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Cooking in Tuscany with Valentina Harris

Cooking with Valentina Harris in Tuscany: Intensive Immersion Program Back

  • Tour Code : TUR-01667
  • Type : Small Group
  • Duration : 8 days
  • Departs from : Lucca
  • Meeting Place : Villa

Description

In this unique cooking immersion experience with Valentina Harris a celebrity Tuscan Chef with 30 years experience who has written countless cook-books and worked in some of the most popular restaurants in Italy and the UK.

During our time in Tuscany we will be staying at the gorgeous Villa Amore, just outside of the beautiful walled city of Lucca.  The property is surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and gorgeous gardens.  Simply a dream property with an enormous kitchen that makes for a perfect instructional kitchen where all students will have their own space to enjoy hands on cooking throughout the week's program.   Each participant will walk away with a graduation certificate from Valentina Harris in Tuscan Culinary arts.  

Our primary focus during this intensive program is on food and you will have the opportunity to enjoy many gorgeous towns in the surrounding area, visit local farms, meet wine producers and engage with and hopefully make friends with a variety of other students with the same interests as you.

Whether permitting, we will be able to hunt for 'Tartufo' truffle in the Chianti, dine in a spectacular outdoor setting each day and in general enjoy ourselves to the fullest while learning the rich Tuscan culinary arts with an incredible teacher, author and chef born in the Tuscan tradition.

Itinerary

 

Day 1 - Welcome Day at the Villa - Orientation of Tuscan Cuisine and Participants - Welcome Dinner

Where we visit : Lucca
Meeting Location : Villa
Today, (Saturday afternoon) we will all meet at the VIlla. We will arrange for you to get there in advance of the tour and your transfer from Lucca or Pisa will be included.   You will be assigned your room and have time to unwind.   Every room in the villa has its own private bathroom and all participants will have their own bathrobes, slippers and bath products provided in their room.

At 16:00 PM this afternoon we will all gather in the main hall with Valentina and we will host a meet and greet session as well as over-view of the fundamentals of Tuscan cuisine, discuss the weekly program and get to know one another. 

During this time, the villa owners will serve up an 'Apperativo' with some delicious wine as we gear up for a welcome dinner this evening that nobody will be soon to forget! A prelude to a great week ahead. 
Meals : Dinner
 

Day 2 - Fundamentals of Great Pasta and Bread - Evening Walk and Time for Shopping in Lucca

Where we visit : Tuscany

With more than 350 varieties of pasta in Italy, it's easy to understand why it is the staple of every good Italian's diet. While many credit Marco Polo with the introduction of pasta or spaghetti to Italy, noodles have actually been present in the region since the time of the ancient Etruscans and Romans.

Tuscans take their pasta making very seriously, and the skill is one passed down through generations of Tuscans around the world. Choosing the right pasta to go with the right sauce is crucial, as is the method and timing required to make and cook the pasta dough.

Over the course of today you will learn all the basics of traditional Italian pasta making starting with a selection of the right kind of flour and followed by a gentle process of kneading and folding the dough by hand using the traditional method. Learn about the history, names and meanings of different pasta shapes and discover which sauces accompany which types of pasta in Tuscany.

All the ingredients for the pasta fillings and sauces come straight from local producers, including the villa's own organic kitchen gardens and farm.

Make ricotta-filled ravioli with sage, tagliolini with sausage ragù, and gnocchi with sheep’s cheese that comes from the surrounding local farms. 

For our adventurous chefs in the coming days, we will also explore gourmet pasta and Risotto dishes served with the elusive and precious tartufo (truffle).  You will learn how to make ravioli with truffle and ricotta, truffled tagliolini, and gnocchi with truffle and sheep's cheese. 

With a truffle expert near San Miniato (world famous for tartufo) we will venture into the woods to see the lands where truffles come from and hopefully find some ourselves as we learn how to store and create various products with tartufo, but today is dedicated to pasta! 

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cooking Class
 

Day 3 - Garden Gourmet, Tartufo Elements of Great Risotto

Where we visit : San Miniato
This morning we depart early for the world famous town of San Miniato a 35 minutes from our villa. 

Here, we will begin a truffle hunting expedition into the woods and hopefully find some truffle that we can take back to the villa with us. We will enjoy a detailed explanation about the various types of Tartufo and how to utlize them in a variety of dishes. 

We will also be covering today topics like 'root vegetables' in Italian cuisine like carrots, turnips, parsnip and various other vegetables that go into making soups, salads and various meat dishes.

Following a visit to the town of San Miniato itself, a chance to buy tartufo oil to take home with you and a light lunch here in the afternoon we head back to the villa where you will have some time to unwind after this morning's lecture series before beginning our late afternoon session leading into dinner where we will be focusing on Risotto, one of Valentina's specialties.  In fact, she has written an entire cook-book on it. 


 
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Wine Tasting
 

Day 4 - Cheese Making and the Art of Pizza

Where we visit : Tuscany

Today will be dedicated to Italian cheese including Pecorino, Ricotta, Mozzarella and a variety of other local cheese unique to this area.

