Tanya and I have been looking forward to this “experience” as Luca and Lorenzo call it since we enquired about it last year. We meet Luca and the rest of the group, another 6 people at the train station for the short ride to their property just outside Florence in the Tuscan hills Lastra a Signa. Luca immediately creates an atmosphere of ease, fun and infectious camaraderie. Lorenzo from the north and Luca from the south have quit their jobs in the fashion industry to concentrate on living in the country with a very different life. Their home is an elegant blend of new comforts with tasteful old touches in art and furniture carefully sourced at markets including a confessional door leading to their pantry.
We are greeted by Ginger one of the 8 to 9 chickens they have and the very elderly but friendly cat. The reason it is 8 to 9 chickens is one of the chickens is leading a double life, occasionally coming home but mainly tasting the freedom of the forest where she lays her eggs.
Each of us has a work space ready with an apron and a name tag. We start with making the panna cotta as it will need to set for a few hours. There are three flavours to choose from so we can personalize our dessert, chocolate with hazelnut, lavender from their garden and coffee. We are told that to put instant coffee in anything Italian is “off with your head” and only freshly ground coffee beans will do.
Then we start on making the pasta. It is a gradual process, we are each making a portion for two combing 00 flour with semolina and one of their free range eggs to get a consistency to the touch of a “ baby’s bottom”.
Once our “babies”are made they have to rest a little for the gluten to take and be ready for the next step. Luca and Lorenzo take turns at the instruction and fill us with an amazing amount of knowledge from their Nona’s ( grandmothers), both boys having enjoyed their times helping their Grandmothers cook.
Next we prepare the filling for the ravioli we will be making. A simple sheep ricotta, zest of Amalfi lemons, freshly mortared pepper and pecorino grated cheese. I get the honor of putting all the ingredients together for the pesto sauce for our tagliallini pasta we will also be making and it’s time to pour out the Prosecco. The ingredient proportions are not for the faint hearted 30 tablespoons of Parmesan and pecorino, a brimming glass of their virgin olive oil, big cloves of garlic, a massive tray of beautiful basil and pine nuts. This is the original recipe. Lorenzo tells us the traditions around a toast and I clearly am one not to Chin chin with as it will bring on bad sex for life if you chink with someone holding a non alcoholic drink!
We start the rolling out of the pasta process, everyone gets to do a strip and the volume of conversation and laughter in the room appreciably is raised thanks to the Prosecco. We get to munch on some appetizers including their own organic olives that take several weeks to get just right, soaking in salted water and vinegar, a homemade truffle butter sprinkled with sage flowers from their garden and a specialty Tuscan cracker.
After rolling the pasta out it has to rest again. We get instruction on how to make other types of pasta and what they look like from Luca.
Then it’s time for some guitar exposure. This is a pasta making tool that produces different types of pasta thickness and shapes. We make videos of each other as we concentrate on our production, it’s so fun.
The tagliellinis look great, they get a sprinkling of semolina not to get stuck on each other in the cooking process.
Next it is time to fill the ravioli , everyone concentrates to make the pillows even and to get the excess air from the filling otherwise as Lorenzo says they may “ explode” in the cooking process.
We are making quite the feast and we are pretty proud of ourselves. Now that all the pasta is made it is time to start the cooking process.
Lorenzo does the ravioli with a very simple butter, lemon rind, black pepper and fresh sage leaf sauce. The table is set and we are ready to start lunch.
Everything is done with such flair it really adds to the experience. Chianti wine will accompany the meal. We had some rain during the preparation process but now the sun is out and the birds are singing, perfect.
Ravioli is served first. Honestly it is the most tender and delicious ravioli we have had, all pillows of equal size even though 8 people have made them.
Then it’s second course our tagliallini with our pesto sauce, WOW! The panna cotta is perfectly set, we both had picked the hazelnut chocolate version and it’s the first panna cotta I actually like the texture and flavour of.
Luca and Lorenzo have been kind and generous with their knowledge and the day has been sprinkled with their playful bickering and humor. We have had a blast. To top it off we get a little certificate as a memento of our day.
Back to Florence we go to reconnect with André who has had fun exploring the enormous Boboli Gardens, but has had a very average lunch 😦 We now have tips for the best Gelateria in Italy from Luca close to where we will be staying over the next few days so we will be able to make up for that.