Pasta class



David Whitley gets a nosebleed as he enters a kitchen and tries to cook pasta from scratch...


Toni, it would be fair to say, has her work cut out. She is faced with possibly the laziest, most hapless cook on the face of the planet. Her new protégé is someone who’d much sooner reach for the takeaway menu or eat out than bother to faff around in the kitchen. If I’ve no other option, then pasta will usually come straight out of a bag and be tipped into boiling water. If ‘cooking’ for myself, then prodding cellophane with a fork and waiting for the sound of the microwave ping always seems much more expedient.



It’s not that I don’t like good food – I just think the preparation time and clearing up time isn’t worth the end product. I’d sooner pay someone to do it for me, in the same way that I’d sooner pay someone to fit wardrobes or prune hedges. Leave it to those who know what they’re doing, I say. Toni Moran’s mission is to convert me. 


She runs Flavours of the Valley in Kangaroo Valley, a gorgeous little spot that’s a couple of hours south of Sydney. It’s a two-sided business, as on some days she runs tours around the area’s food and wine producers. There’s a small, but growing band of olive growers, fudge artisans and winemakers to visit – and, more importantly, sample.


The rest of the time, however, she runs cookery classes. She has been training people in the hospitality industry for years, but it’s the Italian background that counts for most. Nonna knows far better than any superchef does. Her mission today is to show me how to make fresh pasta, and lots of it. There are four in our group and we’ve two hours to plough through what looks like a daunting menu. In front of me are a pile of flour and a bowl of eggs. 


The first step, it appears, is to make the flour into a mini volcano and pour two cracked eggs into the middle. Despite managing to spill considerable portions of said egg on the floor, the next bit goes OK. Whisk, work the flour in, chop it up so it looks like scrambled eggs, and then start the kneading. The secret is to put the whole body into it, apparently, but even then mine seems to take suspiciously longer than everyone else’s.


We later put it through the machine and make little parcels with pumpkin filling – quickly resorting to the cheat’s way that Nonna would never approve of. Instead of wrapping individually, we put big dollops of the pumpkin filling periodically along the rolled pasta, then just fold over and chop. It soon becomes a whirlwind. I’m brushing bread with garlicy oil, the lady opposite me is blending raspberries and ricotta cheese, then I’m left in charge of making the chocolate pasta that it will go into.


Yes. That’s right. Chocolate pasta. A bit of cocoa is added to the initial mix, and it’s served as a dessert. I think the idea is to prove pasta’s versatility, but I’m not overly convinced when tasting it. That may be due to the presence of ricotta cheese, however. We’re given recipe books, and upon reading through them at the end, it’s obvious how much has been pre-prepared and done while we’re busy with something else. I find this slightly disheartening. 


I’d much sooner do one or two dishes from start to finish and feel like I’ve properly learned how to do it. That said, at least I know the basics now. I’m still far more likely to buy a fresh bag of pasta from the supermarket rather than face the clean-up operation, but at least I know how to do it should I ever need to.


And you know what? It turns out I’m not too klutzy in the kitchen after all. The pumpkin torte in butter cream sauce tastes absolutely sensational...


Check with Flavours of the Valley ( for a schedule of Italian cooking classes.