We will start our day by heading to a local farm about 30 minute drive from our villa where we will be able to understand the art of creating artisan cheese.  The demonstration this morning will allow you to see that there is an elaborate process that goes into  pecorino, including the phases in between when the first curds float to the top and are extracted to make the simple cream-like raveggiolo and its salted equivalent, primo sale.

We will also witness and learn the secret to making great ricotta, which gains its name from the fact that the whey leftover from making pecorino is 'recooked' and transformed into cheese with the addition of fresh sheep's milk.

Since there are a number of local chesse which produced here we will also be purchasing some cheese and sampling cheese which we will be using again in some other dishes. 

At the farm today you will enjoy a light lunch where we will be pairing some of the cheese with local wines and meats so you can first hand experience these rich flavors.

In the afternoon we return to the villa for some quiet time followed by our late afternoon pizza making demonstration where we will be focusing on preparing the dough which we will need to leave to sit, during which time we will head to the spa town of Montecatini where you will have access to the thermal baths. 

Return to the villa to prepare the rest of our pizza ingredients and bake them in the oven this evening. 

 

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Wine Tasting, Cooking Class
 

Day 5 - Seafood and Fish

Where we visit : Tuscany

Tuscany boasts one of the cleanest coastlines on the Italian peninsula and supplies some of Italy's finest fresh fish.  Our villa is located in fact only 45 minutes from the coast and it is here where we will head to to explore the daily catch of seafood that comes in from the Tyrrhenian Sea which includes sea bass, red mullet, mussels, clams, octopus and more.

We will inspect the sea-food and purchase the catch on-site. Before heading back to the villa we will give you some time in Viareggio for some time to see the town, grab a coffee on an outdoor terrace before heading back to the villa to begin our lessons for the day which will be focusing on traditional fish and seafood course, where Valentina will teach you how to marinate anchovies, make risotto with black squid ink, cook octopus in red wine sauce, and create the world-famous cacciucco fish stew.

Today is an advanced session and at true seafood cookery class where you will learn to cook scampi or jumbo prawns with spelt and herbs, whole anchovies, pici pasta with red prawns, and roasted sea bass with green peas and peanuts. 

Playing with many ingredients from the garden and looking at how Italian cooking in so far as seafood is concerned can also be very similar to the Japanese at times and in fact Japanese and Italian cooking are becoming more and more of a fused art form in Italy.

Today will certainly be an experience you will not want to miss and one well worth coming to Italy for if just for this! 

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
 

Day 6 - Tuscan Meats and Sweet Traditions

Where we visit :
Today's focus will be on one of the staple of Tuscan cuisine which includes of course the Florentine Steak, wild boar and rabbit and today's session will begin by heading to a premier local butcher in Lucca to look at the various meat which we will purchase for today's lesson. 

Upon purchasing our meat this morning, heading back to the Villa for this afternoon's intensive sessions we will also be gearing up for this afternoon's sweet delights program which will be focusing on Italian deserts and will include a chocolate making session.

Some of the deserts this afternoon we will prpeare will include: 

Panforte is Siena's pride and joy, often referred to as 'Italian fruit cake'. Made from dried fruit, nuts, honey and spices, it dates back to the thirteenth century when Crusaders carried this so-called 'strong bread' or 'peppered bread' with them for energy. In fact, the people of Siena believe that each cake should contain 17 different ingredients to represent each of the city's contrade (neighborhoods).

Ricciarelli are also native to Siena and date back to the fourteenth century. These macaroon-type biscuits are made with almonds, sugar and egg whites, topped with icing sugar and traditionally served at Christmas with a warming glass of vin santo.

Pesche di Prato also have an intriguing history. Created to celebrate the unification of Italy in 1861, these little Italian sweets resemble a peach in appearance and are made using orange and lemon zest and liqueur. Traditionally served at Easter, these delicious treats are still popular with Tuscans today.

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Wine Tasting
 

Day 7 - Best of the Best: Preparing for a Full Course Meal from start to Finish Using Ingredients from the Week's Program

Where we visit : Tuscany
Our final day today will begin leisurely by the pool before our meeting will begin assigning tasks for the day. 

We will break up into teams who will be focusing on:
  • The Antipasto and wine for the meal 
  • Soup 
  • First Courses - Risotto and Pasta 
  • Second Course  
  • Salads 
  • Side Dishes 
  • Desert 
Valentina will be assigning the participants each a role in this evening's banquet and each party will make a list of ingredients they need, though the emphasis will be on using what we have in house, since our shopping activities this week will have been incredible and we will most likely have a plethora of ingredients to play with.

Today's final day will be spent at the villa in full preparation for the gala dinner this evening where graduation certificates will be awarded. 

 
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Wine Tasting, Cooking Class
 

Day 8 - Gourmet Tuscan Farewell Breakfast and Transfer back to Lucca Rail or Pisa Airport

Where we visit : Tuscany
After breakfast today it will be time to say goodbye. 
Meals : Breakfast

Map

 

Inclusions/Exclusions

Tour Highlights and What's Included

  1. All inclusive tour meaning all meals, all transport during the tour, apron, laundry when needed, wine with meals etc

What's Not Included

  1. Everything not clearly specified under “rates include”.
  2. Meals not mentioned in the program
  3. Optional excursions during your tour
  4. Travel Insurance

Sites and Locations Visited on this Tour

Pricing & Availability

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