, , , , , , , , , ,

You know you want to go to Italy. If you’ve already been, you know you want to go back. And if you’ve been to Italy but didn’t go to Tuscany, then you definitely NEED to go back, because you missed out. Go ahead and book that villa or that cottage from VRBO for 2016 and spend the year saving up. Or travel THIS year and when you get back home, start saving up to pay down the credit card debt. Just do it. Picture yourself in a storybook village like this one:

Monterchi, Tuscany

Monterchi, Tuscany

Make it happen. It will be worth it. And while you’re there, schedule a cooking class with Giuseppina COOKING LESSONS IN TUSCANY "Cucina Giuseppina" Corso Cucina Toscana catering Tuscany

In June of 2013 I stayed for seven LOVELY days in an 18th century villa in Monterchi, Tuscany, with 9 other women. We arranged for a cooking class with Giuseppina and it was one of the best nights of the trip. She and her two assistants made the two hour drive from their village and arrived with all of the ingredients and supplies we would need: fresh herbs, vegetables, poultry and eggs from Giuseppina’s farm, bottles of oils, a pasta machine, a bottle of wine, and Giuseppina’s salt box, which I’m guessing she takes everywhere so she can grab and throw pinches of salt on whatever she pleases.

We gathered in the villa’s kitchen with its big wooden table in the middle of the room. Glasses of wine were poured and Giuseppina told us we would be preparing pollo di Donna (named after her mother in law) fresh pasta with white beans and tiramisu. She gave each of us a red “cucina con giuseppina” apron which was ours to keep. We tied on our aprons and prepared to immerse ourselves in some authentic Italian cooking.

Who needs a cooking lesson the MOST?  This one!

Who needs a cooking lesson the MOST? This one!

A few of the girls took notes on the ingredients and techniques, but the notes didn’t prove all THAT helpful as their handwriting became more sparse as more wine was consumed. I didn’t bother with any note taking, I just wanted to LIVE it: chopping and stirring, flouring and sipping and rolling pasta as I breathed in the heated scent of herbs, garlic and oil from the pan while catching glimpses of the ancient dusk silhouetting the trees outside a kitchen window in Tuscany.

Giuseppina told us that in traditional Italian cooking, sage is used to season two legged animals, garlic and rosemary for animals with four legs. The pollo di donna was sauted in a cast iron pot with lots of chopped fresh sage, carrots, zucchini and onion. I had been hoping to learn at least one skill that I could bring home to impress my husband-to-be, and I got my wish: I learned that when it comes to mincing and chopping, a cook’s best friend is a crescent shaped mezzaluna. Roll it back and forth over your veggies and herbs, and in a flash they’re all chopped and minced! And it’s kind of fun, too!

Making the hand made pasta involved lots of flour, lots of space to make a flour volcano in which to add the egg and roll the dough into sheets, lots of patience to crank the pasta through the pasta machine, but it was the freshest, most delicious pasta I’ve ever put in my mouth. Giuseppina’s two assistants set the table in the villa’s formal dining room, and while we enjoyed the fruits of our cooking lesson, they cleaned up the kitchen. The whole experience was worth every cent!

Karen and Em  rolling pasta dough through the pasta machine.

Karen and Em rolling pasta dough through the pasta machine.

Back home, one of the first things I did was add a mezzaluna to my wedding gift registry. “A what?” My fiancé said. Then, “well, if it makes you want to cook more…”

Actually, it does. And when I put on my red Cucina Guiseppina apron at home in my own kitchen, I feel inspired all over again, ready to take on any new recipe I dare!

Our beautiful Tuscan kitchen!

Our beautiful Tuscan kitchen!