In The Kitchen With Stefano Marvello
Stefano shares a fabulous recipe with us and chats about how his Italian heritage has influenced his food philosophy and journey.
From the very first moment we meet Stefano, it’s clear he’s energised by all things food. He loves talking about it, cooking it, eating it (of course!), and sharing his love of food with friends, family and the lucky people who head along to Stefano’s Italian Cooking Experience in Burradoo.
We went along to one of Stefano’s fabulous cooking classes and got our tortellini on –yep, we learnt how to make tortellini with salsa fresca.So much fun! While we flung flour around and got messy, we chatted to Stefano about how he ended up in the Southern Highlands teaching people how to create a bit of Italian magic in their own kitchen.
Oh, and Stefano has shared the recipe with us, so you can all have a go at whipping up some Tortellini and Salsa Fresca too – scroll on down to give it a try.
1 // So where did your food journey start?
I can remember loving cooking from a really young age. My mum often tells the story of when she got home from shopping one day to find I’d ‘baked an apple pie’. Basically, I’d thrown some apples and flour into the oven – I’ve improved a bit since then!
I started as an apprentice chef at a restaurant called Kite’s in Surry Hills in Sydney when I was 15 years old. They offered me the job after I did work experience there, so I left school and gave it a shot. But I found the busy kitchen and work culture there really confronting to deal with as a teenager, so 6 months later I went back to school. I studied accounting for two years before falling into a career in IT.
2 // Wow! We did not expect that! How did you find your way back to your love of food?
About five years ago, I went to Italy with my now-husband, Yianni (we got married a couple of weeks ago!!) because my Dad was in the middle stages of dementia. He was in Australia but reverting back to speaking Italian – that’s what happens a lot with dementia, people revert to their mother tongue.
I wanted to brush up on my own Italian so I could chat with Dad, so I spent 6 weeks in Italy doing an intensive Italian language course. While we were there, we went to some cooking classes which I loved. And we travelled to beautiful little villages.
One night I was standing in a village, watching the fireworks, smelling the aromas of my own childhood – roasting capsicums, sausages on the grill, fresh bread –all around me, and I got emotional. I realised I’d lost touch with my Italian heritage and felt lost.
A couple of months after we returned home, I sat up in bed in the middle of night and said to Yianni, “I have to get back to my cooking and reconnect with food. That’s how I’ll reconnect with my culture.”
So, we started hosting Italian cooking classes in Sydney.
3 // How did you end up in the Highlands?
When we were in Sydney, the Italian Cooking Experience was in a different format. We would go into people’s homes on weekends and do it there. Classes were booking out and we discussed how we would expand. I never wanted to create a shopfront. I said to Yianni, let’s create the experience in our home – a place where we can grow our own vegetables, source delicious local produce and really allow people to escape and relax in our space.
Yianni suggested the Southern Highlands, so we jumped in the car and headed down the Hume. And I have to say, my heart started to warm as we crossed Picton Road and just kept getting warmer and warmer. We knew it was the right place.
We’ve been at our place in Burradoo for over a year and have had such great support from the local community. That support has inspired us to give back in our own way. We're mindful that our classes are helping to contribute to the local economy through people staying in accommodation and visiting local businesses as they explore the area, when they visit the Highlands to attend a cooking class. We also source fresh, local produce for our classes, and serve beverages produced in the Highlands such Centennial Vineyard Wines and Eden Brewery beers. It all helps!
I'm also the Vice President of the Southern Highlands Food & Wine Association, and love working with other like-minded people to help the Highlands become the premier food and wine destination of NSW, and an amazing produce bowl for Sydney and Canberra.
4 // Describe your food philosophy.
Mother Nature does all the hard work for us. Our job is to combine beautiful, fresh, seasonal ingredients simply and with love to create good, honest food.
I have a saying. “It doesn’t matter what food you put on the table, it’s getting knees under the table that matters.” Food brings people together and cooking for and with people can be an emotional experience. We’re all about having fun, a laugh, a joke–maybe a little cry sometimes –at the Italian Cooking Experience.
And we’re messy! Cooking is meant to be messy and fun – just like life, right?
5 // Totally! So, what do you love to cook at home?
