Here we give you a few tips on what to look for in a cooking class, and what kind of things you’ll be dishing up. We’ll help you find something that caters to your taste, and your level. And help you get the most from cooking classes in Tuscany. Buon appetito!
Let’s get something straight. The culinary heritage of Tuscany is as important as that of the Renaissance. And you’ll learn a lot about the area if you enrol in one of the many Tuscan cooking classes on offer. In fact, they’re becoming more and more popular with visitors travelling to Tuscany in search of authentic recipes.
The range of cooking classes available in Tuscany is growing every season. They come in every shape and format. From bite-size lessons on how to prepare a single dish like tiramisu, to week-long full immersion. They vary in price and level of expertise. So before you choose one, it’s worthwhile considering one that suits your interests and your skills.
How to choose the right cooking classes in Tuscany:
1. The style of class – Theory or practical?
In some classes you’ll be shown what to do instead of doing it yourself. Some beginners might prefer this kind of demonstration-style teaching, where the instructor explains the different stages of the preparation and cooking process. These are usually bigger classes.
If you’re interested in getting your hands ‘dirty’ you should choose a more Hands-on class, where you’d be cooking things yourself. Unless you’re quite experienced, you might want to make sure the instructor can give you one-to-one help during your cooking.
Often longer workshops will combine theory with some practical cooking, so make sure you know what to expect when you book.
2. The size of the class
Are you the kind of person who would enjoys cooking in a big lively group, rather than having a dedicated instructor watching your every move? Bear in mind that the bigger the class, the less attention you’ll receive from the instructor. Especially if you’re choosing a practical lesson, check how many people will be in the class with you.
3. What do you want to cook?
Maybe you’re interested in a special Tuscan “niche” ingredients, like tartufo (truffle) or lardo. Or maybe you’d like to learn how to make pasta or gelato. Whatever your interest there’s a course for you. You can learn to master the art of making ravioli or pizza, try your hand at Tuscan desserts, or dip into some festive antipasti. It’s important to know that some cooking classes in Tuscany are very authentic in spirit, while others focus on more generic Italian cooking.
4. Go fancy or stay simple?
Cooking classes in Tuscany are getting more and more varied and inventive. Some combine the course with a visit to a market, teaching people how to choose ingredients – as at the Lorenzo de’ Medici School in San Lorenzo Market in Florence. There are courses organised in villas and elegant palaces, with a combination of a scenographic setting and culinary expertise. Some involve wine pairing exercises. Others keep things simple and genuine, like the one near Siena organised by Nonna Ciana.
5. To eat or not to eat?
Usually you’ll be able to eat what you cook after the class. This is part of the experience, but make sure it is specified. Can you expect a full meal or just a taste?
What is it that makes Tuscan cooking so special?
Food for Tuscans, and Italians in general, is practically a religion. And like every religion, it’s got its own rituals. Families stay proudly faithful to the traditional recipes handed down by “nonna” (or grandmother) and ingredients are chosen meticulous care. There’s rivalry too. And every town claims the title for having the most genuine version of a “primo piatto” or the best cured meat.
In Tuscany, cooking is about perfectionism, purity and passion. And you’ll learn to appreciate this if you choose the right class for you. You’ll learn how to prepare some deliciously authentic food, and you’ll add some Tuscan flavour to your holiday.