Monday, March 12, 2007

Cooking in Tuscany

Tim and I took a cooking class with Accidental Tourist when we were in Florence. It was amazing, and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting that area of Italy!

We began the day by meeting the other "students" and taking a van/minibus up into the Tuscan hills. We stopped at a winery to learn about how wine is made. This was pretty similar to other winery tours we've taken, except the building itself was so old and gorgeous.

Then we drove to another beautiful building for a wine and olive oil tasting. We tasted three versions of Chianti made at the winery and had olive oil and Tuscan bread. We also had vin santo and biscotti.

From there, we traveled to the home where we had our cooking lesson. We went down to the lower level and learned how to make spinach and ricotta ravioli and tortellini and fettucini from scratch-- semolina, eggs, water, and salt.
Ravioli Ricotta e Spinaci


  • 3 cups fine semolina (durum wheat) flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • water (if and as needed)
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta
  • 1 cup steamed vegetables (spinach, chard, or other)
  • 1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg
  • freshly-grated nutmeg to taste
  • salt to taste

  1. Mix all ingredients with your hands on a floured surface.
  2. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, work into a ball, and cover in plastic wrap.
  3. Set aside to rest while you prepare the filling.
  4. If you have a pasta machine, divide the dough into balls about the size of a small orange.
  5. Roll them through set number 1, then 3, then 5, then 7.
  6. Now use the top edge of a crystal glass, or a ravioli cutter, to cut out as many circles as possible.
  1. Mince and squeeze excess water from veggies. Now mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon.
  2. Place a small teaspoon full of filling in the center of each disc, then fold it in two making sure the edges adhere properly and there is no air trapped in the raviolo.
  3. Lay the ravioli on a well-floured surface, making sure they do not touch one another.
  4. Put plenty of water to boil, salt to taste, then carefully put the ravioli in to cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Strain and serve immediately with butter and sage, or tomato sauce, walnut sauce, Bolognese sauce, and top with grated Parmesan.

We went back upstairs into the home where Christiana, the lady of the house, served us eggplant parmigiana, pizza, and zucchini souffle she had baked. Wow! I never liked eggplant, but I could eat her version for every meal until I die.
She cooked up our ravioli and tortellini with a sage butter sauce and topped it with parmesan, followed by our fettucini with wild mushroom sauce.
To top it off, she had made tiramisu and espresso for dessert.__________________
Cristiana's Own Tiramisu

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 kilo mascarpone (about 1 pound)
  • 5 spoonfulls of white sugar
  • 1 large package of Pavesini (200 grams)
    If unavailable, try savoiardi or lady fingers
  • 1 pot of espresso coffee for 6, cooled
  • 1 spoonfull of powdered cocoa
  1. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until creamy.
  2. In a separate bowl, whip the whites until firm.
  3. Gently fold the mascarpone in with the yolk mixture.
  4. Add the egg whites.
  5. Quickly dip the cookies in the coffee, but avoid getting them too soggy.
  6. Now everything is ready to layer: start with the coffee-d cookies, then over with the mascarpone cream. Repeat at least once.
  7. Just before serving, sprinkle the top with cocoa.

The recipe sheet ends with this bit of wisdom:

And remember: the key to an enjoyable meal is quality ingredients, no hurry, and good company!
Buon Appetito!

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