regions of Italy, and will receive a Certificate of Completion.
In addition to cooking, each workshop will also cover how to recognize and use authentic Italian DOP and IGP products.
“All the chefs are Italians or they have a very strong connection to Italy,” adds Baldan. “Obviously with the products being authentic, this brings forth a number of values that relate to the culture of Italy.”
Passion makes perfect
Cooking can be fun! While it can be easy to get lost in the daily grind of preparing meals for the family after a long day at work, it’s important to remember that there is pleasure to be found in the process.
Baldan emphasizes the joy that the Cucina Italiania Italian Master Class series can provide for amateur chefs, especially those keen to learn more about Italian culture.
When we consider that a traditional Italian meal consists of five courses, you can see—and taste—the time and passion that goes into every meal.
While there is no shortage of wonderful Italian eateries in Vancouver, true satisfaction comes in being able to craft an authentic and delicious meal from scratch.
From the perfect pizza dough, to delectable wine pairings, learning from the true masters can ignite a passion for the preparation.
While speciality dishes vary from one region to another, the commonality in all Italian cooking lies in an emphasis on fresh, simple, and quality ingredients. By mastering the basics, you can elevate even the most humble of ingredients—without the need for elaborate recipes and complicated methods.
For this reason, it’s important to take seasonality into account. Italians are experts at incorporating seasonal produce into recipes to ensure that they are getting the very best from every ingredient.
Consider the divine simplicity of a classic Caprese salad—tomatoes plus mozzarella plus basil, olive oil, and a drizzle of balsamic, equals summer-patio-dining perfection.
This also makes for a far easier and more pleasant shopping experience, since most ingredients will be readily available at your grocery store or local farmers market.
In the Master Class, participants will learn about typical dishes from various regions of Italy, since different climates lend themselves to particular cuisine.
VCC’s senior program coordinator of continuing studies, Claire Sauvé, pointed out that there are certain classifications of ingredients from Italy reflecting their regional authenticity.
“An even higher measure of authenticity is if the ingredients come from a particular region and have been 100-percent prepared in that region,” she adds.
Eat! Really eat. After all, it’s as much a part of the Italian dining experience as the preparation. Indulge and savour the fruits of your labour. You’ll be amazed at how much better food tastes when you give it the time it deserves.
And this applies to beyond the plate. Turn off Netflix, talk to your family, and share with your friends.
If it sounds romantic, that’s because it is. Look, Italians don’t get their reputation for nothing.