cowboys and italians.

Antoinetta & Piero – our wonderful Cooking Class Cowboys!

My beautiful friend, Lizanne, came to visit me in Italy for a long weekend. When she arrived, my very well-travelled companion admitted she had NEVER been to Italy. I was flabbergasted and immediately our Prosecco catch-up turned into a planning session on how best to utilise her 4 days in Tuscany to maximize her experience. And so, on Friday, while I slaved at the office, she went and walked the gorgeous Cinque Terre. Arriving back to the apartment with 25000 steps and a food diary that would rival most Italian food enthusiasts.

So, Friday night we packed to head towards Lucca for an Airbnb experience – a Tuscan cooking class. The reviews were terrific and we were so excited. I have often thought about signing up for one, but for some reason, have never booked. I am convinced, it is because I had to wait for this one, the creme-de-la-creme.

After a few minor setbacks on Saturday morning and some serious brain farts from me, we were finally on the autostrada and making our way down to Lucca. As the GPS wound us around the final corner, there was a super-smiley face waiting to direct our car into its parking spot, Antionetta, was there to greet us. With VERY little English, she made us feel very welcome and took us to their Tuscan ranch.

We sat down for the obligatory Italian cafe, which Antoinetta kindly made us as she navigated her way through google translate and my awful Italian. Piero, her husband of 40 years (celebrated this year) came over, dressed as a cowboy head to toe, with his wonderful dog shadowing his every move. They came over with big smiles and large personalities, excited to chat and make us feel welcome. Piero runs horse-rides into the mountains and has completely kitted out their home in all things Wild West, it is such an amazing place to get lost in all the curios, articles, and newspaper clippings.

Antoinetta, part of an association that protects the cultural traditions around food in Italy, has been on the Italian Food Network cooking for the film crew and taking them on a journey through life on the ranch – food and Piero’s horse riding. We got to watch a little of the documentary. Antoinetta is confident, smiley, and gentle, she was so affectionate and kind and I honestly felt like I had slipped into my long last Italian home.

While we finished our cafe, two more guests arrived, Cher and Sandy from The US. Such sweet and chatty additions to the day. Monica, a friend of Antoinetta, did an amazing job of translating for all of us – in her own kind and smiley way, she added such a lovely element to the whole dynamic.

And so with the team sheet set, our day began. Aproned up, we all took our place at our various stations in the large kitchen space. And there, Antoinetta really came alive, her passion and her confidence spilled out onto all of us and her unbelievable guidance turned all of us into master pasta makers.

The main task for the day was to learn to make fresh egg pasts with only our muscles – no machines allowed, only rolling pins, brute strength, and determination (helped by the flowing red wine and laughter). Antoinetta took us through the most traditional way of making pasta – using the Antico Flour (old grain) and combining that with their ’00’ flour, we slowly started the process, led by her. As we turned our dry flour, egg, and olive oil into the perfect flat sheet of fresh pasta. From there, we learned all the different ways of cutting the pasta to get different shapes – lasagna sheet, ravioli, tagliatelle, farfalle, etc., etc. It was amazing to watch the way her hands moved compared to ours, years of kneading and pressing, she did it like second nature. Only stepping in gently when needed.

Once that was done we took a momentary wine break, before coming back to make the most delicious bruschetta and finish off the pasta sauce – for the meat eaters – a ragu made with pork sausages and for me, a simple combination of olive oil and parmesan.

And then, we moved into the main part of the ranch, where Piero had so kindly set the most beautiful table and sourced some exceptionally fresh ricotta cheese. I have never tasted Ricotta like that before. We were encouraged to drizzle honey over the top and OH. MY. GOSH. Winner!

From the moment we sat, we started tucking into our starters of bruschetta, chicken liver pate, ricotta, pecorino, cold-cut meats, and a very tasty jam made by Antoinetta. Piero very proudly put the Italian Food network episode that profiled Antoinetta and as we ate our lunch, the show captured exactly what we were experiencing so well. It was such a beautiful experience. The authenticity of the experience was felt.

Everything we ate had been sourced from Antoinetta’s garden or from very close by, and so the freshness was bursting in the food. We heard stories of Piero’s cowboy life, from Cher and Sandy’s travels, and of Antoinetta’s cooking journey. Monica, so supportive of the family, kept letting us in on little titbits of information that the couple is too humble to share.

Lovely Monica!

Once the table was reset for our pasta course, we moved back into the kitchen for the cooking guidelines. Learning just a little more before the tasting of our efforts.

And how delicious it truly was! Lizanne and I were so delighted with every bite, from the delicious olive oil, to the parmesan, and everything in between. We had really made the yummiest pasta I have tasted! We were all proud 🙂

The wine continued to flow with the varied conversation topics. Slowly edging us into the sweetness of the dolce course. Antoinetta had made her famous tiramisu, but then also bought out fresh biscotti she had baked accompanied by a healthy serving of sweet wine. Ha ha, this was no time to be worried about the waistline and so “Si, si” (yes, yes) seemed to be the only reply when asked if you would like.

Antoinetta’s Biscotti.

I couldn’t stop smiling when we rolled out of there, the experience was everything I have dreamt of when imagining cooking with an Italian family and more! I loved it so much and cannot wait to go back! I highly recommend emailing Antoinetta here, if you would like to book!

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