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Tuscan Cooking Class

“Eat lots of food from Italy and you will be so healthy your doctor will hate you!” Chef Paolo Monti, May 2012. After a day of seeing, smelling and eating Chef Paolo Monti’s food, you will have to agree!

What else would you do during a few wet soggy days in Tuscany other than take a cooking class? Maybe it is on your bucket list too.

Chef Paolo

A quick google search bought up the name of a nearby cooking school with Chef Paolo Monti, a quick phone call with the English-speaking chef and you are booked. The classes are held in a special kitchen at Hotel Carignano, just outside Lucca, Tuscany. Classes start at 10am and you join your fellow classmates in the hotel lobby.

Our fellow classmates had attended the class the day before and enjoyed it so much they were back for more! Chef Paolo offers a range of themes, Tuscan specialties were on the menu today.

We were not disappointed it was a fun, informative, hands on and hilarious 6 hours! Classes are advertised as finishing at 2.30pm, this appears to be a moving target.

The classes are informative and hands on, everyone gets involved with chopping, measuring, stirring and of course tasting. You have to eat the fruits of your labor and lunch is the Italian tradition is not to be rushed!

Here is the lineup for “The Tuscan Cooking Class”

  • Panzanella ~ Tuscan Bread salad
  • Crostini alle Melanzane ~ Croutons with Eggplant topping
  • Crostini ai fegatini ~ Bread with chicken liver and caper pate
  • Tordelli alla Lucchese ~ Vegetable ravioli with meat sauce
  • Ragu di carne alla Lucchese ~ Meat sauce from Lucca
  • Arista di maiale alla Toscana ~ Roast Pork with pancetta, rosemary and sage
  • Patate arrosto ~ Roast Potatoes
  • Cantuccini ~ the famous Biscotti

You will eat it all! We even tried the chicken liver pate!

Biscotti was first on the agenda,  as Chef Paolo says “Life’s too short….. make and eat desert first right?”

We donned our aprons and jumped into the fray, egged on by our classmates. Two of us measured ingredients and made the dough. While Chef Paolo dished out encouragement, guidance, history and tips along with generous helpings of corny and slightly off color humor.

From there we rolled into making chicken stock and chopping vast quantities of onion, celery, carrot, herbs etc., our Chef making sure that everyone had something to chop, slice, sauté. With a good knife and guidance on how to chop, slice and crush, it was a breeze. Before we knew it the ragu was simmering on the stove and the Biscotti was ready for cutting. Biscotti  has to be cut while still warm, any pieces that fail the rigorous standards of size and angle of cut have to be consumed on the spot!

The eggplant came hot from the oven, scoop out the insides, chop it up add garlic, lemon juice, parsley and lots of oil, good quality Extra Virgin Olive oil is a must in this kitchen.

The liver pate was finished next and it was time for a break, Crostinis with of course a glass of wine. Both wine and Olive Oil flows plentifully in this kitchen. I can live without the liver pate, not the Eggplant though it was pure bliss, this one is definitely a keeper!

Our classmates were a fantastic group of friends travelling together, already a tight knit group they welcomed us in and warned us not to eat too much of the Crostini, thanks for the warning! They were right we feasted for hours.

Back to work, the pork loin needed to be gently loved, seasoned and wrapped in a blanket of pancetta, into the oven she goes. The left over seasoning is perfect for roast potatoes!

No Italian cooking class would be complete without making pasta from scratch! The dough is tricky to handle even with expert tuition.

Before we knew it, everything was ready, we retired to the table in the courtyard where food, wine & laughter flowed in equal measures! It was a perfect way to spend a day. Italian tradition calls for a Siesta after such a feast, who are we to break tradition?

Thanks for a perfect day!



Bread salad in the making!



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About the author: Michael was born under a wanderin’ star. He is an Engineer who became an explorer, a photography bug, and hack traveller writer with the propensity to be snarky. “Retired” in 2012 at the age of 44, he and his wife Yvonne travel and house sit around the globe on a full time basis. Michael’s goal is to share the process of escaping the rat race, exploring the globe, and some of the experiences along the way.

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