Despite a previous bad experience with Airbnb Experiences in Sardinia, I decided to take a regional pasta-making class through Airbnb here too. And I have zero regrets! In fact, I have a heart full of joy and new skills that I fully intend on using when I get home!
It’s the end of my Sardinian adventure and I wrapped it up with the Airbnb Experience Cagliari Cooking Class (hand made pasta). Never mind that I met an extraordinary and handsome young Sardinian man named Rulof who came to the class with me.
Learning, Cooking, Eating, and Loving
Does life get better than this? I’m not sure how it can. Perhaps if the class was taught beachside or overlooking the sea, I could reach “cloud ten.”
The class was held in the apartment of our teacher’s father, conveniently located near Cagliari’s city center. The apartment was full of sepia-toned family photographs, Sardinian art in painted wood frames and nicknacks, and it had the charm of an Italian space from the sixties (a style I easily recognize from my Nonna’s living spaces). Rulof and I showed up to discover it was just the two of us and Damiano, the culinary teacher, gave us adorable aprons to wear.
Rulof’s apron is the Sardinian flag.
The pasta we made is called culurgiones.
That’s pronounced coo-LOOR-gee-Own-aise. We washed our hands, were offered wine, then dove right into mixing the flour that Damiano measured out with warm salted water.
Damiano used a combination of Sardinian semolina flour, regular grain wheat flour, and some ancient grain artisan flour from Canada. He talked about the flour a lot! Clearly, it’s something very important and he mentioned that it’s helpful to have a high-gluten flour to ensure the proper texture for the dough. You can check out the recipe at the bottom of this post.
We each had our own dough bowl and mixed and kneaded the dough for at least twenty minutes, constantly stretching the dough and checking the consistency while adding more flour. Once the dough was the right texture, stretchy but not too sticky, we wrapped them in plastic and put them in the fridge.
Then we worked on the filling.
Culurgiones are a traditional Sardinian ravioli-like pasta, made by families all over the island. Reminiscent of Eastern European pierogies, they are traditionally rolled and filled with a mixture of potatoes, Sardinian pecorino cheese (which is muskier and more tangy than the pecorino-Romano we get in the U.S.), another salty soft cheese, garlic, olive oil, and mint. Yep, mint. It’s local food! The second cheese was a very soft, wet, and salty brined sheep’s cheese that tasted similar to the strongest feta I’ve ever had.
Rulof and I each had our own bowl of cooked mashed potatoes and we slowly mixed and blended, while constantly tasting. When we were done, we tasted each other’s mixes and mine had much stronger flavors of the cheeses, garlic, and mint, perhaps even too strong. We combined our mixtures and then went back to work on the dough.
Rolling pasta dough is old hat for me.
I have a well-used, old-fashioned and Italian pasta maker that my mom gave me twenty years ago. It’s part of my heritage and a staple in my family. My parents have one, my brother has one, and my aunt and uncle and all of my cousins on the Italian side each have their own pasta maker.
So when Damiano hooked up the pasta maker to the table, I was right at home.
We pulled off one small ball of dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered. Then rolled and rolled the small ball until it was a long, thin, flat strip.
At which point our teacher taught us a trick to confirm we have the right thickness: put the strip of dough close to the edge of the table then bend close and blow, aiming your wind under the dough. If the dough lifts in the air, it’s light enough to make culurgiones!
Next comes the assembly process.
We used cleaned tin cans to cut circles out of the dough, then put a heaping teaspoon of the potato mixture into the center. And then we pinched the dough closed into a decorative teardrop shape.
This process was a little challenging!
We both needed several demonstrations from Damiano to really understand the pinching and folding process.
The objective of the forming process is to make the pinches line up into the shape of a grain of wheat, a universal symbol of the cycle of seasons and the cycle of life.
Damiano’s practiced fingers twisted the dough so deftly, each piece was a perfect wheat grain teardrop. A minute later and after a couple of tries, Rulof’s started to look just as professional. For some reason, I kept twisting mine into zigzags instead of the straight and feathered grain shape. How nice of Damiano to insist I was merely using another method to twist the culurgiones!
But it quickly became a joke that I was making dragons instead of wheat grains. No worries – I can confirm that pasta dragons taste just as delicious!
And they were delicious!
Damiano had prepared a tomato sauce in advance (otherwise it would have added another hour to the four-hour class) and Rulof and I sat and talked while our teacher boiled the pasta and prepared the final touches.
But before we ate the pasta, our lovely host set the table with a delicious array of antipasto dishes. The antipasto (appetizers) included small mozzarella balls with anchovies, olives, Sardinian cured hard salami, some pecorino slices, a tomato and basil salad, the Sardinian cracker-like flatbread, and a dish of chilled eggplant that was previously roasted and drowned in salt and rich olive oil.
Then it was time for our culurgiones! There’s something about making your own food with care and love that makes it the most delicious and fulfilling meal. I loved it!
This photo makes me laugh but it’s a great representation of the moment! We had spent the whole day at the beach and my face was sunburned. I have jasmine from the beach in my hair, and you can tell by the way my eyes have disappeared into little lines from smiling so hard that my heart is full to the brim with joy. Cloud nine achievement unlocked!
But that’s not all!
We also got to try the same pasta pan-fried with butter and sage and my mouth exploded in delight! The tomato sauce was good, but the simplicity of the butter and sage really brought out the flavors of the culurgiones’ filling.
And then there was dessert.
Damiano served us saedas drizzled in honey. Saedas (sometimes written sabedas) are traditional Sardinian fried pastries filled with a tiny bit of gooey cheese.
He served the saedas with mirto, which is easily my favorite liqueur of all. I’ve had and loved the Corsican French version (myrte) and on this trip, I made it a point to drink Sardinian mirto at every opportunity. It’s a sweet, peppery, herbal liqueur – with hints of gin and tropical flowers. To me, it also tastes like mountain forests and wind from the sea. It’s made from a berry that grows everywhere in Sardinia and Corsica, and a few other Mediterranean regions. I was so pleased when Damiano brought out a bottle of it to have with dessert!
The meal was great, and the company even better! I felt incredibly fortunate to have this experience and I will remember it fondly. Visiting Sardinia overall was an experience of a lifetime, and this evening was easily one of my favorite highlights. For me, there’s no better way to end an amazing vacation than to cook and eat and drink and in such lovely company!
Arrivaderci, bello Sardegna. Hai riscaldato il mio cuore, baciava la mia spirito e hai riempito la mia testa con i gusti e sogni di amore profondo.
- 120 grams of plain flour
- 320 grams of semolina flour
- 1 pinch of fine sea salt
- 20-40 ml of warm water added slowly
- 800 grams of potatoes from a mountainous area
- 2-3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 120 g of Pecorino Sardo hard, aged cheese
- 140 g of Viscidu, Case e Fitta, or Case Armungia cheese (similar to soft feta)
- 8/10 mint leaves, finely chopped and dried
- 400g can of whole, peeled tomatoes
- 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 Laurel leaves or basil leaves
Cooking the pasta
Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil. Working in batches, drop the culurgiones in batches into the boiling water. After the pasta floats to the top, let them sit there for 2 minutes before scooping them out with a slotted spoon. Then drop another batch of pasta into the boiling water.