Signa, a small picturesque village 15 minutes drive from Florence, is the setting for Good Tastes of Tuscany just one of many Italian cooking schools in Tuscany with a one-day course. While a 13th century mansion is the base for the Tuscany cooking school, the actual chopping, stirring and feasting is done across the road in a converted farmhouse.
How to Create a Tuscan Feast
Apart from my sister and I, eight other people are here, including two Donna’s, a Diane, a Deborah and a David, all related and all from Florida. There’s also a Danita, but she is unrelated.
Over the next four hours we’ll be creating a Tuscan feast that includes handmade ravioli, risotto with asparagus and ‘spezzatino’, an aromatic beef stew.
We start slicing onions, chopping tomatoes, tearing spinach and crushing garlic.
About Our Chef Stefano
Stefano can deftly crush whole cloves with his sturdy hands.
Stefano has a wealth of knowledge about preparing ingredients and demonstrates how to toss and season the vegetables for the bruschetta, and what type of soft cheese to use for filling the zucchini flowers.
Stefano stirs, checks and tastes from the numerous pots and pans bubbling on the stove, all the while fielding calls from Mama on his cellphone.
Italian Cooking Needs Wine
Just when I think I can’t chop another tomato Stefano brings out some wine and cheese for us to sample. A nice table white, Colomba Bianca and some local goats cheese or ‘peccorino’. I think I could get used to this. Before long we’re all feeling the effects of the wine, the heat and the aromas pouring from the stove. Danita, even gives us a quick Irish riverdance on the terracotta kitchen floor. We all applaude.
How to Make Pasta
Right, onto the serious business of making pasta. Cries of “5 times on 2” and “2 times on 5” ring across the kitchen as we get to grips with feeding and re-feeding our sheets of dough through a small metal roller, which has different settings. Stefano wisely heads back to the stove and lets us get on with it.
Sampling the Tuscan Feast
When it’s finally time to eat we’re joined by the cooking schools’ hosts Meagan and Massimo who sample the results of our culinary efforts:
- Bruschetta with spinach and parmesan,
- Risotto with tomato flavoured baby asparagus,
- Baked zucchini flowers, piping hot and delicate,
- Hand made ravioli covered in a delicious sauce,
- Rich beef stew,
- Roast potatoes with garlic and rosemary,
- Panna cotta with chocolate sauce.
Stefano doesn’t eat a bite. Patting his stomach he tells us is is watching his weight and pours himself a glass of grappa. Meagan and Massimo, also only sample a little of what we’ve cooked, the food is just too rich to eat on a daily basis. Massimo chats to us while we dig in, about the wine and olive oil they also make at the property and the week long cooking courses available if we want some more in-depth tutoring.
After the best panna cotta I think I’ve ever tasted, all that remains is to collect our free aprons and cookbooks and roll back to Florence. Soon our Tuscan feast will be just a lingering memory but I feel fortunate to have been a part of creating it.
(Photo by livetoindulge)