For our last night in Lecce, we signed up to take a cooking class with Cooking Experience. As I’ve mentioned many times before, cooking classes are one of our favorite things to do when traveling, and we were definitely not going to miss out on the opportunity to learn how to make some Puglian classics.
Our class met at 5 p.m. in front of the Duomo in the center of Lecce, and although we had complete faith in the course we had signed up for, since we normally meet with cooking classes earlier in the day, we both were a little curious at what time we would be transitioning from cooking to eating.
Before heading back to the Cooking Experience kitchen (which is gorgeous by the way), we had 2 stops. First we swung by the local market to pick out all of our ingredients. What I found so interesting and surprising about this class, was that there wasn’t a set menu before we all arrived. At the market, Gianna (our chef) talked to us about all of the local ingredients and what was in season, and then asked us what sounded good. We got to pick out all of the ingredients for our class, and Gianna made up the menu on the spot right there. Very impressive.
the largest basil leaves that I have ever seen, although interestingly enough,
Gianna uses Greek basil in her red sauce
With veggies, meat, cheese, fruit and some taralli in tow, we headed back towards the Cooking Experience kitchen with one quick detour, for a traditional Leccese coffee – a shot of espresso poured over ice with almond syrup and a splash of almond milk. You stir it together vigorously, and then enjoy. It’s super sweet, but also very refreshing.
Back at the kitchen, we quickly got to work on prepping our ingredients and getting our dinner started. Our menu was: early figs with stracciatella and prosciutto, a cucumber and tomato salad, eggplant parmigiana, homemade pasta with red sauce, meat stuffed meat rolls (yay!), homemade tomato focaccia, and fresh cherries for dessert. Obviously we were excited.
our focaccia dough ready to do a quick proof and rise
prepping our eggplant
taking a little wine break, and learning how to properly
taste wine from Gianna, who is also a sommelier
Gianna frying up our eggplant
getting our focaccia ready to bake
eggplant parmigiana- fried, layered, cheesed and ready to bake
…to homemade orecchiette in just minutes
(surprisingly the easiest pasta shape that I have learned how to make)
the hubby perfecting the fine art of homemade maccheroni
our delicious meat stuffed meat rolls getting all brown and crispy
Gianna and Maya (her daughter) seamlessly helped us whip our dinner together in what felt like a record pace. I think that we were all done cooking and ready to sit down at the table to eat by 8 p.m. Yes, in 3 hours we shopped, toured the city, and we prepped and cooked a 7 course dinner! And, not one minute of it felt rushed in the least. As we sat down at the table to start eating, Gianna explained that she likes to teach things in her classes that are approachable and manageable for people to recreate at home. Her goal was to teach us the real food that the local people are making, and she definitely succeeded.
our beautiful tablescape
tomato and cucumber salad
crispy, crunchy and cheesy eggplant parmigiana
prosciutto (the hubby’s favorite) (and mine too)
homemade pasta with red sauce and freshly grated cacioricotta
this tomato focaccia is going to be the first thing that I make when we get home
and the sweetest local cherries for our dessert
Bottles of wine were opened, dishes were passed, and travel stories exchanged. We enjoyed a beautiful and relaxing dinner, and I think that I literally “oohed” and “aahed” with every bite. This was our best meal in Lecce, and truthfully, one of the highlights of our time in Italy. Just as it can be disappointing to end travel with a bad meal, nothing is quite as satisfying than saying goodbye to a city with a full tummy and happy heart. Cooking Experience truly gave us a night to remember, and for that, we are so very grateful.