Memories and Tuscan cuisine created at a Florence cooking class

chopped fresh tomatoes

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To immerse yourself in a country, you must understand its food culture. Nowhere is this more true than in Italy.

So when you visit Florence, one of the Italian food capitals, make sure to discover what is special about local Tuscan cuisine.

How do you do it? Take a cooking class in Florence with an expert guide. You will take home the ultimate souvenir – the skills to recreate the dishes at home.

After all, taste and smell are senses that can transport you to another place and time in an instant.

A half day Florence cooking class

making pasta with Fabrizia Cantini

One of my favourite things to do on our travels is to hire a local guide who has in depth knowledge of their subject and region. Patrizia Cantini, our expert guide and teacher in Florence, has a passion for Tuscany and its cooking traditions that is infectious.

A food and wine journalist, cook and author, Patrizia led us on a voyage of discovery of local produce, recipes and traditions during our Florentine cooking class.

Visiting the market

Mercato Sant'Ambrogio Florence

We started our day exploring the Sant’Ambrogio Market found in the Piazza Ghiberti near Santa Croce. Most visitors to Florence head for the San Lorenzo market and Mercato Centrale but Patrizia explained that sadly, the produce and stalls no longer cater for locals.

At Mercato Sant’Ambrogio we browsed the stalls, looking for in season produce and local delicacies. The covered market has both indoor and outdoor stalls of fruit and vegetables, meat, cheeses and fresh pasta.

A visit to the market is an absolute treasure trove for food lovers and I recommend going when you are in Florence.

Crafting a menu of traditional Tuscan dishes

fresh tomatoes

It takes a seasoned host to pull together a menu that will appeal to all their guests – especially when they’ve just met. Patrizia expertly balanced the tastes of our party of four with what was available at the market.

Oozing ripe figs provided the inspiration for our appetizer, while the late season tomatoes were deemed perfect for our pasta primi piatti (first course). Trying the traditional Tuscan recipe ‘peposo’ or beef stew with pepper was a priority when we heard the recipe was 600 years old. Our final dish was a simple crostata or jam tart.

We went from stall to stall carefully choosing what we needed, learning about traditional Tuscan cooking along the way.

Tuscan cuisine

tuscan salami and cheese

Respect for local and seasonal ingredients is central to Italian cuisine, from Venice and Lombardy in the north to Sicily and Campania in the south. In Italy, this concept is a passion and of course it’s present in Florence too.

Patrizia explained that the food of Tuscany is simple fare using the freshest and best ingredients. Beans and pulses are often used in cooking as well as game meats, rabbit, hare and pigeon.

Of course along the Tuscan coast, seafood is plentiful and prepared in many delicious ways. And each province and hamlet has its own salami, sausages and cheese.

Famous dishes from Tuscany include bruschetta – toast with freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil and toppings, minestrone soup made with white beans and vegetables, and bistecca Fiorentina – Tbone steak Tuscan style.

The food we prepared during our class included several other classic Tuscan dishes.

Learning a 600 year old recipe

Peposo

After visiting the market we headed back to Patrizia’s home to begin making our feast. Due to the long cooking time required, we began with our main beef dish.

Peposo is a simple beef stew with a long and wonderful history. The recipe comes from Impruneta in the Chianti region near Florence, also famous for making the terracotta tiles that form Brunelleschi’s famous dome on the duomo.

Traditionally made with secondary cuts of beef, wine and lots of peppercorns, the stew is cooked for several hours in a terracotta pot until the meat is tender. Legend says that the workers building the dome were fed peposo and that it was a dish that Brunelleschi himself enjoyed.

Tomatoes were added to the peposo recipe probably around the 18th or 19th centuries when they first appeared in Italian cooking.

If you are interested in learning about Italian food history I recommend John Dickie’s book Delizia

We followed the tomato based peposo recipe and let me tell you, it was absolutely delicious. The meat was tender and rich and was perfectly matched to the spice of the peppercorns.

Making pasta

pasta making at a Florence cooking class

No Italian cooking class would be complete without a pasta lesson would it?

We made fresh tagliatelle using flour, eggs, water and salt. Rolling and rolling the dough to remove air bubbles is one of the secrets we learnt during our cooking class. This ensures the dough doesn’t break when it is rolled through the pasta machine.

