I’m very pleased to announce a new and exciting collaboration coming up in October this year – an incredible, six–day gastronomic getaway in Tuscany and the opportunity to be immersed in age-old traditions of Tuscan cuisine following the lead of the great-grandfather of Italian cuisine, Pellegrino Artusi, whose nineteenth century cookbook Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well is one you’ll still find in practically every Italian kitchen.
I’ll be conducting a cooking course of some of my favourite Artusi recipes in the beautiful setting of Villa Campestri, a Renaissance villa and olive oil resort just north of Florence that overlooks one of the prettiest Tuscan valleys. The villa, your new home for the next six days, is well-known for its excellent olive oil and seeing as the course takes place during harvest time, this is your chance to become an expert on the art of making quality olive oil, distinguishing great oils from average ones and how to use it in the kitchen. On top of the historic Artusi cooking classes, there will be in-depth olive oil tastings, wine tastings and visits to a local cheesemaker, an artisan knife bottega and even a traditional flour mill. I’ll also take you to Florence to the produce market, where we’ll pick up our seasonal ingredients for the first cooking class and have a traditional Florentine lunch – be prepared for adventurous eating!
The six-day gastronomic getaway is planned for October 28th – November 3rd, 2013. The program looks a little like this:
Day 1: Arrival at Villa Campestri, Tuscany. Introduction about the philosophy behind the course, “The Art of eating Well” and our first olive oil tasting with agronomist Gemma Pasquali, along with a welcome aperitivo. Dinner at the villa’s restaurant, L’Olivaia.
Day 2: Visit Florence. As a previous resident of Florence, I will take you shopping for our first cooking course like a local. We’ll visit the Mercato Centrale and my favourite nineteenth century apothecary/spice shop for handmade candied fruit and other unusual ingredients. We’ll have a traditional, informal Florentine lunch then there’s time to look around Florence or have a private tour of the centre before a late afternoon transfer back to the villa. Dinner at the villa.
Day 3: Cooking with Artusi. We’ll have our first cooking class following the nineteenth century recipes of Pellegrino Artusi, using seasonal ingredients from the market. The menu will include pappardelle all’aretina (a typical dish from Arezzo of handmade pappardelle pasta with an unforgettable sauce made by braising a whole duck), braciuole nella scamerita (a classic Florentine recipe of pork shoulder chops with red wine braised Tuscan kale), torta di zucca gialla (Artusi’s pumpkin pie – a delicate crustless and gluten-free cake). We’ll also make a classic spiced cake from Siena, panforte, popular around Christmas time. Our kitchen creations will be our lunch, then there is a second olive oil lesson with Gemma Pasquali.
Day 4: Cheese and wine. This morning will be devoted to the art of making good wine and we will head to a famous winery in the heart of the area of Chianti Rufina, where we will visit the vineyards and cellar of the estate. We’ll have lunch there then in the afternoon we’ll visit an artisan cheesemaker of raveggiolo, pecorino and ricotta – and don’t worry, there’s a chance to taste it all too! Dinner at Villa Campestri.
Day 5: A focus on olive oil. We’ll start with a stroll through the olive grove to learn more about olive oil, and Gemma will conduct her third olive oil lesson. Our second cooking class today will feature more of Artusi’s recipes and will use olive oil as the hero – sometimes a more subtle one, but always a necessary one. We’ll make and learn how to use salsa verde, funghi fritti (fried mushrooms), Tuscan soups such as passata di ceci, a creamy chickpea soup (the idea here is not only to use the oil for cooking but to show how a good oil makes a necessary and wonderful condiment to these kind of soups), quattro quarti all’italiana all’olio (Italian pound cake with olive oil – learn how to substitute butter in baking recipes with olive oil). We’ll eat our creations for lunch, then in the afternoon we will head to a romantic old flour mill to see how traditional, stone ground flours are made. Here we’ll buy some special flours for the last cooking course. In the late afternoon we will have an interesting wine tasting with wine writer, author and former editor of the International Herald Tribune, Burton Anderson.
Day 6: Knives, beef and our last cooking class. A visit to Scarperia, where we will see how artisan knives are produced in a traditional workshop. We will continue on to a restaurant in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna to savour a traditional lunch of beef steak, grilled over an open fire. Back at Villa Campestri we will have our last cookery course using the chestnut and cornmeal flours (naturally gluten free) that we bought at the mill for some very traditional and warming dishes: Necci (Tuscan chestnut flour crepes with ricotta), polenta colle salsicce (baked polenta with sausage ragu), paste di farina gialla (polenta and elderflower cookies), castagnaccio (Tuscan chestnut cake). Gala dinner at Villa Campestri.
Day 7: Departure and it’s arrivederci until the spring, when we plan to organise another similar workshop for March/April 2013 – keep in touch if you would like more information on this!
There are only 10 spots available! The cost of this wonderful exploration of true Tuscan food traditions with all the above, plus accommodation at the villa included, is per person €2,199 (US$2,866) for 3-4 person apartment; €2,499 (approx. US$3,258) for double occupancy; €2,700 (approx. US$3,520) for single occupancy.
To book, visit the villa’s booking page or email them at email@example.com
Photos of the villa are courtesy of Villa Campestri.