“You can make ravioli out of anything," Quattro Restaurant chef Maurizio Ferrarese commented to his eager students last week. "Will you enjoy afterwards, that’s a different question." The class, offered at Quattro inside the Four Seasons Hotel, was an introduction to several kinds of ravioli: anolini, tortellini, and tortelli. It was also, we discovered, a charming introduction to the chef himself, as he spoke of his childhood in Italy, and his various jobs abroad and in the States, before he finally settled here in Houston.
Growing up, Chef Maurizio was fascinated by his mother’s culinary skills and hearty Italian cuisine. One day while his mother was baking a cake, the budding chef opened the oven door, causing the cake to fall. A hard lesson was learned, he said: be patient. But it’s hard when you're staring at a clump of dough that barely resembles pasta, or food for that matter.
Chef Maurizio put the kneaded, mixed dough through a pasta roller and cut us each a piece. We used a piping bag pre-mixed with ricotta-and-mozzarella stuffing to fill and fold the pasta. Or, at least, to try.
As we watched closely—uncertainly— Maurizio’s hands worked speedily as they filled and folded triangular dough, pinching the two corners together to form the pasta. He used a circular cutter to slice the next batch, piping the pre-mixed stuffing into square pieces of dough that would become torelli.
“Reading or looking at a cookbook, you can never really grasp the art of cooking,” said Maurizio as he surveyed our progress. The dough felt cold in the palm of our hands. We laid it flat and brushed water across its surface, adding flour as needed. Our cheeks flushed as he stopped by to individually help those of us who are struggling. Flour was splattered over our aprons; some of the stuffing was embedded underneath our freshly manicured nails. Maurizio, on the other hand, was virtually spotless.
After all our hard work, we were served a mouthwatering piece of beef osso buco, with minced mushrooms and a cream cheese spread, served atop moist French bread and accompanied by a glass of champagne.
Then it was time to make buffalo mozzarella. The curd—made from unpasteurized milk, buttermilk, and yogurt—was added to a pot of hot water, up to 150 degrees, where it would warm up and become stretchable. To complete the salad, salted goat cheese was stuffed inside the mozzarella and placed on trays of thinly sliced green, yellow, and red tomatoes, then drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
As the ravioli was cooked to perfection, Maurizio told us that these courses are one of the favorite parts of his job. The classes show that cooking from scratch can be enjoyable, with “few ingredients and straightforward preparation so that each flavor shines through.”
As for the ravioli we made, it was delicious, with a creamy tomato sauce adding a different dimension to the al dente ravioli, complemented by the black olive slices and pecorino shavings on top. We’d appreciate this food in any setting, but there’s something to be said about love and labor; everything tastes better when you put a little work into it.
1300 Lamar Street Houston, Texas 77010. Classes are $95 to $140.