Sometimes our guests come to Florence and fall so in love with Italian cuisine that they want to learn to cook it themselves. They often ask us where they could take a few cooking classes. Since we love to give our guests only the very best tips, we never suggest anything without having tried it first to make sure that it is up to our standards and that they come back happy. This is why we headed to the cooking school MaMa Florence to take a cooking class a few days ago.
The small cooking school was opened a few years ago by Filippo Bartolotta, an experienced wine instructor with impressive international experience, and Vanessa Held, a wine and food tour specialist, and an expert in extra virgin olive oil (she even holds a Masters in it!).
The location is in a beautiful space with a stone wall, vault ceilings, and small internal garden. The interior has two areas, one with small tables for participants and one with a common table organized around the chef.
The chef is a young Italian man named Michele. He worked in top international restaurants for years before coming back to Florence to focus on teaching Tuscan cuisine. He is fantastic at telling about the dishes, traditions, and involving everyone.
Tuscan cooking class
We worked together in the first part of the class at the common table around the stove, everyone doing their part — some cut, some sliced, and some prepared the dough with flour, egg, and yeast. Under his guidance, we learn to make a few of the classic dishes of Italian cuisine.
Even if you’ve never so much as touched a cooking spoon or a knife in your life, you can go ahead and join the class, no problem.
We noticed that it was a really diverse class with Americans, northern Europeans, Israelis, Icelanders… And the age ran the spectrum, too, with a middle-aged couple, a complete family including a one-year- old baby, and a young girl and her mom. It shows that everyone likes cooking! No matter their age, gender or religion!
Learning to make pasta and cantuccini
After the first part of working together to learn to make Tuscany’s cantuccini — famous almond cookies from Florence and Prato — a grape focaccia, meat sauce to top the ravioli and baked stuffed zucchini, we moved to the individual tables.
This was the most fun part. We each had our own pasta making machine. After kneading the dough, we put it through this little machine that stretches the pasta super thin. Then we cut it into circles, filled it with a potato and rosemary stuffing and made ravioli. Amazing!
After 3 hours of work — that sped by amidst laughter, flour, and eggs — we headed to the cellar space for “prosecco time.” We made a toast and sampled some extra virgin olive oil.
When we went back up, the room had been prepared for lunch with a lovely table set for all participants to enjoy the fruit of our labors.
We liked the cooking class for a lot of reasons.
- It was practical — you really learn to cook. You get the recipes at the end to bring home to make the dishes again.
- The location is lovely, with jazz in the background, in a brightly-lit, clean space with a great atmosphere.
- The chef is talented and friendly. He speaks English well and involves everyone without forcing them.
- It was a great arrangement for socializing, with a small group (about 10) and with some areas for working together, so that after a bit you became friends with other tourists too. And you might end up — as we did — sharing ideas, exchanging addresses, and tips…that’s part of traveling, too!
MaMa organizes both customized classes — including gluten-free, vegetarian, and for kids — and regularly scheduled classes.
For info: http://www.mamaflorence.com/
P.S. The grape focaccia was delicious!