To accompany our pasta, we prepared a simple sauce of fresh tomato, basil and garlic.

A Tuscan dessert

making crostata

In Italy, if you have an abundance of fruit you make jam or marmellata. Patrizia’s home made cherry jam was the inspiration for our crostata jam tart dessert. The jam was quite tart and the perfect foil for the buttery sweet pastry made to a generations old family recipe.

The process of making the tart was quite the revelation in minimal cooking – only one dish was used in the making of this dessert!

The finale – eating and drinking

Florence cooking class - crostata

Enjoying the meal we created together in Patrizia’s home, at her family table, was a highlight of our time in Florence. I don’t know about you but sharing a meal with family or new friends is always one of the most memorable experiences on our travels.

Apart from the savouring each course and the fabulous local Chianti Rufina wine, we learnt a little more about Patrizia and our fellow travellers, an American couple honeymooning in Italy. We laughed, ate and drank our way contentedly into the afternoon.

I look forward to reliving that wonderful Tuscan meal when we recreate the dishes in our own home.

Learn the recipes from Tuscany at home

fresh pasta with tomato sauce

One of the things we learnt about Patrizia was that she was inspired to self publish a book of recipes to preserve her family’s cooking traditions. Written in English, there are 100 recipes from Tuscany and Emilia Romagna where Patrizia’s mother was born.

Of course there are oodles of fresh noodle or pasta recipes in Patrizia’s book, as well as the famous peposo beef stew I mentioned earlier. If you can’t make it to Florence to eat at her table, her book is the next best thing.

There is even a recipe for the amazing crostata. It’s Patrizia’s aunt’s recipe because it is better than her mother’s. She told us that with a cheeky smile. You can find Patrizia’s Italian Cookbook: 100 recipes from Tuscany and Emilia Romagna on Amazon.

Discover Tuscan cooking in the countryside

Val d orcia southern Tuscany

If you have time, and I would definitely try to make some, head to the hills and explore the Tuscan countryside for the ultimate foodie discoveries.

To the south the area around the Val D’Orcia is a gourmet paradise. The wine regions of Montepulciano and Montalcino offer delicious fare to complement their famous wines.

If you visit in autumn don’t miss the famous pecorino cheese rolling festival in Pienza – a stunning hilltop town.

Pecorino Toscana Pienza

Heading north west of Florence, the hills surrounding Lucca offer another insight into Tuscan cooking and it’s where I saw the biggest mortadella sausage possibly in world.

Spending a week doing cooking classes in Tuscany is near the top of my Italian bucket list – I hope I can update you on that very soon.

In the meantime, why not browse these classic day trips from Florence – it’s the best way to discover more of the cuisine in Tuscany.


We collaborated with Context Travel to bring you this post, which also includes some affiliate links. As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own. You can read more on our disclosure page.


 

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47 thoughts on “Memories and Tuscan cuisine created at a Florence cooking class

  1. Lolo says:

    That’s so fun you did a cooking class with a woman who wrote a book to save her family’s traditional recipes! I love that! We really need to slow travel more so that we can take the time to do something like a cooking class! #FarawayFiles

    • Katy says:

      There were only 4 of us and we learnt so much about technique and different approaches to managing humidity in the air which can make a huge difference in pasta making

  2. Esther says:

    This looks absolutely amazing!! I’d love to do a class. I have just returned from Bologna, where all I basically did was eat!! 😉
    #FarawayFiles

    • Katy says:

      Oh my gosh.. Italy is the best for that. Did you hear about the Eataly theme park they are opening in Bologna soon. Extra stretchy pants needed for that experience I think

  3. Amanda says:

    This couldn’t have come at a better time- I’ve been researching cooking classes to take when we visit Italy with my parents. I absolutely can’t wait, it looks so delicious. #farawayfiles

  4. Tara says:

    Now I’m hankering for some pasta and it’s only 10.30am! It all looks delicious. I always find pasta tastes so much better in Italy too 🙂 #Farawayfiles

  5. Allison says:

    This would be such a fun experience. And even better that it takes place in her home. There’s no better way to get to know another culture’s food and way of life than spending a day with the people that live there. #FarawayFiles

  6. Clare Thomson says:

    An Italian cooking class is high up on my wishlist too. I’ve never made pasta either so it would be fun to learn. I really loved the Tuscan food we ate in Florence especially the yummy pappa al pomodoro soup. #farawayfiles

  7. Keri | Ladies What Travel says:

    My inlaws are italian and reading this made me soooo hungry for some hearty Italian food! I love cooking classes when I travel though, means I can take home some recipes for a taste of my trip back at home. I learnt quite a few of our regular meals during lessons in Thailand and Vietnam! 😀 #FarawayFiles

    • Katy says:

      I love the regional variance of the food in Italy. We learnt a whole new way to make pasta that I wont be confessing to my mother in law!

