One of the best things about cooking is that it has the power to make you feel like you’re somewhere else.

And last night, just a few miles down the road from my house, I had the whole Italian trattoria experience without having the cross the mighty Atlantic.

Thanks to an inspired idea for some Saturday night fun with a few of my friends in Southlake, I had the pleasure of taking an Italian cooking class at a new local hotspot called TasteBuds Kitchen.

If you’ve never taken a cooking class before but have always wanted to, I can’t recommend the experience enough. Whether you’re a beginner or ready for a coveted apron on Chopped or Top Chef, it’s fun learning a few new techniques and recipes that you can wow your friends and family with later on.

So what exactly was on the menu? Well, I’m so glad you asked. 🙂 We made three Italian classics—a totally mouthwatering rendition of Eggplant Parmesan that wasn’t the least bit rubbery or greasy like so many I’ve had in the past, a wild mushroom risotto that ensured our arms got a good workout before indulging, and the piéce de résistance,  old-fashioned mini cannolis for dessert.

IMG_2192Yes, despite getting a little sprinkle-happy on a couple of cannolis, I was pretty pleased with how those came out.

What I’ve always loved about Italian food is how simple ingredients can be elevated to new heights with just a few little tricks up your sleeve. All of the dishes we made just featured a few really good pantry staples, and before long, we made a meal that we all really enjoyed.

In the interest of space, I’m just going to post the recipe for the Eggplant Parm, but if you’d like any of the others, feel free to e-mail me.

Eggplant Parmesan (courtesy of TasteBuds Kitchen)

1/3 of an eggplant
4 T plain breadcrumbs + 4 T panko breadcrumbs
1 T parmesan cheese
pinch oregano (a pinch is typically defined as an 1/8 of a teaspoon)
pinch parsley
pinch thyme
pinch garlic powder
pinch salt and pepper
1/4 c flour
1 egg

2/3 c marinara
1/4 c mozzarella
2 T parmesan cheese
4 leaves fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade (that’s chef-speak for thin ribbons)

1. Wash, dry and slice eggplant into 1/2” slices.
2. Mix panko, breadcrumbs, parmesan and seasonings together in a shallow baking dish or sheet pan.
3. Dip eggplant in flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumb mixture.
4. Saute on each side in a little olive oil until golden brown.  Transfer your browned eggplant to sheet pan, top with all the cheese and basil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.