We’ve always wanted to learn how to make risotto. So, when The Chef & The Dish reached out to us (read more about that HERE) and offered us a complimentary cooking class where we’d learn how to make risotto not just one, but two ways, the answer was a definite yes! We invited our friends and fellow foodies, Jeff and Ciana Cloud to join us. Not only do they enjoy cooking (and eating), but Jeff is also a professional photographer. He was gracious enough to document our culinary experience so I could focus on cooking. Many Jeff Cloud Photography photographs are featured in this post.

Both couples cooking with The Chef & The Dish

Left: Our friends Jeff and Ciana Cloud came to cook with us (right).

The Chef & The Dish cooking class

Our cooking class began with introductions. Coming to us from her small village near Milan, Italy, Chef Paola was eager to learn a little bit about us and asked about our favorite Italian dishes. She went on to give us little history of each dish we’d mentioned, and then began to tell us about training as a chef, the region in Italy from which she was teaching us, and the significance of the dishes we were about to make.

Chef Paola The Chef & The Dish

During our lesson, Chef Paola taught us a little bit about her hometown in Italy.

The five of us spent more than 20 minutes just talking and it was so helpful to get to know our teacher a bit and learn about her village, as well as the history of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese we were about to use in all of our dishes.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese The Chef & The Dish

The star of the show, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Note the distinctive dots on the rind that show it is authentic. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Dessert first

Then, it was time to get cooking. We poured four glasses of Prosecco (our course) and got work. First, we tackled dessert – a poached pear filled with a lemon and ricotta filling, topped with honey, walnuts, thyme, and of course, finely grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese.

Pears for The Chef & The Dish

Clockwise: Bosc pears in the store, Steve zests a lemon under the watchful eye of chef Paola, spices for the poached pears,  cut and cored pears before poaching.

Chef Paola taught us how to properly peel and zest the lemon. She also gave us specific instructions on how to core the Bosc pears and open the tiny pods of cardamom seeds.

The Chef & The Dish poached pears

These are pears we made a few weeks later for a dinner party at our house. See, we learned!

Everything went into a pan and cooked for 15-20 minutes until the pears were cooked through and the liquid was syrupy (that’s a word, right?). Ciana mixed up the filling and put everything in the refrigerator. More on the dessert, later.

Fun with The Chef & the Dish

Chef Paola encouraged us to enjoy our time together and have fun. The experience was stress-free and everyone had a blast. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Tips for the best bruschetta

Next, while sipping Prosecco, we began assembling our Italian bruschetta. This is one of my favorite appetizers and something I’d made many times before. However, Chef Paola’s instructions were a bit different from what I’d normally done. Details she mentioned like toasting the bread until it was quite blackened, and not adding the olive oil until the very end, made all the difference.

The Chef and the Dish bruschetta

Ann, Ciana, and Steve work together to assemble the bruschetta. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Finished bruschetta with The Chef and the Dish

The finished bruschetta with the blackened toast and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was the most authentic tasting we’ve had in the U.S. Yum! (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

How to make risotto

Then, it was on to the main dish – risotto. This is one of those dishes that I love ordering when we’re out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. It tastes so creamy and delicious and has always seemed way too complicated to cook at home. I was wrong. Check out this short video below of Chef Paola telling us how to make risotto.

Chef Paola included all of us in the cooking and walked us through making each dish one step at a time. She explained that we needed to treat the risotto like a baby. We were told to watch it constantly, don’t leave it alone, and give it water when it seems a bit dry. We followed all of her instructions, and even brought the pan closer to the computer camera once for Chef Paola to better see (without dumping it all over the keyboard).

Chef Paola olive oil

In addition to showing us how to make risotto, Chef Paola also gave us a lesson in the right way to taste olive oil. Much to Steve’s delight, it includes loud slurping. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Then, she invited one of us to try tossing the risotto in the pan to fluff it up. Steve volunteered (while I closed my eyes) and he did a great job tossing the creamy rice in the pan just like Chef Paola demonstrated from her home kitchen in Italy.

The Chef & The Dish Flipping risotto

Following Chef Paola’s instructions, Steve flips the risotto near the end of the cooking process. (Photos by Jeff Cloud)

Time to gather at the table

When the risotto was finished cooking, we each took a spoon and gave it a taste. It was amazing and none of us could believe we’d made it ourselves. Then, Chef Paola suggested giving our risotto a new twist. She had us put fresh strawberries in a blender and add the puree to the risotto.

We blended fresh strawberries just until they were all broken up and added them to the cheesy risotto.

We blended fresh strawberries just until they were all broken up and added them to the cheesy risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

We plated the risotto on one of our wedding china plates (we actually use them quite a bit) with a small depression in the center and patted the bottom just like a baby’s bottom to even it out on the plate. Next, we finished the dish with a few sprinkles of pureed strawberries and more finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Our finished strawberry risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

We all loved learning how to make risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

It was finally time to eat. We gathered around the table, gazing at the beautifully plated dishes and astonished that the four of us had made them. Of course we snapped a few photographs before we tasted our culinary masterpieces. They were all absolutely delicious.

Whole meal with The Chef & The Dish

The plated meal on the table included classic Italian bruschetta (on an olive board we bought in Italy this summer), strawberry risotto, and a poached pear dessert. All dishes featured Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Savoring every bite

We took our time savoring each bite of the meal and reminiscing about our cooking experience with The Chef & The Dish. All agreed that this video conference cooking class was one of the most unique and satisfying culinary experiences we’d ever had. While we are all confident we could recreate these dishes on our own (in fact, we did make the pears for a dinner party this week), the only thing better would be traveling to Italy and cooking it there. Someday.


While our culinary experience with The Chef & The Dish was complimentary, the opinions and newly gained cooking skills are our own. Thank you, Jeff Cloud, for the use of your fantastic photos! You can find Jeff on Facebook at Jeff Cloud Photography

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