  8. Chiera says:

    If there is one thing I am hopeless at, it’s cooking. I get so stressed out in the kitchen. All the noises and the heat. I can’t cope! In saying that, I would LOVE to learn and what a better place to take a cooking class than Florence! Amazing

    • Katy says:

      The best thing about Italian cooking is it is really quite simple and straightforward. They key is amazing fresh ingredients. Definitely do a course in Italy – you’ll come back inspired

  9. Carolyn Eddie says:

    This I would love to do. Italian coking is all about the ingredients and the history, What a fabulous way to spent a day. Also interesting to think of how recently tomatoes have been introduced to Italy.

  10. Annabel says:

    Those recipes sound delicious. I have very fond memories of eating and drinking in Tuscany. I’d definitely to try a cookery course next time I’m in the region. #farawayfiles

  11. Ashley says:

    I love that you were able to visit the market as part of the cooking class! We did a cooking class in Tuscany, which was also great but I think the market visit definitely adds something special. Looks like the results were amazing!

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Ashley, I think visiting the market was very important to the experience. I am a pretty good cook but I always go armed with a list. I couldn’t pull together a menu like Patrizia did

  12. Eddie says:

    Whenever I think of learning Tuscan cooking, I think of Aziz Anzari in “Master of None”.

    These photos make my dinner seem like McDonalds my comparison. Keep up the good work!

    • Katy says:

      Ohhh I havent seen that episode. I googled it and saw it was the finale so I stopped reading 🙂 Aziz Anzari is a funny guy. Thanks for stopping by Eddie

  13. Bryna | Dotted Line Travels says:

    I’ve never thought of a cooking class as a travel activity until I started seeing blog posts about it, and I think Italy would be a wonderful place to try it out! I’d love to try my hand at making fresh pasta and that Peposo!

  14. Shelley Jarvis says:

    One of the most surprising things that I learned while living in Italy is that Italian recipes, for the most part, are very simple. They are not the overworked recipes of American Italian cuisine. They simply mach a few perfectly paired local organic flavors.

    I love Mercato Centrale and always send people there. Next time I will check out Sant’Ambrogio.

    Can’t wait to hear more of your cooking adventures.

  15. Hilary says:

    Everything looked so delicious what a fun experience! We always try to visit local markets or even grocery stores when we are traveling, it’s always fun to see the different items available, and to taste them along the way. #farawayfiles

    • Katy says:

      There is literally nothing better than snack shopping when you are in another country. Although the salted licorice we found in Norway was not that nice!

  16. Angie Vincent says:

    I love this post. We are going to Florence in January and will definitely check out the Sant’Ambrogio Market. I always make a point of visiting markets when travelling and this looks amazing. I remember one of the most delicous lunches I have ever eaten was in Montepulciano, and as for the red wine, oh my goodness, delicious! #FarawayFiles

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Angie. Sant’Ambrogio is a small market but it’s worth having a poke around the stalls. I expect there will be an abundance of mushrooms on offer at that time of year. Yum!

  17. Danielle says:

    Wow. I am in love with this. We are thinking about heading back to Italy next summer and we might have to do this cooking class! Gorgeous pictures and it looks like you had a fabulous time. Thanks for sharing!! #farawayfiles

  18. Rosie says:

    This does sound fun and a wonderful experience. I’ve always wanted to do this, and wow, it is better than I had imagined, but I assume it helps to have a good cooking class instructor. I’d love those trips to market, I’m swooning with these descriptions. I’ve never heard of Peposo before!

    • Katy Clarke says:

      Thank you Rosie, we had a wonderful time and the Peposo was delicious. One trick we learnt was to get the best quality tinned tomatoes. Mutti is an excellent Italian brand recommended by our instructors and we found it in Australia so are very happy we can reproduce this delicious dish. Thanks so much for stopping by

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