Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Ritz Carlton Istanbul hosted "Basta Bad Pasta" Workshop in January!

Dear readers,

I've written this before and I'll say it again... I love to cook, but because I have a 2x4 kitchen, I don't get a chance to show off my skills very often - except for myself! I have been an avid viewer of cooking shows on TV for the past 20 years and my passion for cooking began when I lived in NYC... the cooking shows were fantastic and I learned alot! For the past 5-6 years I have been following cooking shows on the local Home TV channel in Istanbul (Jamie Oliver is my favorite) and CNN Turk where I follow Arda Türkmen, a talented young Turkish chef and owner of Leblon Restaurant (see my post on Leblon) in Asmalımescit (soon he is opening a second restaurant in Karaköy... more on that when it opens!)  I also have many cookbooks, but to be quite frank, I prefer watching cooking shows to learn how to prepare new dishes and I have this habit of even changing those recipes to suit my own tastes! My main priority is using fresh fresh fresh ingredients in season and lots of herbs and spices! As much as I love to cookI hate to bake although I'm a major "sweets"holic! The reason for this is quite simple... in baking you have to be precise with the ingredients and measurements and I have no patience for that because I like to add my own touch!

On the other hand... until last month... I had never attended a cooking class or workshop! Odd right? But, I guess the main reason for this was finding the time and until 2-3 years ago, there weren't many places in Istanbul to attend cooking classes, but this has changed dramatically in the last year or so... that's another blog topic!

So... when I received a call from Yasemin Uygurmen (PR & Marketing Manager) at the Ritz Carlton stating that there GM Max Zanardi (a long time friend who I hadn't had a chance to see since he returned to Istanbul to head up the hotel last year) wanted to invite me to a "Basta Bad Pasta" workshop, I got very excited and of course accepted the invitation!

The workshop, titled "Basta Bad Pasta" (Basta means 'enough' in Italian, so 'enough of bad pasta' was the theme)  was organized on January 21-23 with guest chef Umberto Cavina and his team from the Monte del re  ristorante in Dozza, Bologna and held at the Ritz Carlton Istanbul's all day dining Çintemani Restaurant located on the lobby level of the hotel, offering a wonderful view of the Bosphorus!

I attended the workshop on January 22nd and it began at about 4:30pm... first we would make the pasta and then our chefs would cook them so that we could enjoy our efforts afterwards!

As you can see from above, we were each assigned a station with an apron, chef's hat, rolling pin and dough! We didn't prepare the dough from scratch because it would take too much time to wait for the dough to rise, so we skipped a step to save some time!

Our first assignment was to roll out the dough really thin (although this was the first time I was doing this, I did get a "very good" from one of the chefs)! The second step was to divide the rolled out dough into two pieces: one to be used to make ravioli and the second to prepare cappellini/linguine...

Chef Umberto Cavina (right) and team member
Chef Umberto then gathered us together at his station to show us how to make the ravioli and then sent us back to show our stuff and voila!

The ravioli I prepared (right) along with trays of ravioli prepared by the group!
As a "first time" preparer of ravioli, I don't think I or any other member of the workshop did a bad job!

The second part of the workshop involved preparing capellini/linguine... the "old fashioned way"! Sure, there are now machines where you place the dough through an opening and out pops out linguine! But, we were given a traditional wood rack with tighly strung 
strings like a guitar and we had to place the rolled out dough on top of the strings and then using a rolling pin, make the linguine! Now... this wasn't easy but lots of fun!

These were our major tasks at the workshop, but then our guest chefs gathered us together at their station to show us how to make other types of pasta... like tortellini which was a little more difficult to accomplish the first time out!

By this point, we had definitely worked up an appetite that's for sure, but since the workshop was organized to teach us how to prepare "home made" pasta and took a couple of hours, we left the cooking of our ravioli and linguine to the chefs and thank god we did!

So... we moved over to our table with a glass of Kavaklıdere/Egeo Merlot in hand to wait for our meal!

We munched on some excellent warm bread rolls and butter (once in a while I indulge but didn't have any butter... just the bread) and started our excellent and delicious dinner feast with an unexpected "appetizer" surprise (I thought we would just have the pasta we made).

Eggplant Parmesan
Chef Cavina prepared the most delicious mildy warm eggplant parmesan I had eaten in a long time! After devouring this dish, next up were the ravioli and linguine we had prepared which I will share with you in a collage of photos, which also includes a photo of the luscious dessert that topped off our meal!

All in all it was a lovely evening! Sure, this might not be your "typical" cooking class where you do everything from start to finish, but sometimes it's best to leave the cooking to the experts and still feel satisfied that you could contribute!

I also had a chance to catch up with Max at the end of the evening and stayed around to have a glass of wine with Max and Chef Cavina. Like I mentioned earlier Umberto was visiting from Dozza, Bologna and gave me a brochure of the hotel/restaurant/conference center he is from and it looks lovely. I couldn't read the brochure because it's in Italian... but you can visit their website for details and cooking classes are offered there too! So, if you are in the neighborhood and visiting Bologna, you might want to stop by and have a wonderful meal prepared by the jovial and talented chef!

I would like to thank Max for inviting me to such a fun night and I hope the Ritz Carlton  organizes workshops like this more often in 2013, so that more and more people can attend and enjoy a night of cooking and dining in elegant surroundings!

Bon appetito!

Stay well!


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