A cooking lesson in Tuscany, maybe not an original idea, but, certainly something I thought James would love, an ideal Birthday gift for him. But where? I did some research and came up with
Il Falconiere in Cortona. On a clear day we can see Cortona (Tuscany) from here in Panicale, built on the mountainside beyond Lago Trasimeno.
Il Falconiere is a one star michelin restaurant along with being a lovely wine estate and hotel, so as part of his gift a night over seemed ideal. I knew that wine would be involved in our lunch and who wants to or should drive after that.
I also took the class, since with 2 we could have a 'private master class'......how good is that!
Our teacher was one of the two head chefs at Il Falconiere, Chef Richard Titi.
After some chatting and showing us around the kitchen we got right to work.
No, first, wash hands, then we are presented with our aprons.
Let's get started.
We were to make four courses in three hours.
First in the order was biscotti, get that made and put in the oven for first baking.
Next up, pasta. We were both hoping we would have a chance to make pasta in Italy and now here it was. The pasta we made is called pici, a typical fresh pasta of Tuscany. The only ingredients are flour ( single zero flour), water and salt.
Pici is like a thick hand rolled spaghetti. Chef Richard was very patient and worked with us until we were able to roll it out the pasta strands just thin enough.
The pici waiting to be cooked .
A sauce of fresh cherry tomatoes and herbs, from just outside the kitchen door was made for the pici. In the meantime....the biscotti came out of the oven to cool.
James readies for a taste of the pici in the tomato sauce. It always stuns me how a few fresh ingredients can taste so heavenly.
Ingredients for stuffed zucchini flowers are assembled on the work table.
Again, everything is fresh and local.
More conversation about food and the recipes we were making.....all in Italian, as we requested.
Then, we were each poured a glass of wine, Baracchi wine from the Il Falconiere estate.
A taste, then it was back to the zucchini flowers. The ricotta on the table is farm fresh made from sheep's milk, very typical here in Tuscany and Umbria, and the basis for the filling along with herbs and other ingredients......I can't give away all the secrets!.
You are going a good job there , James!
The word to 'stir' or mix in Italian is 'mescolare".
This class is a real hands on experience....and hard work!
We filled the flowers and prepared them for baking, a drizzle of real good olive oil before they go into the oven.
A sauce, or pesto is made from herbs, a few other ingredients and of course, the Baracchi estate olive oil.
A pesto type green sauce is made to accompany the zucchini flowers, made from herbs, etc. and of course, the olive oil.
A drum roll, please.......the plated stuffed zucchini flowers....which we also sampled.
In the meantime.... the biscotti were sliced and returned to the oven for a second baking.
Now, the main course , or secondi as it is referred to in Italy. The meat ( pork) is stuffed and wrapped and held together with a spring of bay, then sautéed.......the other secrets i will not tell, you have to go take the cooking class for yourselves!
The meat is all prepared and while it is cooking the zucchini flowers are baked.
The kitchen at the end of the class.
James and Chef Titi when all the work is complete. Thanks Chef for not only your cooking skills but your teaching skills as well.
It was hard work, as I said, but fun and we learned new things. What could be better. And see, I am here in the kitchen too, stirring, making pasta and stuffing zucchini flowers between photo taking.
Pranzo. There is lunch to follow? How about all the sampling we did during the lesson?
Aprons off, we go back to our room and freshen up. A table on the restaurant terrace will be waiting for us at 1:30..................lunch, Il Falconiere style.
See you at lunch................................!