So week 1000 of lockdown and where are we? Well I’ve managed to achieve ‘sourdough baking level’ with varying degrees of success. Work is still happening from home, we are part way through #ginadaymay and BoJo is confusing the hell out of everyone. What better time than this to develop some new skills. So the offer to join Paola from the Tiny Italian for an aperitivo cooking class came at the right time.
*Full disclosure – I joined Paola’s virtual cooking class for free in order to try it out and share on social. I loved it so much I wrote this blog about it too! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!*
Virtual aperitivo cooking class with the Tiny Italian
I adore Italy and it’s food & drinks. I remember fondly my trip to Florence over New Year’s Eve, with it’s aperitivo hour, good food and great atmosphere, even when travelling solo. Last year I even went to Sienna just to eat and drink (well we fit in some culture too, but mainly eating and drinking!). So when the opportunity came up to do an Italian cooking class online I was delighted to make aperitivo food, as I love the idea of small plates and a bit of everything to share, all washed down with an aperitivo cocktail.
Preparation ahead of the virtual cooking class
Paola sent us a list of the ingredients we required for the recipes well in advance. She had also checked for any dietary requirements and advised on substitutions and even adapted the meatball recipe to use sardines for the non meat eater in our group.
I bought my ingredients from the local green grocer, lots of lovely veggies. I also bought ricotta and pork mince and lots of herbs. We were going to be making 3 dishes that can be served as part of an aperitivo (the Italian habit of having snacks with drinks).
Paola also sent around details for a Zoom call and a link to her playlist. Then at 1pm we all logged into the call and started the class!
Cooking aperitivo with the Tiny Italian
After introductions and technical help (getting the volumes etc right), we started making our three dishes.
This slow cooked pepper and veggie dish needed to go on first so it would be ready to eat by the end of the class. We sliced 2 peppers, I had a red one and a yellow one for added contrast, and half a red onion. If you had it then you could also include half an aubergine finely diced.
This all went into a frying pan with a glug of olive oil over a low heat. As it started cooking we covered it to retain the moisture and stop it browning.
At this stage the dipping sauce for the meatballs and aubergine rolls was also put on. I used passata, which was added to a small pan over a low heat. We chopped up some garlic finely and added this in, before covering and letting it cook out.
Next up were the meatballs. For these we needed pork mince, breadcrumbs, an egg, lemon zest, Parmesan, finely chopped parsley and pine nuts. These were all combined in a bowl and seasoned. To test the seasoning Paola fried off a small amount of her mixture to taste it cooked.
We then lined a baking tray with baking parchment with some oil brushed over. The meatballs were rolled up by hand and placed on the tray to bake in the oven for 12 minutes or so (mine needed a little longer).
Melanzane Involtini (Aubergine rolls)
We sliced aubergines into 1cm thick pieces down the length, brushed with olive oil and baked for 8 minutes to soften. Whilst these were baking we made the ricotta filling with Parmesan, lemon zest and mint mixed together.
When the aubergines came out of the oven it was time to roll. (Once they had cooled down a little of course). We added the ricotta mixture at the fatter end and rolled them up, placing back on the baking sheet with the ‘seam’ underneath to keep them rolled up.
Then they went back in the oven for the final bake.
To finish off the peperonta, finely chopped mint, red wine vinegar and breadcrumbs were stirred in at the end.
A little olive oil was added to the tomato sauce and the seasoning adjusted as needed. Then we plated everything up and set up our tables to look pretty (and served an aperitivo cocktail to wash it all down with).
Eating our aperitivo!
Sat around our laptops we enjoyed our aperitivo spread:
The verdict on the Tiny Italian virtual aperitivo cooking class
Paola was a great host, very patient and understanding. Despite the challenges with working remotely, she managed to keep everyone on track and on time. I really enjoyed the stories that Paola told us about her travels cooking around Italy, her family, and making 90 meatballs that disappeared in 5 minutes when cooked…
This was a great class for a group of friends – whether you are foodies like us, or hens doing a virtual hen do. It would be a great idea to do if you have family scattered all over, bringing people together for a couple of hours, and with food to show for it at the end!
The class took about 2 hours and then we lingered a little over the food at the end, so 2.5 hours in total. At no point did I feel rushed, it was all nicely relaxed. The recipes cook enough food for 4 (if you can restrain yourself!). All the food can be kept in the fridge and eaten over a few days – great for aperitivo, snacks and lunches.
This class is a bargain at her introductory price of £15 per person (aka ‘screen’). I think she may be raising her prices soon, so groups should book up now.