A bit of everything. I don’t like to fuse different cuisines together, so I’ll stay with just Italian or just Asian. I’ll make anything from a quick green curry to a fresh, Italian pasta dish (I’m often experimenting with recipes for the cooking classes) and you know what? Sometimes, I just feel like a fish finger sandwich! How good is fish fingers on fresh white bread and lashings of butter??
6 // You’re a man after our own seafood and carb-loading heart, Stefano. Tell us about why you chose to share the Tortellini and Salsa Fresca recipe with The Fold readers.
It’s Southern Italy on a plate. The ingredients take you right there. When you make it and then eat it, you can picture yourself on the Amalfi Coast having a spritzer surrounded by the soft Mediterranean breeze with the warmth of the sun on your face....this dish will take you to Italy. Which is the only way to get there right now!
Good point! Yum - scroll on down for the recipe and try it yourself. Thanks Stefano!
TORTELLINI WITH SALSA FRESCA
- 500 grams 00 flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 200 grams of full fat ricotta
- 1/3 cup of grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
- 400 grams of sweet potatoes – chopped into 2cm cubes
- 1 cup of English spinach – chopped finely
- 2 cloves of garlic – peeled and left whole
- 2 eschalots– finely diced
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
- 3 cloves of garlic – finely grated
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of ground pepper
- 3 stalks of basil – shredded
- 3 stalks of flat leaf parsley – shredded
- 3 anchovy fillets – chopped finely (optional but highly recommended)
- 5 grape tomatoes
- ½ cup of olive oil
- Grated rind of one lemon
- Juice of half a lemon. Add more to taste.
- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until a dough forms.
- Transfer dough to the bench and knead until a smooth dough forms. If the dough is too dry, add a little water until the dough comes together into a ball.
- Divide the dough into 4 and flatten into discs. Wrap each disc with cling film and transfer to the refrigerator. Allow to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Attach a pasta machine to the bench.
- Remove the pasta from the fridge. Roll each disc of pasta into a rectangle 1cm thick and the width of the pasta machine.
- Generously dust the pasta sheet with flour and roll through the machine on the widest setting. Fold the dough in half and pass through the machine.
- Continue to fold and pass through the machine until the dough becomes smooth and an even consistency.
- Change the pasta machine setting to the second widest setting. Roll the dough through the machine at least two times before reducing the width of the machine to the next size.
- Ensure you regularly dust the pasta sheets with flour to ensure the pasta does not stick to the machine.
- Repeat until you reach the desired thickness. Depending on the pasta machine this will be either the lowest or second lowest thickness.
- Cover pasta sheets until required.
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and chop for 15 seconds or until combined. Rest for minimum of one hour to allow flavours to develop.
- Combine all ingredients for filling, except for the ricotta and cheese in a heavy base frying pan with the olive oil and cook on med-high heat, until well cooked. It’s okay to have the vegetables stick and brown as this creates extra flavour.
- Remove rosemary and thyme sprigs and puree cooked vegetables in a food processor, until broken down but not pureed.
- Combine pecorino, ricotta and blended vegetables, and nutmeg in a bowl and blend until well combined. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Set aside.
- Roll pasta dough through the machine until sheets are formed, usually to around 6setting pass throughs.
- Brush the strip with a very little sprinkle of water.
- Using a serrated round pastry cutter cut from left to right, to get as many rounds of pasta as possible. Tip: Save the pasta offcuts for a very rustic pappardelle.
- Using a piping bag, deliver approx. ½ teaspoon to the centre of the pasta round.
- Then fold in half, ensuring well sealed. Then bring the two ends together to form the tortellino.
- Repeat until all done.
- Cook in well salted boiling water for around five minutes.
- Remove from pot and into bowl and pour over Salsa Fresca.
Serving Suggestion: You can add a dollop of mascarpone cream and wilted beetroot greens, and flash fried fresh beetroot slices.
Immerse yourself in the art of making Italian food with Stefano at the Italian Cooking Experience in Burradoo. Choose from three fabulous experiences: Pasta Master – Vegetarian, Pasta Master – Meat Based Sauces or the Long Italian Lunch Master Class. You can also book private events for birthdays, team building, hens or bucks parties or a special family experience! Find out more here.
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