Cooking in Tuscany

When traveling, taking cooking classes are one of my favorite ways to get immersed into a culture; and so as soon as we booked our tickets to Italy I knew that a cooking class was in order.  When I looked for a class to sign up for in Florence, Walkabout Florence was an easy pick for me – it’s ranked number one on TripAdvisor with almost 12k in reviews.  Plus, I noticed that their Tuscan Farmhouse cooking course teaches you how to make pizza in addition to pasta, and that was a huge selling point for me.  To say that I was eagerly anticipating the day was a bit of an understatement.

~

Last Saturday, I (very excitedly) met my cooking group for the day at the Walkabout Florence headquarters, where our guide and chef for the day, Isak, started us off right away with a little food history tour of Florence.  He took us around to a lot of the different major monuments that I know for reasons other than food, and taught us about the foodie history.

After a bit of touring, we stopped at a small fruit and vegetable stand to pick up some of our produce for the day, a bakery for the bread and finally at the Mercato Centrale for our meats and cheeses.

With the shopping complete, we boarded our bus and headed out to a private farmhouse very close to Piazza Michelangelo, a quick 15 minutes outside the city, but what looks worlds apart.

We walked down a little gravel driveway to the farmhouse where we would be cooking, and although I am not sure what I was expecting, let’s say this: any slightest of expectations I had were blown out of the water.  The kitchen and grounds of the farmhouse were absolutely the most hands down beautiful facilities that I have ever seen.  Without a doubt.

#kitchengoals

After I picked my jaw up from the floor, it was time to get my apron on and get cooking.  First up, we needed to get our ragù started.  After prepping all of the ingredients (and trying out a very cool local knife), we got the oil heated and started cooking the sauce.

First thing that I learned about a Tuscan ragù: it uses a ton of olive oil.  Second thing that I learned: apparently I like things with a lot of olive oil.

*pro tip: red sauce → red onion / white sauce → white onion

as soon as our sauce started bubbling, the farm dog snuck in hoping for a taste

While our sauce bubbled away (and would for the next few hours), we changed gears and prepared our bruschetta.  Now, I have both made and eaten my fair share of bruschetta, but apparently I have been slightly missing the mark with a few key things – first, always tear the basil.  Always.  And second, mince your garlic, then shmear it on your cutting board with your knife and some salt to create a paste.  And finally, always toast your bread dry. (But don’t worry, plenty of olive oil will be added later!)

the very sweet Maria – she was our onsite Nonna for the day

As soon as our tomatoes were cut and our bread toasted, we turned around and our wine glasses were filled (thank you Maria) and it was time to eat our first course.  And boy was this little toast bursting with flavor – the garlic, the oil, the tomatoes…and the wine.  If this was a measure of what was to come, then I knew that today was going to be something very special.

As we all worked on eating and drinking, Isak guided us outside to show us a fresh pasta demonstration.  He quickly showed us how to make the tagliatelle for today’s class, but then he also gave us tons of tips on other shapes and cuts of pasta.

As soon as we were done eating and enjoying the demonstration, we turned around and the dining area had been transformed into a beautiful pasta making room.

I seriously need one of these marble tables at home ↑

We all quickly piled in and got to work on making our pasta.  And as many times as I have made homemade pasta, somehow when I went to cut my pasta, I seriously couldn’t cut it straight for the life of me!  Luckily all of the pasta got tossed together, so no one knew whose wonky looking pasta that was.  Whoops.

now I can see that I wasn’t cutting it straight…sorry guys

While our pasta dried and our sauce bubbled away, it was time to prepare our pork roast and potatoes before heading off for a pizza lesson. While we chopped some herbs for both the pork and potatoes, Isak took the reigns in preparing the pork and explaining the different tips for ordering your meat from the butcher.  (Ask your butcher to cut the roast off of the bone, and then tie it back on – that way you can stuff all of the herbs and garlic in that little pocket.)  While the pork and potatoes went into the oven to roast, we headed back outside for a lesson in pizza making.  And you all know how much the hubby and I love making homemade pizza, so I was particularly excited about this part of the class.

We were greeted outside by two, quite hilarious pizza chefs who had a nice balance between teaching us about the ingredients and how to use them, but also keeping us laughing pretty much the whole time.

After a little demonstration and taste test, we all got to work on making our own pizzas that were cooked off in their amazing outdoor wood burning pizza oven.  There were so many delicious toppings to choose from, but I finally decided on sausage, artichoke and a little basil.  After 90 seconds in the pizza oven (literally), my pizza was ready.  Ooey gooey cheese, soft chewy crust, and savory toppings.  Perfection.

After all of the pizzas were baked, we gathered at the outdoor tables, sat and enjoyed our pizzas with some cold Peroni, and just relaxed for a little bit.

When we finished eating our pizzas, we were called to wash up and gather back in the kitchen to prepare our final course for the day, tiramisu.  We all took different tasks to help prepare, and I was happy to volunteer to whip the eggs with the sugar and ricotta.  Having learned how to make this with Assunta last Spring, I felt confident in my egg whipping abilities.

As soon as our tiramisu was finished (it’s super quick to make by the way), they advised us all to get washed up and head to the dining room.  As wine was being poured, and we were just settling in and enjoying the view, huge platters of our homemade pasta coated in that slow cooked ragù came out, followed by big chunks of parmigiano reggiano.  It was time for the real feasting to begin.

the breathtaking view from my seat

Here’s what I can say: pasta heaven.  Each bite was better than the last.  So good in fact, that I was tempted to ask to bring some home.  (How do you say “doggy bag” in Italian?)

Following our pasta course was the beautiful and aromatic pork roast and potatoes.  I almost felt like I couldn’t eat anymore, and yet, after the first bite I somehow was able to manage :)

After resting for a little bit (a.k.a. digesting), it was time for dessert.  A final splash of wine went into my glass, and I happily enjoyed a few bites of a wonderfully light yet creamy tiramisu.

It was a beautiful day in Tuscany – great company, delicious wine, and even better food.  What more could I have asked for?  La vita e bella.

 

5 Replies to “Cooking in Tuscany”

  1. oh wow – what a once in a lifetime experience!

    1. It really was very special! A day that I will always remember!

  2. Zia Geraldina says: Reply

    Everything looks delicious Katie. What a wonderful experience! Can’t wait to hear all about it. Did they share recipes ?? Hope so!
    Zia Geraldina

    1. It was so much fun! And they did share the recipes! I can’t wait to make them when we get home!

  3. Zia Geraldina says: Reply

    As Nonna would say….”Mangia, mangia!”

Leave a Reply