CollageWhat fun to enjoy a Custom Cooking Class with Chef Ugo Allesina at Prego! Girlfriends gathered in the Private Dining Room and had a grand time learning his “tricks of the trade”…well at least some of them.

As most meals begin in Italy, we started our afternoon with a glass of sparkling Prosecco and cheers all around. On the marble table was placed an Antipasti plate of cured meats, a selection of olives and Parma cheese that was rich with flavor having been aged for 24 months. Devine.

Then….the Chef began one of many demonstrations with an attentive staff as back-up. First up was a fantastic little “do-ahead” number I plan to replicate very soon. This was an Eggplant Soufflé and utilized all aspects of this prized burgundy vegetable. Half of the eggplant was baked for later use as the filling and the other half is thinly sliced and grilled. The thin sheets were placed around each ramekin, in a dough-like fashion, the filling placed inside with a square of Mozzarella, wrapped, and cooked in a bain-marie (water bath) for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. [We discussed how this could also be filled with Risotto, seafood, and many other options.]

Switching to white wine, we enjoyed a bottle (or two) of Falanghina white wine which hails from Naples. It was delicious and is available by the bottle or by the glass at the bar.

Next up, was Pasta with Sausage and Ragu. This Homemade Rigatoni Pasta with garlic, sausages, chopped tomatoes, olives and basil. A Ragu tomato sauce was added to finish the dish, along with grated Parmesan cheese of course! This dish had humble beginnings with Olive Oil in a saucepan and large cloves of garlic to flavor the oil. Working in an “Assembly Line” fashion Chef added the various ingredients one-by-one to create a dish that was simple, yet filled with robust flavor. This could be used as a starter, or a main dish!  {This reminds me of another article I recently did on my own “Assembly Line” cooking that helps me think through the process of dinner and getting something on the table quickly. Check it out!

Using sheets of thin pasta, Chef cut these into square shapes for use in making a Cappelletti Pasta with Pumpkin Filling & Butter & Sage Sauce. This pasta starts as a flat square of pasta dough and is folded with a filling inside, and twisted to form the shape of a small hat. Often this pasta is referred to as an alpine hat.  This pasta was then cooked and coated with rich butter and sage. It was heavenly and surprisingly two of them were plenty. Very rich indeed. [Note: A web site offering pasta dictionary of shapes and names is: ]

For our entrée Chef demonstrated a take-off of Chicken Cordon Blue. He showed us the art of flattening a chicken breast without making it look like a mangled piece of carcass. Here is the trick…. use the flat side of the mallet—-not the tempting side with all the sharp pointed spikes. Who knew!  So, with 5 oz. breasts flattened, in the center he placed al dente asparagus, a slice of cheese and ham. He would suggest wrapping these each in saran wrap for a half an hour in the refrigerator. Or this can be done ahead to this stage, and then continue cooking the following day,  if need be. Next he pan seared the stuffed chicken in a saucepan on both sides, and then places it in the oven to finish. [Use an instant thermometer to test that the chicken reaches 150 degrees.] Chef Ugo finished the dish with a rich beef sauce that was made with a veal demi glaze, creating a “to die for” complement. This was accompanied and plated with roasted potatoes.

What Italian meal is complete without the parade of desserts and a coffee finish? Chef Ugo explained to us that his dessert list changes daily—rotating with the seasons and what is fresh for him to work with. On this day, crisp apples had inspired his team, and Apple Strudel would be on the menu. We got a peek of it before it was placed in the oven for dinner service.

We were fortunate enough to enjoy a deliciously light Pumpkin Soufflé standing proudly on a graham cracker crust, topped with a Mascarpone cream and drizzled with a vanilla sauce. And coffee was the perfect complement to a wonderful afternoon of culinary delights.

One of Chef Ugo’s personal passions is the Knights of Pythians, a non-denominational order dating from 1622, serving children in need. They have a lodge in Tustin, and host many outside events to raise funds for the children.

Knights of Pythias – Tustin, CA Lodge # 85
397 El Camino Real  Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 838-3156
The Order of Knights of Pythias is an international, non-sectarian fraternal order, established in 1864 in Washington, DC, by Justus H. Rathbone. The history about the Tustin Chapter can be seen at this web site: and has been in Old Town Tustin since it was built in 1925.


Prego Ristorante
18420 Von Karman Ave  Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 553-1333

Prego is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.  They also have a lovely Happy Hour for those wanting to stop in for a bite to eat at the bar. Those interested in booking an event they have a lovely private patio that seats 40 and an intimate Private dining room just behind the bar that seats up to 16.

About Prego Ristorante

Prego has all that one could wish for in a fine Italian restaurant; an elegant, yet comfortable atmosphere, attentive service and cuisine that strikes the perfect balance between traditional authenticity and innovative preparations. Adding a splash of Mediterranean color to California, Prego’s ambience blends the warmth and rustic charm of old-world Italy with the electricity and vibrance of a cosmopolitan restaurant. Streamlined arches and columns, gleaming copper, polished hardwood floors and an abundance of Cherrywood furnishings produce an elegant and sophisticated, yet comfortable, atmosphere. A lively exhibition kitchen allows diners to view the artful chefs creating their delicious dishes. With a capacity to seat between 150 and 250 guests, Prego features al fresco dining, full bar, banquet rooms and catering services.

Executive Chef & Partner, Ugo Allesina, brings more than 25 years of experience to his position. Born and raised in the region of Piemonte, Italy, his experience at a number of prestigious hotels and restaurants in Italy, Germany and the United States has enabled him to develop his outstanding skills as a premiere Chef of Northern Italian cuisine.

The menu emphasizes regional Italian cuisine, featuring authentic pizza baked in a wood-fired oven, freshly made pastas, grilled fresh fish, spit-roasted meats and fowl, and an extensive list of wines from Italy and California that will please even the most discriminating wine connoisseur. Homemade desserts and pastries make a perfect ending to an unforgettable dining experience. Prego has received fine-dining awards from the Restaurant Writers’ Association and the Wine and Food Society of Southern California. It has been a culinary destination for more than two decades. In 2013, Prego Ristorante was named “Restaurant of the Year” by Fifi Chao of the Orange County Business Journal.

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  1. Please where do I get a skd. of the once a month cooking demonstration?

    1. This was a class that someone arranged privately. You can ask the Chef about doing one but there would be a cost.

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