For many people this is one of the finest parts of a trip to the region and keeps people coming back to our Tuscan villas year after year. That’s because Tuscan dishes embody all that’s good about Italian food – a cuisine which is loved all over the world.
Local dishes are satisfying, homely, rich and flavoursome and give diners a sense their dinner has been made with real love and passion.
So how do you capture the essence of Tuscan cooking and recreate it at home?
Many people have tried to solve that problem and have cooked up their own version of dishes they enjoyed on holidays in Tuscany using various methods – from memory, using produce flown back to the UK, from an authentic recipe or using a celebrity chef’s advice.
But when it comes to cooking up a taste of Tuscany at home the best answer to the question of how to do so is the most obvious one – learn from a local.
One way we recommend doing this is by attending one of a number of cookery classes run by famous Tuscan chef Paolo Monti in his Lucca restaurant.
Paolo was born in a flour mill and bakery in a small riverside village in the very heart of Tuscany in 1952 and as a result has cooking in his blood. Some of his earliest memories involve huge mill wheels turning to make flour, the smell of freshly kneaded dough and the taste of warm and delicious bread. He can also remember growing up on a diet of tomatoes, basil, rosemary, sage, parsley and celery which was grown in the fields around the mill, fish caught in the river, homemade hams, and chicken and the rabbit which was reared in the mill garden.
After a childhood spent dining on this traditional and delicious food it’s little surprise Paolo grew up with ambitions of becoming a chef, and from an early age he took lessons from his mother. He then headed to a catering college in his home town of Montecatini Terme and graduated in 1970 before travelling Europe, the USA and Middle East as a young chef learning his trade.
When he moved back to Tuscany he set up his own restaurant and soon realised there was a demand for visitors to the area to learn to cook the local dishes they enjoyed in his dining room. As a fluent speaker of English, French and German hosting a cookery class packed with foreigners held no fear for Paolo and as a result the Paolo Monti Cucina Italiana (Italian cuisine) schoolwas born.
Travellers can sign up as students on a number of courses ranging from seven days in length to just a few hours and whatever course is chosen Paolo aims to teach basic knowledge of how the Cucina Italiana is structured and prepared.
His classes focus on the dishes served in his restaurants with an accent on traditional and contemporary Italian recipes. Students will use the freshest ingredients and herbs to prepare dishes with short cooking times – which can then be recreated back at home.