Down a cobbled street, slightly hidden behind the Caldesi restaurant in Marleybone, are the doors to Cucina Caldesi. It was a Saturday night, and it’s where I headed for an evening filled with cooking and feasting. There to greet me with open arms was Lisa from Filippo Berio, who had invited me to join and take part in their evenings’ foodie experience.
Chef Mario Olianas
Ushered through the front door, I collected my apron, picked up a bubbly glass of prosecco. Without hesitation, I started to devour the platters of freshly baked focaccia, Italian cheeses and Mortadella (a popular Italian sliced meat) laid out on the table.
The cheese selection was outstanding. A diverse range of pecorino and ricotta, made by our host chef for the evening, Mario Olianas. Sardinian born, Mario now lives in Leeds making these outstanding award-winning Italian cheeses. He’s also an incredible chef and loves to share his passion for simple, but fantastically delicious Italian cooking.
The evenings’ theme was Autumn Warmers: Sardinian style. While everyone sipped on their glass of bubbles, Mario led the guests through the menu, alongside Stefano, head chef at Cucina Caldesi. We would collectively cook the meal together, and enjoy the fruits of our labour with a sit-down meal.
Mario’s cooking style is what I love and embrace about home cooking. His recipes encompass simplicity and pride themselves on using only a handful of ingredients. When thrown together, they genuinely create something deliciously special. Mario has a super fun and relaxed approach to his cooking and instantly put everyone at ease with his warming personality.
The menu for the evening was:
Mussels marinara on crostini bread
Gnocchetti Sardi topped with ricotta salata
Seared leg of lamb with cannellini beans & roast vegetables
Ricotta doughnuts with dark chocolate sauce and raspberries.
As all of Filippo Berio cooking events, everyone just gets stuck into the preparation and cooking of each dish.
My recipe highlights were the pasta and lamb dishes.
We were shown how to make Gnochetti Sardi; a traditional Sardinian pasta made with semolina flour. With just a little hot water, (and no egg) we made beautiful pasta dough. Mario then continued to show us how to produce these unique pasta shapes, with a fork or even the back of a cheese grater.
The sauce was simply made with beautiful fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and chilli.
Next, the cooking of the lamb was a revelation. I usually roast my leg of lamb in the oven, which can take a while. However, Mario revealed a quicker way of prepping and cooking such cut of meat.
All you need to do is butterfly the meat and marinade it in extra virgin olive oil, Italian herbs and garlic. Then all you have to do is pan-fry it in a large pan for approximately 5-10 minutes on each side; allow the meat to rest and keep it warm in the oven until needed. So speedy. What a great little tip!
While the last of the cooking was getting done, the kitchen transformed into a dining room. We all took our seat next to our newly-made friends to enjoy the meal.
At this point, Luisa, the sommelier from Zonin wines, steps into the limelight. She talks us through each bottle of wine she has handpicked for us to complement each course of our meal.
First up we were poured a glass of Zonin prosecco to enjoy with our mussels marinara on crostini.
Next, we drank a beautiful white, Soave 2018 from the north-eastern Italian region of Veneto. We enjoyed a glass or two with our gnochetti sardi, tomato sauce and ricotta salata.
Followed by a stunning red, Motelpuciano d’Abruzzo, which accompanied the pan-fried lamb, cannellini beans and roasted vegetables.
Finally, a glass of Moscato d’Asti was enjoyed with our deep-fried ricotta doughnut balls with dark chocolate and raspberries.
By the end of it, I could just about stand up and take myself home after such a delicious meal.
As previously mentioned, I couldn’t recommend these evenings enough. For only £75, you enjoy a fantastic foodie cooking experience, where you walk away confident in recreating delicious Italian dishes. You get to cook with excellent fresh produce, socialise with a wonderful group of fun like-minded people and enjoy a beautiful meal with all wine included. To top of it all off, you get sent home with a goodie bag, worth £30. I can honestly say, hand on heart that this is excellent value for money and believe that everyone should experience if this sounds right up your street.
For more information on future up and coming Filippo Berio cooking events, sign up to their newsletter.
Head to read about Filippo Berio Roman cooking event earlier this year.
*This was a complimentary invite by the Filippo Berio marketing team.