You can learn the secrets of authentic Italian cooking even when in Manila. I don’t mean cooking along side an Italian YouTube channel, but inside the kitchen of a true blue Italian food aficionado!
Learn to Cook Italian Food with Chef Nino Quartana
Pasta is one of my most favorite food in the world. So when the opportunity to learn homemade pasta with Chef Nino Quartana came my way, I didn’t care that the class was to be held on a morning of a busy workday.
The dishes for the day were Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli and Tagliatelle with Duck Ragù. After the short introduction and pleasantries, Chef Nino led everyone to his kitchen. He then began by explaining the first dish and then demonstrated step-by-step how to prepare the duck, chop the vegetables, prepare the stew for the ragù, etc. We listened intently with our pen and paper, jotting down notes, and asked questions that were hopefully not too elementary. He was very accommodating and held nothing back.
The ragù mixture was put on the fire to be reduced to perfection. Meanwhile, we moved on to preparing the filling for the ravioli. Or the chef did as we take note and ask questions. He would explain the key points of every step, suggests places to get the best produce and ingredients. Watching Chef Nino cook is like watching him paint. I didn’t see him paint, but I imagine it would be similar. There’s a lot of “feelings” in his cooking, involving the senses all the time. Look, smell, taste
This is what brought me there. I’ve helped my friend run her dough through a pasta machine once. This is the extent of my experience in homemade pasta! I thought using supermarket dry pastas such as spaghetti and fettuccine is okay. But I imagine there is no way to make ravioli with dry pastas?
Ravioli is my favorite pasta to order in a restaurant. So what a treat to see it was part of the lesson plan!
I’ve yet to make the homemade pasta on my own after the class (3 days ago), but it didn’t seem too complicated nor did it take very long. The dining table was setup with wooden boards and the necessary ingredients: flour and eggs. The chef demonstrated it first and then we got to actually do it.
Learn to Cook Italian Food with Chef Nino Quartana
This is the advantage of learning with the chef over following a cookbook or a cooking show. Here, you get your mistakes pointed out immediately, so you don’t end up with an unsuccessful dish and left wondering what went wrong. You spend the actual time needed to make whatever it is you signed up for. You get to feel what the perfect consistency is to see what is the perfect pasta thickness. You learn the best technique to put filling and seal the ravioli and so on. We also learned how to make colored pasta and with decorations, too.
By the way, we didn’t use a pasta machine, but a rolling pin! It can be a bit of a challenge, as the pasta dough tries to fight you. I learned that this was caused by the evil gluten, and learned how to best conquer it.
A Happy Camper
Army of Ravioli
Eat and Drink.
The lesson was around 3-1/2 hours long. After the pastas were cooked and the sauces were ready, the table was set. The work bench was transformed to our dining table. We sat down to taste the fruits of our labor. It was very good.
Each dish was accompanied with wine: white for the ravioli and red for the duck ragù. Nino loves his wine and gave us a little background on food and wine pairing. The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the food, wine, and company. Just as you thought it couldn’t get better than that, another bottle of wine was opened!
It was nice how good food and wine brought people together. This is also the reason why Nino’s classes are purposely small, never more than 6 students at one time.
Tagliatelle with Duck Ragù with his (partial) painting “Eventful Landing in the Kontea of Kokonino” at the back
Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli
Food and Art.
Nino Quartana is a painter, a stage designer, and a ceramist originally from Palermo. He is an accomplished artist with many achievement under his name in Europe. He moved to Manila in 2007 to live and paint. His work has been exhibited in many galleries in Manila such as the Ayala Museum, Galleria 2000, Astra gallery, etc.
His venture into the food world is accidental. In between painting and exhibits, Nino often cooks at home to entertain friends. Creating great food is second nature to him. After all, good eat is practically synonymous to being Italian. And to originate from Sicily, where the cuisine is iconic and influential, his palate must have been trained way before he began to work with paint palettes.
From his dinner table, his reputation as food alchemist traveled around Manila, particularly with the Italian expatriate community. His simple yet exceptional tasting dishes made many expats long for food from home. Soon he was getting a lot of requests to teach them, their wives, girlfriends, or even maids. People came to him to consult opening an Italian restaurant. And notable Italian restaurants have seek Nino’s help to retrain their chef and overhaul the food.
Me with the Chef , his work as backdrop
In 2011, Nino opened his kitchen twice a week for Italian food lovers to learn with him. It went on for a few months but was halted to give way to travels and exhibits.
I was not around in 2011, but luckily he has decided to teach cooking again. I also had the pleasure to chat with him and see his atelier where his art are created.
So if you are in for this exceptional culinary experience with Chef Nino Quartana, I suggest doing it very soon because the chef is returning home this year in May. He is also available as private chef, cooking for a small group.
Chef Nino Quartana