One of my favorite experiences while visiting Bologna was this wonderful visit and cooking class at a local Agriturismo (BnB style inn with a farm) just outside the city outskirts of Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Organized by Bologna Welcome , the visit to Podere San Giuliano was a total immersion into local farming and the complete farm to table concept that is also well-known world-wide as Slow food. Owner/chef and farmer Federica Frattini is the daughter of many familial generations of farmers of this fertile land where they grow most of the food consumed at the inn, restaurant and food for their guests. Along with the food that is grown on the property they also diversify their product nitch into: growing wine grapes for sale to various wine producers, they sell produce to various restaurants and businesses in Bologna and they also create a line of finished food products used at the inn and for resale at various outlets.
A fun cooking class outside Bologna
Chef Federica is one of those young and energetic chef/entrepreneurs that have taken on the family business and created a variety of enterprises that are sustainable and create many income streams that follow their heritage while forging new practices and markets in the region.
A tour of the agriturismo at San Giuliano
After a quick meet and greet with the chef, we quickly went outdoors to tour the farm and to see what is still in season this late in the harvest timeframe and to get a nice view of the landscape surrounding Podere San Giuliano. This tract of land is on flat and fertile terrain that has been lovingly cared for by generations of the same family. Now under chef Federica and her husband Adrea’s care along with just one farmer and occasional help, she is able to take care of this large and productive garden for producing their own vegetables and fruits for the inn along with the restaurant. We walk along the area in back of the inn and immediate come across a group of fruit trees with these dangling globes of large and apple looking fruit which turns out to be persimmons, and they are just about ready to be picked.
Aren’t these eggplants beautiful?
Let’s get something fresh in the garden to cook with today
Fresh fennel root being harvested for today’s meal
The agriturismo cooking class
Now that we collected some of today’s finds from the garden, we head back into the inn’s kitchen to get started with today’s cooking lesson and chef gives me a quick itinerary of what we will be learning to make for today’s lunch for all the workers at the farm and inn. These include some of their favorites and local Bologna specialties including:
Freshly made tortelloni with pumpkin filling
Large sized meatballs in Bolognese sauce
Mini tortellini in a simple soup broth
Tagliattele with Bolognese sauce
Making the pasta
It is slow and methodical with quality ingredients from the area, basically local flour and eggs sourced locally. It starts with a mound of flour with a cavity in the middle for the eggs and chef Federica quickly mixes the eggs and starts folding the flour into the mixture until it starts to form a gooey to crumbly consistency which is easily worked slowly into a nice past dough ball and then wrapped and refrigerated.
Rolling and cutting pasta dough
Once the dough is ready, it is rolled out and cut into equal square sized pasta squares for making the famous tortellini from Bologna and then it is stuffed with a variety of fillings. This can include seasonal favorites like sweet pumpkin for the fall or the traditional meats: combined ground up pork, beef and veal. After watching a quick demo of how to fill and then fold the tortellini into form, I first did the larger sized version with the delicious pumpkin filling and did a reasonable job with my samples. It wasn’t until I saw how the smaller tortellini were folded, that I realized how crazy and difficult it was to actually make this pasta by hand especially with the quantity required to make enough servings of the famous Bolognese tortellini and broth dishes.
Cutting the dough into tagliatelle pasta
Making miniature tortellini pasta
Chef with the mornings miniature tortellini, all hand-made including some of my pathetic attempts of creating these mini pasta wonders. In a world of machine-made Italian pasta, Bolognese pride themselves with actually still making and selling pasta that is hand-made vs. machine-made – a very rare commodity even in Italian marketplaces.
Making large tortellini with pumpkin filling
After the larger pasta dough is cut into larger square shapes, it’s time to fill the dough and twist and pinch the edges into a trangle and shape into the large tortelloni. This is definitely a lot easier to do than the mini filled tortellini which takes a lot of practice along with energy to make the hundreds of tiny tortellini pasta.
Preparing the Bolognese sauce
Afterwards, chef Fedrica gave a demonstration of the polpette made with a combination of ground veal, beef and pork and then mixed in with herbs and spices from the garden, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and dry breadcrumbs into a bowl. I helped to shape these extra large meatballs into place and they looked really good and savory. The Bolognese sauce was also prepared for both this dish and the pasta tagliatelle dish which would be our main pasta for lunch along with the tortellini soup broth. As an added treat, chef Federica demonstrated making the larger tortelloni with sweet pumpkin filling which they typically serve during the fall season and from all the pumpkins they typically harvest during the season, it was a treat to get a first taste of their freshly made pumpkin filling.
Here I am sautéing the Bolognese with the sous chef
Sauteing the meatballs and Bolognese sauce
Mangia – time to eat
Finally we get to eat all the amazing foods that we were able to make in the kitchen in a relatively short timeframe, with a few shortcuts all ready done before I came for my visit. We were all seated around one of the dining room round tables, mostly the staff and myself including Chef Frederica’s father who always comes by for the daily meal and chat with the staff. There’s nothing like sharing a meal with an Italian family because you know that it was all made with love of growing, harvesting and then cooking the food from your land and sharing it with family and friends that are visiting this inn.
This is what we feasted on for our amazing lunch at Podere San Giuliano:
The pasta is delicious – magnifico!
I had an amazing day at Podere San Giuliano touring the farm with Chef Federica and cooking up a storm in her kitchen along with her sous chef. It was truly an authentic experience understanding the farm to table concept done so well at this farm in Bologna.
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Thanks for joining us on this Agriturismo farm tour and cooking class in Bologna with chef Frattini at Podere San Giuliano. If you want to visit the agriturismo for a stay, dinner or even a cooking class, check out their website here for more details. Thank you Bologna Welcome and Podere San Giuliano for the tour and cooking class, all thoughts and opinions are my own and I had a wonderful visit and lesson, not to mention some delicious food.