Today was one of the true highlights of our trip–our cooking class. (But then again, we think every day is a highlight, don’t we?) We cooked our own gourmet Italian lunch and really had fun! Hopping aboard our coach in the morning, we took a quick 15 minute ride to one of Firenze’s outdoor markets frequented by locals (as in no tourists, except us of course). En route, Giuseppe, our wonderful Travel Director, gave us a quick study on how to navigate the market and the English/Italian words for various vegetables.
Liberio Saraceni, owner of Ristorante I Tre Pini, and our host for the day, met us there, and quickly gave us our marching orders. Splitting us into small groups, he gave us each 10 euros and a list of 2 ingredients that we had to go find and buy (in Italian of course).
The fact that it was in Italian made it all the more fun as we went to explore the various vendor booths loaded with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. The large steaming loaf of freshly baked bread we all eagerly tore into almost made us forget it was raining today.
Ingredients in hand, off to the restaurant we went, where we were ushered into a room set with up with food prep tables and greeted by a knowledgeable chefs’ staff waiting to oversee our education in making fresh pasta and ravioli. But first we were sent off to thoroughly wash our hands and were then suitably garbed in aprons and head gear.
Prior to jumping in we were served bubbly glass of Blumond to fortify our nerves and off we went. (This, their Chianti and the strawberry Splendia sparkling wine were so tasty, we had to order a case to be sent home.)
We rolled up our sleeves and went to work at the various tables mixing and kneading the dough by hand. Then rolling it very thin using a rolling pin (no cheating and using the pasta machine). Some of the pasta was made into tagliolini and much was cut into raviolis which we stuffed with a mixture of fresh Parmesan, olive oil and parsley.
Some of the men were secreted off to the kitchen where they were put to work making making traditional Tuscan soups, La Ribollita, la pappa al promo door, and la panzanella. We learned that nothing is ever wasted as these soups all incorporate old bread….it never tasted so good. A few of the ladies were whisked away to make almond biscotti for dessert. All throughout the knowledgeable staff patiently guided us through the process encouraging us all the way.
At the end we had an entire table full of pasta trays we had all made.
Our very “difficult day” continued as we then moved onto wine tasting sampling a variety of reds and a white from Loma Brands Srl.
The staff then brought out platters of fried battered zucchini flowers, deep fried polenta strips, and garlic bread.
The owner of the restaurant (below on right with our Travel Director Giuseppe on left) was the consummate host.
Then the formal part of the meal began. The delightful staff served huge platters of the soups, pastas, raviolis, salad and ending with the biscotti and amoretti to dip them in.
We almost forgot to mention delightfully entertaining local singer, Gino and guitarist Rocco, serenaded us throughout lunch and afterward. Gino has a beautiful Italian voice and was also very funny, and Rocco played songs on request–even “Stairway to Heaven” and some Eric Clapton. So talented!
The food was heavenly, the day was magical and we all floated toward home feeling like we are now accomplished Italian chefs singing as we went…”when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…that’s Amore!” La vita é bella!
This is Lauren and Linda signing out…ciao baby!