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La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese
Food & Wine
La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese is a school of what is possibly Bologna's greatest export.
Some may argue that the greatest export is the founding of the first University in 1088, some may say the arts and architecture. However the one thing that all of these people have in common, from the first university professor to Morandi painting his still lifes, they all must have (at some point) stopped teaching and creating wonderful works of art to enjoy some tortellini or tagliatelle al ragù. As Federico Fellini once said "Life is a combination of magic and pasta".
But how can you learn to make great pasta and in turn make your life more magical?
La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese is at your disposal, and it has been for 20 years, teaching the secrets of pasta making and since September of 2012 has transferred to a larger building to help accommodate the world's ever growing appreciation of fresh pasta. After all there must be a reason they get 4,000 students a year.
The founder, Alessandra Spinsi, is somewhat of a celebrity in Bologna and Italy. She features regularly on Italy’s version of ready, steady, cook and was such a big hit with the viewers that she was asked to come on as a co-presenter.
Something she could not agree to however as it would take too much attention away from her pasta school.
Even before this television experience she was renown in Bologna as the winner of countless editions of the annual pasta making contest, and it’s from these victories that came the inspiration to teach others how to make great pasta. And if you are winning pasta making contests in Bologna, you can consider yourself to be among the best in the world.
The school is made up of trusted individuals who have helped and supported Alessandra Spinsi throughout her career. Her brother, Alessandro, heads up the school while one of her very first students from 17 years ago, Udine, is in charge of the kitchen.
The trust in the relationship between these people is based on the constant search for maximum quality and pride in their work and products.
As I am talking to her brother about the school from the corner of his eye he spots one student folding the pasta in the wrong way, he immediately leaves my side to run over to the student and explains to her that if you don’t fold the tortellini properly the water gets into the parcel and ruins the flavor of the filling, he then asks what the point of having amazing freshly made filling if you then let yourself down on the pasta folding? The student of course, bows their head in defeat as there is no justification to this very bolognese crime.
Alessandro then returns to me and explains that the student is part of the professional course, whereas the rest are part of the amateur course
“The professional course is gifted with a diploma at the end of roughly 3 months and is recognized in all of Italy and even abroad and just for the record,” specifies Alessandro, “we have no obligation to give a diploma”, in other words they will not put their reputation on the line to give someone who is not deserving a diploma.
Needless to say with the amateur course he is much gentler and is also assisted by Carla Tessitore who follows them both constantly and patiently.
However both courses are fundamentally the same, you learn the secrets of creating great pasta, great fillings and sauces and how to work them together.
I am told that many people that come for the ½ day amateur course often end up signing up for the professional course.
One of the things I was most curious about was their delivery and take away service.
These bike messengers called “Cinni” (which in Bolognese dialect means kids) pedal around Bologna on their bicycles with thermo regulated holders bringing food and freshly made pasta to many offices and homes throughout the city.
La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese also dedicates Saturday to the creation of other flour based products such as cakes, cupcakes and other forms of pasta.
I highly recommend coming to this school as a fun day out away from the sometimes overwhelming beauty of Bologna. If you think about it, you can take away the knowledge of how to make real spag bol back home, you can't take a Morandi still life.
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