A spring recipe + a workshop at Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily

{UPDATE: We have moved the date of this workshop forward to 30 August- 4 September 2021!}

If you love cooking and all of Italy’s regional food traditions then probably you have already heard of Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school in Sicily. It is run by Fabrizia Lanza, whose mother Anna founded the school in the 1980s. Every year Fabrizia hosts a number of students from all over the world at Case Vecchie, Fabrizia’s beautiful nineteenth century property in central Sicily with organic vegetable gardens, fruit and olive orchards, wheat fields and 500 hectares of vineyard (the Tasca d’Almerita winery). Since 2016 she has run Cook the Farm, a two-month long, immersive, educational winter programme of food experts that goes beyond just the kitchen, with lectures, tastings as well as hands on cooking too. And in the summer she runs shorter workshops with co-hosts from around the world with various themes.

I was thrilled when Fabrizia contacted me last year and we began planning a workshop and here we are, still keen but we are still playing things by ear, waiting to find out if the world is ready, and if anyone is able to come to it. My workshop, from 30 August until 4 September, at Case Vecchie will be themed around pasta and seasonal sweets, accommodation will be in the beautiful, rustic rooms of Case Vecchie, with views of the vineyard and garden, furnished with pieces from the original estate.

Our time together will look a little something like this: Upon arrival, we will get to know each other over aperitivo and a wonderful Sicilian dinner. The next day, we’ll focus on making handmade semola pasta shapes, but there’s also time to relax and in the afternoon there’s a garden tour with a glass of rose in hand. There’s also a cheese day, where we begin the day by visiting a local cheesemaker with a picnic breakfast and cheese tasting. In the afternoon we will make one of my favourite dishes, gnudi, and an absolutely delightful Sicilian dessert, minne di Sant’Agata, with the ricotta that we picked up from the morning’s visit. Another day will be dedicated to visiting the Tasca d’Almerita winery and making filled pasta, while our last full together will be spent visiting an artisan ceramic maker and a local heirloom bean producer, which will inspire our last meal cooking together.

See the full itinerary here.

I love this description of Case Vecchie that Fabrizia has on her website:

Perched on a working vineyard and surrounded by cultivated land, the 19th-century farmhouse Case Vecchie is near to nowhere. Its remote location makes for stunning panoramas and a certain stillness, allowing guests to embrace each changing moment. Surrounding an open courtyard are the guest rooms and kitchen. Walking trails cut through vines that parade a rainbow of colors with the changing seasons. In warmer months, a peaceful pool invites you to cool off and chill out. When rain rages, cozy up with a good book from our extensive food-focused and place-based library.

To connect, we did a live cook along on Instagram last week, where you can see us chatting and making Fabrizia’s verdure primaverili, a proper celebration of spring and the garden, quite like a Roman vignarola. And so here I share it with you too. I adore this dish so much, as Fabrizia says, it’s delicious cold or warm, it’s lovely as part of a bigger meal like a side dish, you could even toss it through pasta, but I do love Fabrizia’s addition of boiled eggs with it, which just makes it the perfect light meal with some nice bread and a glass of wine!

Fabrizia’s Verdure Primaverili (Spring vegetable stew)

2 kg (about 10 large) artichokes
1 lemon, juiced
1 large onion, diced
60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus (10 asparagus if thin, 6 of the large ones), cut in segments about 3 cm long
100 gr of peas
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved
Handful of parsley, finely chopped

First you need to prepare the artichokes by trimming the stalk and removing and discarding the tough outer leaves (yes, you will have to remove quite a lot of the leaves, take a look at the prepped on in the photo above!). When you reach the tender, soft, pale yellow leaves inside, cut the top half of the artichoke off completely, then slice the artichoke in half to reveal the centre, remove the choke with a teaspoon and cut into thin slices. Keep the artichokes in a bowl of cold water and lemon juice until ready to use.

Cook the onion with a pinch of salt in the olive oil in a large sauté pan until just golden, about 5 minutes. 

Add the artichokes then cover and cook for 10 minutes. If needed add some water through the cooking. Add the asparagus and the peas, adjust salt and pepper. Let the vegetables simmer until they are homogeneously cooked then transfer to a large bowl or platter and cool.

Pile the vegetables in a small pyramid and surround it with hard boiled eggs. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve cold or at room temperature. Buon appetito!

Notes: this dish even better if made a day before and served at room temperature.

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