There’s nothing quite like making your own pasta when you’re in the heart of Tuscany.
When the hubs and I were planning our trip in 2015, his co-worker recommended Accidental Tourist to us.
I have now taken this cooking class twice; it is truly an amazing experience. When the ladies and I were planning our trip this year, I was emphatic: Accidental Tourist is a MUST-DO when in Tuscany.
Accidental Tourist is a family-run business. Majla and Marco host the cooking classes in their home, a rambling, ramshackle house straight out of Harry Potter, built around a 12th-century watchtower (see below). Malja and her family have the top two floors, and the space is decorated in a quirky, bohemian, colorful style that I absolutely love.
Malja and Marco have a lovely little room above their home, too, that they rent out in exchange for a little help around the house–that’s all, no additional money need exchange hands! I’ve always stayed in Florence when I’ve been in Tuscany; however, if I were to go back for a more slow-paced visit, I would absolutely consider staying in their Tuscan Medieval Villa.
Both times, I booked the Wine & Cook tour, but each time was a little bit different.
In September 2015, Steve was our guide and teacher. Steve is an interesting fellow; he’s originally from South Carolina, but he’s lived in Italy for twenty-odd years, and, stranger yet, he’s managed to get a British accent.
Steve took us to a villa surrounded by breathtaking rolling hills, vineyards, and olive trees. He told us how olive oil was made, even showed us the olive press, then took us to the villa’s barn, where we tasted local wines and tore through unlimited loaves of bread dipped in local olive oil. Heaven.
This past May, Steve took us to a different place, an XI century hamlet where a wonderfully flamboyant oenologist explained the science behind winemaking, showed us the barrels where the wine ferments, and took us up to an awesome room where we tasted wine and had traditional Tuscan bread drizzled with olive oil.
After the wine tasting, Malja brought us back to her home. In the foyer, Malja’s grandfather’s piano lives, and we were lucky enough to have an amazing pianist in our midst. We all stood in a circle while he played an original piece, the music filling the stone walls.
Upstairs, all eight of us circled around a giant table, and we set to work making fettucini noodles and ravioli stuffed with spinach, parmesan, and ricotta.
I also learned that Italians don’t have gluten intolerances like we Americans have, and it all comes down to the flour—ours is overprocessed, bleached, genetically modified, whereas all of the ingredients are natural and super-fresh.
While we were making the pasta, Marco was busy making our first course: Fresh bread with melted buffalo mozzarella, honey, and a sprinkle of cracked pepper; Caprese salad; and a spinach frittata. (The cheese and honey combo is one I never would have dreamed up on my own, but it is one of the best flavors I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.)
Then came the pasta: The ravioli was cooked in a butter sauce with sage and orange zest, while the fettuccini was lightly coated in a sweet tomato sauce that had a little fiery kick at the end.
The first time we had dinner at Malja and Marco’s, Marco whipped up fresh peach sorbet, passing it around with a little shrug as if to say, “Oh this? I just whipped this up, no biggie.) This time, Marco made a simple sweet treat with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, topped off with some interesting digestives (if you’re into that kind of thing).
All nine of us sat around Malja and Marco’s large kitchen table, passing red wine and swapping stories about our travels, all while eating the single-most delicious meal of my life (such fresh ingredients! such simple recipes! and yet: culinary masterpieces!). (Okay, so technically I’ve had this meal twice, but you get what I’m saying. I dream of this meal.)
It is a truly unique experience that I honestly don’t think you’d get anywhere else. I’m sure cooking classes are a dime a dozen in Tuscany, but it would be incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to beat the very personal experience of cooking and sharing a meal with Malja and Marco from Accidental Tourist.
- italy travel tip: take a day trip to cinque terre from florence
- italy travel tip: take an inexpensive half-day trip to pisa from florence
- italy travel tip: recommendations for museum-going in florence
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