Tucked away in an unassuming mall in San Diego awaits an opportunity for culinary exploration…

Sur La Table in Fashion Valley, San Diego is home to kitchen eye candy, shiny gizmos and gadgets and colorful tools that call out to all levels of foodies like a siren’s song. It is, in short, a foodie paradise.

But that’s just the front of the store. Tucked away in the back, behind a glass wall, is a great little kitchen with ample counter space and multi-grilled gas burners where ordinary folks like you and me can gather and learn from some pretty amazing chefs.

This is exactly where I gathered with a small group, which included a young couple on their first cooking lesson, to explore the world of pasta.

And oh, what a world it is!

Chef Mark Brewington, armed with culinary training and time in the trenches of Restaurant World (which I imagine can sometimes be like a tour of Jurassic World – but with flour and tappas), patiently answered my questions and worked with all of us to prepare perfect plates of pasta.

I observed the layout of the kitchen and the manner in which the assistants laid out the ingredients for the class. I saw the great truths for cooking in action: Preparation and economy.

I talk about this in Food 4 Life meal planning publications. Cooking at home and what in bygone eras was called “economy in the kitchen” allows you to plan meals so you have little waste and healthier options than today’s fast food drive-ins.

Preparing ingredients in advance – all the chopping and dicing and measuring – makes the actual “cooking” time much shorter.

It’s also about economy of motion. With all the tools and equipment placed where they are easy to access and reach, you can achieve your culinary goals much easier and with little fuss.

Much of the prep work had been done for our class. This was perfect because that left more time for learning pasta making techniques rather than slicing and dicing ingredients.

Our main focus was preparing the pasta and putting everything together to create a wonderful meal.

Pasta, as it turns out, it pretty simple. Eggs and flour. That’s it!

Simple ingredients that must be combined properly for the type of dough prepared. Turns out, you need a different “touch” for different types of dough – bread, biscuits, pasta, etc. Sometimes you knead more; sometimes you knead less. This is determined by the type of flour and gluten-release. Kitchen chemistry!

For our dough, we wanted something smooth which would spring back to the touch when rolled into a ball. Not too much, not too little, but just right.

As far as pasta tools, while the Kitchenaid pasta attachment tool was efficient, I found I preferred the hand tool.

For me, it was easier to control the speed in which the dough was fed into the rollers and resulted in fewer tears. The only downside to the hand crank model was because you are hand-turning the crank, you have only one hand to guide the dough. However, with a little practice, this becomes less and less of an issue.

Both got the job done, I simply preferred the “old school” way.

In addition to the cauliflower pasta, the dishes we prepared during class included Linguine, or “little tongues” that weren’t all that little!, Farafel, or bowtie pasta, Salmon with capers in a delicious cream sauce, and a Butternut Squash mixed with Pesto and Bow Tie pasta

My souvenir was a pasta cutting tool from Sur La Table, purchased during the class afterI learned how useful it is for cutting as well as measuring. My son surprised me with a Marcato Pasta Maker (Italian made, of course) and I have since prepared pastas in various forms at home, taking my class into the kitchen.

For variety, I’ve used sprouted wheat flour and added herbs into the dough.

I love making ravioli because of the variety of fillings you can create. Plus, they freeze well so you can make several batches in a day and enjoy them weeks and months later.

I’m still tortellini challenged! I admire cooks who can hand-roll and shape this pasta – my fingers seem to refuse to comply.

Sur La Table has stores across the nation. For an introduction to cooking or to enhance your skills, they offer access to some very talented chefs for less than $100. Try it!

When You Go:

Sur La Table
7007 Friars Road
San Diego, CA  92108
Store Phone: 619-757-2982
Cooking Class Phone: 619-757-2993
Online Class Calendar for Fashion Valley Location: