The Joy of Fresh Pasta. 

It's Saturday morning, nudging close to lunch, and the rain is coming down with a vengeance. What gets me out of the house to cooking class? The chance to watch chef Andrew Richardson make fresh pasta, mostly by hand.  Richardson - the executive chef at Vancouver's Cin Cin  restaurant - is taking a cue from this morning's featured cookbook.  Aliza Green's Making Artisan Pasta. He praises the book, calling it  "a very useful introduction" to the art of pasta making.

 Richardson is a veteran pasta maker who uses a variety of techniques, skillfully utilizing everything from a blender to a sleek pasta cutting machine. But the most fascinating part of the process is watching what he can do by hand. For the first part of our pasta tasting menu, he prepares Potato Gnocchi with Parmesan and Shaved Truffles. Using a small grooved board, he delicately flicks pieces of raw pasta with his finger. Within seconds, they magically resemble little grooved seashells. (The grooves are there to help the pasta soak in the cream sauce.)

Everyone's duly impressed. The modest Richardson explains that pasta is a big part of Cin Cin's menu. "Customers like to come back for their favourites," he says. "At the same time, the pasta menu is always evolving."

The class itself is very tactile. Richardson is constantly passing around bits of dough so we can get an idea of how it feels. He likes his pasta to have a certain texture - what he calls "bite." At the same time, he says there are certain kinds of pasta - ravioli for instance - that should be "thin enough to read a newspaper through." It can be difficult for a beginner to find that balance. Richardson admits: "Sometimes making pasta can drive you crazy. But that's what keeps things interesting."

For our second part of the tasting menu Richardson prepares Fettuccine Bolognese. Since there are a few vegetarians in our class, he also prepares Fettuccine in a Rich Tomato Sauce. Both dishes are delicately balanced, allowing the rich flavour of the pasta to come through. Our tasting menu ends with with a Parmesan and Ricotta Ravioli lavished in a truffle oil and mustard dressing. What stands out in all three dishes is a remarkable freshness. "Making your own pasta is time-consuming," says Richardson. "But in the end, it's really worth it."