Italy With Romina Brings Conviviality to the Table

by | May 2024

Romina Montanari Making Pasta

Photos: Chris Emeott

Romina Montanari creates authentic Italian experiences in local kitchens.

Romina Montanari is a passionate teacher of Italian food traditions. Her Italian cooking and travel business, Italy with Romina, brings the flavors of her home country to her community in White Bear Lake through homemade pasta-making classes and boutique food and wine tours of Italy.

Montanari’s specialty is sharing her knowledge of Italy’s various food and wine regions. Being from Modena, located in Italy’s “food valley,” she says that food is an undeniable and central part of Italian life. As she says, “It’s always about food.”

Romina Montanari

Romina Montanari

Montanari’s description of each region’s specialty is a journey in itself—balsamic vinegar from Modena, tortellini from Emilia Romagna, Grana Padano cheese from Lombardia and truffles from Piedmont. Montanari says, “I like to teach region by region because I want to emphasize that Italy is really special because it’s so tiny, but there are 20 little worlds inside. Twenty regions that are food and wine paradises.”

Minnesota and Modena don’t have many similarities, and Montanari says the only time she feels like she could be in either place is when she hears church bells. Despite the differences, one of her goals as a teacher and host is to enliven Minnesotan tables with the atmosphere of sitting down for an Italian meal. She uses all Italian ingredients, and says the produce is best when it is local and comes fresh from a farmers market. Making authentic food with proper ingredients is one goal, but the Italian experience goes far beyond what ends up on the plate. She says, “The other part that’s important is sharing the table, a communal table—the conviviality. That is something that I love.” It’s not an Italian meal without this sense of togetherness. “It’s so nice to get together,” she says.

Romina Montanari prepares tortelloni pasta with ricotta and spinach filling. Tortelloni is a larger version of tortellini with a cheese-based filling, originating from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Romina Montanari prepares tortelloni pasta with ricotta and spinach filling. Tortelloni is a larger version of tortellini with a cheese-based filling, originating from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Her memories of growing up with homemade food from her mother are the foundation of these goals. She says, “I woke up in the morning, and the first thing—almost before coffee—you’d smell ragu, the meat sauce for lunch, and everybody would come home to a warm meal. I grew up with the tradition of food being the most important thing in your health.” Montanari also emphasizes that Italian food often takes hours to prepare, only to be devoured in moments at the table. “What I’m trying to do is keep the traditional foods alive, the ones that take a long time to prepare,” she says. “Making pasta from scratch takes you a long time, and you eat it in one second, but everybody loves it because the taste is so good!”

Montanari is a people-person. Her countenance is decidedly friendly, and she’s drawn to teaching. “When I’m teaching, I’m interacting with the people, and that part is what I like,” she says. It was while teaching Italian language classes that she saw an opportunity to bring homemade Italian food into Minnesota homes. Montanari’s pasta classes are hosted in people’s kitchens with a group of friends. This setup creates a warm and comfortable environment where it’s easy to ask questions and pick Montanari’s brain. “I knew that people would love it if I brought this experience of not only making fresh pasta, but learning about the region and Italy all together. People are really entertained. It’s fun, they’re learning a new skill and they’re eating a wonderful meal at the end.”

Orecchiette with Schiattariciati Sauce

Serves four


  • 14 oz. orecchiette pasta

For the Schiattariciati Sauce:

  • 1 package of Italian mild sausages
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, whole with the skins on
  • 2 lbs. cherry tomatoes
  • 20–25 basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring about 8 cups of water to a boil, with a generous amount of salt. In another deep sauce pot, add the olive oil and whole garlic. Over medium heat, heat the oil until it starts to bubble. Add little pieces (hazelnut size) of the Italian mild sausages in the oil to cook. Once the sausage is cooked, gently place the whole cherry tomatoes in the oil. Cover the saucepan with its lid, letting the tomatoes “explode” under the lid. Add the salt and pepper, to taste, and basil leaves. Cover until you’re ready to add the pasta. Once the tomatoes have burst, put the pasta in the boiling water. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes, it should be extremely al dente when you remove it from the water. Add it to the sauce; the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce. Off the heat, add the grated cheese, and toss
until the cheese has coated all the pasta. Garnish with fresh basil.

Buon Appetito!

Italy with Romina
Instagram: @italywithromina


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