Tuscan Cooking Schools


Castello Banfi

On a trip full of memorable experiences, high among them would have to be our cooking class at Castello Banfi. The session was scheduled to start at 10 a.m., and I assumed we’d go through our paces and then sit down for lunch at the usual hour. Instead, we spent six hours in the kitchen (using residential rather than professional appliances) under the careful and congenial direction of the head chef, Riccardo Cappelli.

Everyone pitched in — we were six in all — measuring, chopping, slicing, whisking, tossing, cranking (a pasta machine), plating and serving. Under the chef’s watchful eye, we produced a full four-course meal: light flans flavored with zucchini, complemented by a tomato concasse; handmade tagliatelle pasta topped with a rich ragu of Chianina beef; sliced fillet of veal with sautéed porcini mushrooms and mashed potatoes ennobled with black truffles; and chocolate lava cake. Finally, we sat down to eat at 4 p.m. All of the dishes were accompanied, of course, by fine Banfi wines.

Local and fresh orange-yolk eggs at Castello Banfi
Light flan flavored with zucchini and a side of tomato concasse at Castello Banfi

Our handmade tagliatelle pasta topped with Tuscan Chianina beef ragu at Castello Banfi

Sliced fillet of veal with sautéed porcini mushrooms, mashed potatoes and the chef’s sliced black truffles at Castello Banfi
Chocolate lava cake at Castello Banfi

Castiglion del Bosco

We also signed up for the cooking school during our stay at Castiglion del Bosco. It is housed within the former priest’s house, La Canonica, at the heart of the borgo. Just steps away from this restored building is a wonderful walled kitchen garden — designed by the same landscape architect who created the Vatican Gardens — the seasonal plots and beds of which contain more than 180 varieties of vegetables and herbs. Four courses are offered: “Pasta Fresca Experience;” “Pizza Experience;” “Tuscan Meal Experience;” and “Forgotten Flavours” (the last being intriguingly defined as “... an adventure designed to uncover age-old tastes (sapori) and techniques (saperi). ... a form of culinary archaeology, aimed at bringing to light the roots of Tuscan identity.”).

We opted for a morning pasta class, which took place in a kitchen with a huge stove and a superb array of copper cookware. Our instructor, Ricardo, proved charming and down to earth. After tour of the orto, the kitchen garden, he held a fascinating question-and-answer session. Next, he showed us how to make a variety of shaped pastas from just one sheet of handmade dough. The two-hour session concluded at noon. At lunch, we feasted on the spinach-ricotta tortellini and tagliatelle we had made, both accompanied by with a simple but sublime sugo di pomodoro (tomato sauce).

The kitchen at Castiglion del Bosco
Freshly picked basil and tomatoes from the garden at Castiglion del Bosco
Our tagliatelle and spinach-ricotta tortellini with a
simple but sublime tomato sauce at Castiglion del Bosco

This article appeared in the December 2014 print edition of Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report under the headline “Gastronomic Inspiration.”

Illustrations © Melissa Colson

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.

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