During our time in Certaldo, Tuscany we came across a little shop selling some home-made jams and preserves. After buying one and enjoying our delicious new treat with some bread we went back to the shop and signed up for the tradition Tuscan cooking class offered by the woman who makes all those yummy preserves. When you think of Tuscany you think of delicious Italian food and red wine; we couldn’t pass up on a class that promised plenty of both.
We arrived to class early and enjoyed some cheese and marmalade while waiting for the rest of the group. The marmalade paired well with the delicious, tangy sheep’s cheese. We were immediately treated like family and our host graciously opened a bottle of wine. We were in for a great afternoon.
Giuseppina, the cooking instructor, teaches each class a four course meal; the antipasto, fresh pasta made from scratch, the main course, and, my favorite, dessert. We started by making the dessert, Panna Cotta, since it would have to sit in the fridge to cool for a few hours. The desert was simple to prepare. We crushed some fresh vanilla bean and mixed in sugar, gelatin, milk, and cream. After heating up the mixture for a few minutes we poured the liquid into a bowl to congeal.
Next we cooked the antipasto, a bruschetta, and enjoyed the finished result outside on the terrace overlooking the city below. Giuseppina was very particular that we use all fresh local ingredients. All of our foods were in the local tradition. Our bruschetta, for example, was to be more than a simple slice of tomato on some toast. No, Giuseppina insisted that real bruschetta should be made with prepared cannellini beans, basil, oil, and fresh tomatoes. The real key ingredient was the addition of the Certaldo onion. These onions look a little bit like leaks, but they’re a local favorite to add that sharp tang to a delicious bruschetta.
After the antipasto we got to try our hands at making pasta from scratch. The process is actually very simple and there are only four ingredients:
00 Flour eggs salt olive oil
Our fettuccine dish was sautéed with tomatoes, artichokes, and garlic.
Next came the main dish, rosemary and garlic marinated pork with a Chianti sauce.
After some wine, digestion, and good conversation we enjoyed the Panna Cotta we made earlier. As a topper we cut up some strawberries with some lemon zest and lemon juice. A few pieces of mint as a garnish topped off the dish for a splash of green.
Cooking with Giuseppina was an amazing experience. She really made us feel like family. We got to enjoy some amazing food, wine, and company. Neither of us had made pasta by hand before and recommend that everyone give it a try, but if you want the real experience there is nothing like working dough in a Tuscan kitchen.