We went to Italian cooking school today in Montaione. It is another remarkable hilltop Tuscan town with buildings from the 12th century. It was remarkable today, however, for the notable lack of individuals that we encountered. We saw no tourists besides ourselves and no locals roaming the streets.
We found this strange but decided that it must have something to do with it being a Sunday afternoon. We had a beverage in the main square and then went to the school before the first bell.
Our school was held in a charming hillside villa which shares acreage with 120 olive trees. This land has been in the same family for generations. Our hosts Claudia and Alessandro have been teaching the basics of Italian cooking at their family home for about a year and have enjoyed meeting travellers from all over the world. Today, they had agreed to teach 7 Adventurers from California how to make Tiramasu and two varieties of fresh pasta.
Their daughter typically joins them but was away at the local stadium cheering on the Montaione football team which was playing in their league finale today. We could faintly hear cheering from the garden. This answered our questions about the ghost town that we saw earlier in the city center.
We sat outside on their front lawn getting acquainted and enjoying some pane, paté, pappa al pomodoro and prosecco. We also had some white truffles in oil, a local delicacy. They shared some of their family’s olive oil pressed from last year’s harvest. Apparently the oil can have a bit of a spice when the weather yields limited rain. The 2021 oil was smooth and tasty but 2022 might be a bit piccante.
Our questions about their local ingredient procurement led us to the back of the “school” where they showed us the source of their fresh vegetables.
Although it was very late in the season, their cherry tree offered up a few samples which the kids found “sweet…and tart”.
After this quick farm tour, it was time to head in for the cooking class. Our first task was to make the dough for our 2 pastas. We were making ravioli as our filled pasta. We also made ‘pici’, a round, hand-rolled string pasta thicker than spaghetti which originated in Tuscany.
While the pasta dough waited to be cut into strips or formed into ravioli, our Adventurers prepared the dessert. The tiramasu recipe required only a handful of ingredients but required vigilant mixing and layering of the cream, the espresso-dipped lady fingers and the cocoa powder.
While the dessert set further in the refrigerator we could return to preparing the ravioli and pici. The ravioli was stuffed with a simple ricotta and spinach mix and sealed with a fork impressed on the edges.
A basic tomato sauce was prepared by CreeperKitty and Claudia (tested by Tiffany) to go with the pici.
Our classroom is a well-ventilated porch room which seemed to double as a music solarium. A couple of microphones and a soundboard made clear that our hosts enjoyed making music here. They encouraged the kids’ musical interests in the gear and it wasn’t long before CreeperKitty had a guitar in his hands.
Suaram seems to always have tunes in her head and started to sing one. Alessandro reclaimed his guitar and played accompaniment to her. You will have to send @suaramj an email requesting her performance of Lady Gaga’s Shallow because she won’t let her father post the video here for your enjoyment 😫.
After this musical interlude it was time to set the table and see how our meal looked once served.
Needless to say, it was delizioso and we were all quite proud of the finished products. The tiramasu was also paired with a dessert wine which we enjoyed very much.
After dinner was over and we were leaving Alessandro gave us a gift. They had served us 5 different types of wine during the experience and had noted our particular enjoyment of the Sicilian red. He found another bottle in his collection and insisted that we take it home.
Thank you to Claudia and Alessandro for opening their home and recipes to give all 7 of us a marvelous Tuscan cooking experience!