For many of us, Italian food conjures up images of homemade pasta, hand-rolled meatballs and tomato-heavy sauces.
Polenta is usually not the first dish that comes to mind. Italian cook and Sommelier PierGiorgio Manna wants to change that. In his first Authentic Italian cooking class of the year at Andiamo Ristorante, Manna taught an eager group how to make polenta dishes popular in his hometown in Northern Italy.
“We ate pasta maybe once a month,” he said. “The rest of the time we ate polenta.”
Polenta is a cornmeal that can be grilled, baked, fried or boiled. This staple of Northern Italian cuisine provided a cheap, nutritious base to meals during hard times. Naturally gluten-free, today it is making a come back as more people are eliminating gluten from their diets. During the two-hour cooking class Manna taught 20 students how to make Crostini di Polenta, a polenta appetizer topped with cheese; Polenta Gialla, a polenta dish served with baked vegetables and pork, and Red Wine Poached Pears.
“Hidden away in an unassuming strip mall, Andiamo Ristorante serves some of the best Italian dishes in Austin.”
Andiamo’s menu is based on restaurant owner Daniela Marcone’s family recipes from Naples—in Southern Italy. (Little surprise then that you’ll find few polenta dishes on the restaurant’s menu.) The Ravioli ai Funghi, a homemade Italian ricotta and mushroom ravioli sautéed with walnuts, dry cranberries and fresh rosemary in brown butter sauce, is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. (Editor’s note: best to call ahead if you’re set on a specific dish, as restaurant menus change.)
Lady Bird Johnson was a long time customer before her death. Her daughter Luci frequents the restaurant so much they named a dish after her. The Linguine Luci Johnson is a linguine tossed with wild caught shrimp, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, organic arugula and crushed red pepper in a garlic olive oil sauce.
Andiamo and PierGiorgio Manna offer a hands-on Italian cooking class each month. The class include a three-course cooking demo, dinner tasting and wine pairing for $75 per person. Click here for more details and reservations.
All photography Diana Cantu