Giuliano Bugialli, chef, cookbook author, and head of two famous cooking schools, was in Boston recently, sharing his secrets of Italian cooking, relating it to the art in his native city of Florence, where he teaches in the summer months.
His approach to cooking is scholarly as he explains the links between traditional art and traditional cooking.
But when Giuliano Bugialli teaches, his subject comes alive, slowly, but with feeling. It's easy to see why he is often called the Pavarotti of pasta. Disarming to the point of shyness at first, his manner is more than of the pedagogue as he introduces the audience to the history of Italian cuisine.
Then as he gets into his subject and the cooking procedures as well, his enthusiasm increases. The tempo quickens. There is more and more energy in the kneading of the dough, the cranking of the pasta machine.
Assistants appear to shift huge pots. The sheet of pasta dough gets longer and longer.
More assistants appear to help control the spiraling dough, now red from fresh beets, then yellow from egg yolks, and finally a strand of spinach-green pasta looping over the hands of four or five people.
The teacher's exuberance is contagious although his flair is far from flamboyant. The audience applauds, everyone is smiling, and the mix of history and cooking and Giuliano Bugialli has been exciting.
This menu includes the red, yellow, and green pasta in cream sauce, (Arlecchinata Alla Panna), Chicken Breasts Florentine Style, (Petti de Pollo Alla Fiorentina), Stirfried Broccoli (Broccoli Strascicati), and Pear Tart (Torta de Pere).
This guest lecture was at Modern Gourmet, Newton Centre, a cooking school with a specialty shop and catering service called Modern Gourmet Boston. Modern Gourmet's schedule also includes "Madeleine Kamman's Master Series," a "Chef's Training Program" series and other classic cooking course.
At another lecture-demonstration for the Women's Culinary Guild of Boston, Guiliano made a favorite recipe of his grandmother's, chocolate pasta, made with a small amount of cocoa and served with a sweet and sour sauce.
Coming from an old Florentine family, Mr. Bugialli is imbued with the classic tradition of Italian cooking, but he came to New York a few years ago as a language teacher with degrees in languages from the Universities of Florence and Rome.
"Now I do not teach language at all," he said. "More people want to know about Italy's food than our language. But I want my students to get involved in the culture of Italy along with the food."
The classes in Florence include a chance to study the famous art and architecture of the city with specific art tours scheduled along with the cooking lessons.
"If you miss the art you miss the point," he says. "The painters, chefs, and pharmacists were all members of the same guild in Italy at the time of the Renaissance. Their works come from the same sources and the same impulses," he explains.
"Renaissance chefs were undoubtedly artists in their own right. In the 16th and 17th centuries the presentation of food was especially important. Elaborate sculptures were made of sugar, butter, and ice."
His cookbook, "The Fine Art of Italian Cuisine" (New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Company. $15) combines his knowledge of scholarship and cooking with recipes from historic manuscripts and old Italian families written in an informative and relevant style.
Although the author's approach is historical and expertly researched, his methods are lively, au courant, and very much his own. Recipes are not limited to his native Tuscan area, but include those of all Italy.
Mr. Bugialli alternates living and teaching between New York and Florence with part of the year spent touring the United States and other countries, demonstrating the recipes of Italian cuisine.
His second book "Techniques of Italian Cooking" will be published soon by Simon & Schuster.
His classes this summer in Italy include "Art in Food" (June 18 to 24) and three one-week classes starting in June through July 17.
A very popular class, which already has a waiting list for vacancies, is the "Autumn Game and Truffle Class" in September. Students spend an afternoon hunting with dogs for the famous white truffles of this country.
For information about the classes in Italy write Mrs. Bernard Berman, 2830 Gordon Street, Allentown, Pa. 18104. Classes are conducted June to October in English.
For a brochure about the New York City courses in November and February, call (212) 472-0760.
The following is a very spicy dish that is Tuscan, but also close to similar dishes in other parts of Italy. It disproves the idea that red-peppery dishes exist only in the south of Italy.
The name means "in the style of coachmen, who are supposed to be the prototypical rough-hewn city types in Italy. Spaghetti Coachmen's Style (Spaghetti alla Ficcheraia) 2 ounces pancetta or 1 ounce boiled ham and 1 ounce salt pork 5 tablespoons olive oil 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped 1 cup canned tomatoes 1 tablespoon tomato paste Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes 1 pound spaghetti 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano or Romano cheese
Chop pancetta or ham and salt pork. Heat olive oil in saucepan. Add pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove pancetta with slotted spoon and set aside. Add onion and saute gently until soft, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, then taste for salt and pepper. Add hot pepper flakes. Reduce sauce very slowly for about 20 minutes.
While stock is reducing, heat a large pot of salted water to boiling and add spaghetti. Cook until al dente, about 12 minutes, depending on the brand.
When sauce is reduced and spaghetti almost cooked, place the meal back in the sauce and simmer for 1 minute more. Remove pan from heat.
Drain spaghetti in colander and place in serving bowl. Pour sauce on top and sprinkle with the cheese. Toss well and serve hot. Serves 4.
Note: No extra cheese should be added at the table.