Here it is! The long overdue post on the cooking class I took in Tuscany. But before that, just some quick updates about what I have been up to. This month I have articles published in two wildly different magazines. National Geographic Traveller has my story on the Carpigiani Gelato Museum, near Bologna, Italy. And for the first time, I have a by-line in Vogue India! It’s a 3-page feature on Marije Vogelzang, the acclaimed Dutch ‘eating designer’. The Nat Geo article has been updated in the ‘Portfolio’ section and the Vogue piece will also be up soon.
In my earlier post (read Under the Tuscan Sun) I had written about this lovely agriturismo Podere San Lorenzo where we stayed for a couple of days in Tuscany. We arrived from Florence (read 5 Things you MUST do in Florence) and Marinella, our hostess, picked us up from the bus stand in Volterra. A short 5-minute drive later we arrived at the most beautiful villa, which was to be our home for 2 days. After a bit of exploring the property (fields dotted with pretty yellow flowers and rows upon rows of olive trees) I got ready for the cooking class that I was scheduled to take. I was joined by a Canadian couple and the villa’s chef Mariana was in charge of the class, which was held in the dining room. This dining room is an erstwhile 12th-century chapel – a high ceiling, couple of windows and openings through which the late afternoon sun streamed in, lighting up the honey-coloured walls and giving the place a cosy feeling. Fresh ingredients were all laid out ready for us to cook with.
We started off with the dessert, which was Torta di mele or Apple Cake. While we peeled, cored and chopped the apples, the cake batter was whizzing in the KitchenAid (now available in India). The apples were folded into the batter and the cake went into the oven – quick and easy!
We then moved on to making the Pesto di Basilico i.e. Basil Pesto. We picked the stems off the fresh, green basil leaves and pounded them along with pine nuts, garlic, parmigiano, salt & pepper and a generous amount of olive oil (from the estate). Here’s the recipe. The pesto was later tossed with freshly made fettucine and served.
The next dish we prepped for was the Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci (spinach & ricotta ravioli). We mixed ricotta cheese, spinach, parmigiano, salt & pepper and then grated some sweet and spicy nutmeg into it.
Then we made a Rolled Chicken Breast Stuffed with Egg and mixed herbs. We pounded the chicken breast flat, placed an egg omelette on it and scattered some mixed herbs & garlic onto it; rolled them up, tied with a string and cooked on the stove, occasionally turning them.
But the real work began now – making pasta from scratch! This was the first time I was trying my hand at it. Flour, semolina, egg and salt went into a big bowl and then we started kneading it. Once the dough was a nice, smooth ball it was allowed to rest and then we rolled out the pasta sheets, using a pasta machine. Some of the sheets were cut up into fettucine and the others were used to make the ravioli. We cut round pasta shapes, placed the spinach & ricotta filling & folded them over into half-moon shaped ravioli. Did I mention that our cooking was accompanied by several bottles of robust Tuscan red wine? To drink, not to cook with!
At dinner time, all the dishes that the three of us (along with the chef) had prepared, were served to all guests at the BnB. The ravioli was served drizzled with some warm sage butter.
Then came the fettucine with pesto, roasted potatoes and the chicken breast cut up into roundels.
The meal was complemented by more red wine and ended with a generous portion of warm apple cake – golden brown top, soft and sweet apple filling and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. The “oohs” & “aahs” and satisfied smiles of all the guests really made all that effort worth it!
The cooking class at Podere San Lorenzo costs Euro 90 per person & includes the dinner and wine. You also get a recipe book, an apron and the best meal in Italy!! It’s totally worth it. If you don’t want to take the class but just have dinner (and wine), that would be Euro 28.
That’s it about Tuscany. In case you missed my earlier post on Verona, read it here. A presto (see you soon)!