Tuscany has always been a rural region whose history and tradition are inseparable from farming and the processing of agricultural products.
At a family smallholding, each member of the family had a task. While the men worked the land, the older children took care of the animals and the women organized the household. Their most important job was managing the kitchen; quite a task when you consider that their pantries were not exactly overflowing with food.
Rural society was governed by an economic-agricultural system called mezzadria (sharecropping): the peasants undertook to work in the fields and then share the harvest with landowners, who were given the best ingredients, such as the best and freshest cuts of meat. Farming families had to settle instead for whatever was left over.
However, farmers could count on the freshness of the other foods that they ate because they grew them themselves. In fact, when we talk about the Mediterranean diet, we mean a healthy diet which is low in meat and animal products, and consists mainly of grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
This situation gave rise to a magnificent ‘poor’ cuisine, with the birth of some of the best-known recipes of the Tuscan tradition, using up every scrap of food available. For example ribollita, made with leftover vegetables and stale bread, or pappa al pomodoro, a tomato and stale bread soup. Not to mention panzanella, a bread salad made in summer. And of course vegetable soups made with grains and legumes, such as pasta and chickpea soup, pasta and bean soup, farro soup or onion soup.
The tour will begin with a visit to an organic/biodynamic farm or a farmer’s market to shop for the ingredients we will cook with. We will buy only the highest quality organic produce. We will use strictly seasonal fruits and vegetables; in the summer, these will come straight from the family’s vegetable garden.
The cooking class will be simple but fun. It will be hands-on, with you cooking everything, assisted and guided by one of our chefs. We will prepare a full meal together, from the appetizer to the dessert. The main part of the class will concentrate on making two different types of pasta: orecchiette, lasagne, tagliatelle, pici, gnocchi, tortellini or ravioli.
We will fully respect the Tuscan tradition that favours simple, unelaborate recipes, with pure tastes that help bring out the freshness and flavour of each ingredient. You will see that it is the quality of the products that make all the difference to the finished dish.
We will round off the day by visiting a winery where, after strolling through the vineyards and visiting the cellars, we will taste all the types of wines in production.