Chef Luciano Parolari during a recent cooking demonstration in Richard and Bette Bryan’s Knoxville kitchen.
Richard and Bette Bryan, along with their friends Sharon and Dr. Bill Laing, have been many times to a fabulous resort called Villa d’Este in Lake Como, Italy.
They love the chef there, Luciano Parolari, so much that they just had to share him with their Knoxville friends. So recently, for the second year in a row, they flew Parolari and his wife, Mara, to Knoxville for two nights of cooking classes — and eating — in their beautiful West Knoxville home.
You won’t believe this food.
Chef Parolari, who recently retired after more than four decades at Villa d’Este, is known internationally as the “King of Risotto.” And he proved it once again the other night in Knoxville. For Bette Bryan, Chef Parolari’s “Risotto Milanese” was her “best bite” of the many-coursed dinner. (Mine was the homemade ravioli.) Speaking of courses, while the 10 of us gathered around the Bryans’ huge kitchen island, appetizers were served for three hours. That was followed by a sit-down dinner, dessert and a little something extra. If you can imagine.
I can see why celebrities ranging from Sir Elton John to Madonna, Gianni Versace and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are Parolari fans.
Richard Bryan cracked us up by welcoming us in his camoflauge apron with a glass of prosecco.
Soon, we settled into the kitchen around the island. Barbara Arant, left, refused to miss the evening even though she had undergone surgery on her nose the day before! “Can you believe that when I talked to Bill (Arant) less than 24 hours ago, she was in the recovery room?” asked Richard Bryan, incredulously. (She gave permission for me to use a few photos that included her.) From left, Barbara and Bill Arant, Alan Carmichael, Sharon and Dr. Bill Laing, Dr. Jack and Sylvia Lacey.
As soon as everyone arrived and was seated at the kitchen island, Chef Parolari passed a plate of “buldar” — cheese balls.
I think this was one of guest Bill Arant’s favorite bites!
Next course was this: Chef Parolari’s arancini — rice balls with a melting chunk of mozzarella inside. “Never throw away leftover rice,” he advised. “Make arancini. That’s what we do in Italy.”
Sylvia was a good note-taker.
Luciano was charming — as well as informative. We found out his favorite olive oil available in Knoxville is Colavita. Good to know.
Next course was more balls — meatballs this time!
Cute pic of Bill and Sharon Laing.
I always thought spaetzle was a German dish. But who was I to argue when Chef Parolari pulled out this gadget and started drizzling the wet dough through it? (That’s his wife, Mara’s, hands. She helped.)
This is the flour to use when making spaetzle. “I always thought spelt was a fish!” cracked Richard.
Spaetzle coming together in simmering water.
Meanwhile the meatballs were served — and devoured.
Back to the spaetzle. Here’s what it looked like when it was cooked.
Bette’s kitchen looked like the set of a Food Network show. That’s Luciano’s wife, Mara, on the right.
A little sauce was added to the spaetzle. And a LOT of parmesan cheese.
And it was served.
Bette liked it.
Luciano is famous for his Bolognese sauce. He really made it for the lasagna he was working on. But we got to taste it by itself. It was so light for a sauce with so much meat in it.
Here’s Richard rolling out lasagna noodles on a machine the Parolaris gave them as a gift last year. Now, the Bryans make pasta at home all the time and freeze it.
The lasagna that would be part of our main course was dressed with both Bolognese and Bechamel sauces.
Ready for the oven.
Risotto time! Here’s how it starts.
Lots of this gets added.
The finished product! “More plates!” That was the cry we heard all night. Commented Bill Laing, “You only need 600 or 700 plates to serve this meal!”
Next up: spinach stuffed ravioli. Here’s the spinach and cheese stuffing.
Filling the ravioli.
Chef Parolari shows Sylvia how to fold ravioli.
Sharon takes a try.
Here’s a perfectly folded one.
After being boiled, they were tossed with excellent homemade tomato sauce.
The veal for the main course was specially ordered in advance from Butler & Bailey Market.
Bette helped pound it thin and Chef Parolari sliced Swiss cheese onto each piece.
It then was topped with another piece of veal and dredged in beaten eggs and breadcrumbs. It would be sauteed in a skillet later and finished in a 350-degree oven. Note: Chef Parolari used the back of a knife to make this pattern on the meat. Great tip.
A side dish would be stuffed zucchini. Here they are ready for the oven.
Lasagna is out and needs to rest for awhile.
Jack and Bill take a break from the cooking.
And soon the zucchini is out.
When it was time to make the souffles that would be dessert, Alan took even more interest than usual.
Souffles ready for the oven.
Bill Laing tested out — and approved — the souffle batter. (Never mind about those raw eggs, Dr. Laing!)
After three hours, we moved from the kitchen to the dining room. Loved the wine bottle candles.
And the adorable place cards.
I can’t believe we were able to eat the actual dinner. But we were!
Here’s my plate: clockwise from front, stuffed zucchini, stuffed veal Milanese, and the lightest, most delicious lasagna I’ve ever put in my mouth.
Chef Parolari and Sharon at the dinner table.
Here’s a lemony sauce being poured into a hot souffle. Alan was in heaven.
After that, some crunchy fried dough strips dusted with powdered sugar were passed.
Bill dipped his in the souffle sauce. Good idea.
I don’t know what time it was when we waddled out of the Bryans’ house that Friday night. I do know we were barely able to make it to a brunch in the Parolaris’ honor the next day at Susan and Arthur Seymour’s house. We didn’t eat much food the rest of Saturday. But the Bryans, Laings and Parolaris did it again Saturday night for a whole different bunch of friends! I can’t imagine when I’ll eat a meal like that again. Salute, friends!