For my 30th birthday I was whisked away to Tuscany by my fiancee for a four day Italian adventure which included a full-on, traditional Italian cooking class on the Sunday.
We spent our first full day in the area exploring the Tuscan countryside around Chianti, and in the evening I was delighted to find out we were booked in to eat dinner in the middle of a magnificent wine vineyard. The four course gala dinner is an event held three times each year at the organic winery hotel we were staying at (look out for an upcoming post on the meal, and a hotel review about the fabulous Querceto di Castellina).
After a brilliant evening eating Tuscan food under the stars, we spent our Sunday morning and most of the afternoon learning how to cook traditional Tuscan recipes with the owner of the vineyard, Laura.
Laura is 71 years old, and teaches her Tuscan cooking class with enthusiasm on a daily basis with a profoundly deep knowledge for the ingredients and dishes she cooks up. By the end of the day you will have whipped up more dishes than your stomach will know what to do with. Laura owns the winery, hotel and cooking school and runs the estate along with her two sons and daughter in-law Mary.
During our class we made three antipasti dishes, two primi platti pasta dishes, and a main course with a vegetable side and dessert.
Antipasti – Appetizers
Bruschetta with tomatoes and basil
Crostoni with stracchino cheese and sausage pork with truffle
Crostini with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts
Primi platti – Pasta dishes
Farfalle with zucchini and saffron
Penne with black olives and mushrooms
Secondi platti – Main course
Filet of pork in shirt (pancetta)
Verdure – Vegetables
Spinach with raisins and pine nuts
Dolce – Dessert
Sheep cheese “alla Caterina del Medici”
The class started at 10 am, and we sat down to eat our feast at around 3 pm which gave us several hours in the kitchen for some hands on experience. We kicked off the day by preparing the sauces for the two primi platti pasta dishes and putting together the most delicious tomato and basil bruschetta topping I’ve ever had. The tomatoes in Tuscany are truly sweet with a bit of a bite to them, and the basil is fresh and smells divine.
The filet of pork in bacon took several hours on the stove (after wrapping it tightly in pancetta), and we drank red L’aura wine (yes it’s named after the chef), and chatted with the other students as we cooked up our lazy Italian feast.
My top 3 favourite dishes were the crostoni with stracchino cheese and sausage pork with truffle appetizer, the bruschetta with tomatoes and basil, and the farfalle with zucchini and saffron. The pork was also outstanding, but if I had to choose, the three first dishes were my top choice as they were so simple and gorgeous without being overly filling or rich. There was something so beautifully simple about taking the truffle sausage out of its casing and placing it straight on bread which we then literally just popped into the oven for ten to fifteen minutes, and the bruschetta with tomatoes was fresh and light, and not too garlicky. We learned that the trick to a perfect tomato bruschetta is to put in several cloves of garlic (un-chopped but peeled) a few hours before serving, and then remove them when ready to eat. Presto!
Laura’s Cooking Class was a great way to meet other travelers and spend a day really delving into the history and heritage of traditional Tuscan dishes. The first, but definitely not the last time we will be cooking up these Italian delights, but also not the last time we’ll be visiting Laura and her beautiful family in Chianti.
Grazie mille Laura!