Our Italian cooking school started when we met Shirley Ofria of TuscanCulinary.com, at a little cafe in Cortona. Shirley was born in California but moved to Italy when her husband relocated his work here in 2005. They own an agriturismo and she holds cooking classes three or four times a week. She took us to four different markets to buy the ingredients for today's meals. We started at a market that let you touch and examine the fruits and vegetables, then we went to a vegetable market where you were not allowed to touch anything. We then went to a bread and cheese market and lastly a meat market. Everything Shirley purchased was fresh. She then drove us to her house which was even higher on the mountain than Cortona. It was beautiful and so quiet. She has chickens which she uses for the eggs but even they did not make much noise.
She put us all to work right away making dough for focaccia bread, then she had us start making Tiramisu so it could set up in the refridgerator. We made fennel salad with orange slices, stuffed zucchini blossoms, rice stuffed tomatoes, a meat tray with five different meats including meat from the cheeks of a pig, various cheeses, a melon with balsamic and oil served on arugula, and that was just for lunch. After lunch it was time to start making pasta but we really just wanted to take a nap. As you might guess, that was out of the question, so we did the dishes and started in again. We hand made three different types of pasta and four different sauces. We learned that north of Rome there is not a lot of garlic used in cooking but south of Rome there is a lot used. We also learned that coffee prices in Italy are regulated by the government and that measuring cups are based on the British measure which is 10oz to our 8oz.
The pastas were done by 7 which was only about three or four hours after we had all that lunch but we managed to eat some of all four dishes, but wait we weren't done yet. There was also a chicken and mushroom dish, as well as, a kale vegetable dish and boiled onions to eat. When Shirley, who is very tiny, saw that we hadn't finished all the food she seemed disappointed, doesn't she know the human stomach only holds about one liter?
We made some delicious food and had some great wine with it but the best part of course was the tiramisu, funny we all seemed to have a little room left for that.