By Ylenia Sambati, Salento native and owner of YLE Tours
Spring and summer are wonderful times in the south of Italy where colors and nature look
perfect for a tour, a ride, a walk by the ocean and of course a cooking class at the farm. Why not take a a cooking class in Puglia, Italy if you’re traveling in Italy?
Food and wine are very important in the Italian culture
And we relish sharing it with friends is even more. There are so many interesting things to know about local habits around the table. A high percentage of folks here are fit, healthy and make sport a regular habit, although they eat lot of pasta and drink robust red negroamaro wine daily. The secrets lie in what they have been consuming since childhood, which is a genuine nutrition mostly based on vegetables, legumes, pasta (better if hand-made) and lots of fish (more than meat). It is our common habit here to eat vegetables every day regularly and it’s even better if they have been bought from a local farmer’s market.
Spending the day together for a foodie tour and cooking class is always such a beautiful experience.
I meet guests at their hotel or farmhouse and after a quick briefing on what our day is going to look like, we start the tour.
We start our special day with a foodie tour where my friends meet local producers and truly taste the goods they offer. Producers are always happy to show how they make such delicious things and the local traditions they keep alive in their daily job.
Our foodie tour
It starts in one of the food markets in town where unique fresh vegetables and fruits beckon (many goods are not in their countries). Wild vegetables here for example are used to make simple and tasty recipes of the rural tradition like wild chicory, seasoned with spices and cheese.
Our guests stop several times to take pictures and shop. One New Yorker was very attracted by the pendula (hanging) tomatoes she had never seen before; these are very common in our homes, since we use them for cooking all the time and usually hang them in the kitchen or on a wall.
Next we meet Sergio, a nice mozzarella and scamorza (smoked mozzarella) cheese producer who shows us how to make them. He kindly explains each moment of the preparation and at the end of the demo offers a taste of delicious, fresh cheese. We shop for burrata mozzarella and ricotta fresh cheese, which we use as the aperitivo during our cooking class.
Luca is our third visit, a popular local pastry chef who makes traditional cakes and sweet delicacies. Friends taste an iced dessert called “spumone”, an Italian ice cream made with muti-colored layers (usually chocolate and nut) with a fruit or nut layer between them.
By the time we head to the farm everyone’s eyes and palates are already in an ecstasy mood! We use one of the rustic kitchens for our cooking classes, where our friends are fascinated by the color of the stone, the presence of traditional objects used as decorative ornaments and “dulcis in fundo” the stunning kitchen where our lesson took place. It is not easy to synthesize the beauty and the light in a few words; only those who have visited can truly describe it. Ah, such a cozy and familiar atmosphere that stays in your heart forever.
The lovely Mamma Giulia waits for us in the kitchen with her flavors, semolina and kitchen utensils. We deliver our friends the popular “gift bag” with an apron inside – to take home – recipes, little gifts and foodie delicacies.
Guests learn to make hand made pasta (orecchiette and sagne ncannulate), bread and focaccia, potato croquette and fish boning – all done the salento way. The class ends with a delightful oval shaped typical local dessert called “pasticciotto”, made out of shortbread pastry and filled with custard cream.
In the middle of our class, some other guests at the farm join us for the aperitivo. They were so hungry too and could not wait to taste the creations of our friends. Orecchiette were intended to be prepared with broccoli rabes and chilly, a specialty to die for.
It is very fun cooking and tasting the delicious focaccia coming out of the oven every 20 minutes was pure delirium. All these delicacies were paired with local wines – white and cold for the aperitivo and a red negroamaro during lunch.
The triumph comes when Mamma Giulia seasons the orecchiette and serves them hot for the tasting. At that point of the day there were many other friends in the kitchen who wanted to eat and drink with us.
Once we went back to Lecce and after a little shopping of kitchen utensils our day was complete. A truly beautiful and relaxing day spent in good company.
So if you want to celebrate the extraordinary beauty of Puglia “cucina contadina” (peasant cooking) keeping food and simplicity at the centre of family and friends life, eating with a local family, sharing the joy of food and of the “casa“, then Puglia will be the wish-fulfillment destination for you.
Cooking with a local Mum is the best way to experience this authenticity: watch her rolling pasta, make focaccia and bread with her and chat in a fun Italian language.
Classes are run in a very casual and friendly way with lunch or dinner based on your creations. You will love our recipes Salento style and the familiar atmosphere of our cooking classes.
To reserve your special cooking class with a MAMMA, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
YLTOUR offers cooking lessons, winery tours, gourmet tours, harvest experience, excursions to artisan food and wine producers and of course, very popular cooking vacation programs in Puglia that include accommodations and excursions to remote villages.