How to choose the best cooking class in Florence

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No trip to Tuscany is complete without learning how to cook by taking an Italian cooking class, and where best to experience the local cuisine than Florence?

I always found it funny how some people go to Italy and prefer to eat at McDonalds or other fast food as such. I also wondered why there is Mc Donald’s in a country with such a rich food culture, with so many delicious dishes that it would probably take a lifetime to discover all. Each region of Italy has its own cuisine based on the local fruits, vegetables and herbs. I can imagine that every Italian has a small herbs corner somewhere in their house. The Italian cuisine is not only about pizza or pasta! During my month in Tuscany I have discovered amazing fish dishes, premium cuts of beef, the pecorino cheese and the bresaola ham, the local dips and sauces, the crostata or the jam biscotti.

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The Tuscan cuisine

The traditional Tuscan cuisine is based on simplicity and flavour, with most of the dishes having only a couple main ingredients. Olive oil is at the base of the Tuscan cuisine and the best way of tasting it, especially if it’s new, in autumn, is by having it on bread. Fettunta is grilled Tuscan bread (without salt), rubbed with garlic and generously drizzled with olive oil. Another typical dish is Ribolita, a traditional soup made out of beans and stale bread. If we’re thinking about dessert, then I’ll have to mention castagnaccio, a cake made out of chestnut flour, raisins, rosemary and olive oil.

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Cooking classes in Florence

What should you take in consideration when you book a cooking class in Firenze, you might ask, confused by the high number of companies that offer them. The first criteria you should look at is how authentic the cooking class is. Is it run by locals? Is it outside a touristy area? Does it include a visit to the market? How much will be your contribution to the actual cooking? What kind of food will you make and how many dishes?

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Based on all of these questions I have decided that the best cooking class in Florence for me would be the one offered by Eating Europe Food Tours. I have taken a food tour of Soho with them before and I was so impressed by the quality that I decided to choose them again on my trip to Italy. It was actually very hard to choose what I would like to go for because all their Florence food tours are amazing and involve getting to know the local cuisine and culinary traditions the city has to offer. There is nothing touristic in their tours and everything is locally sourced, supporting the local community.

 

Visit the local market

I’ve met Paulo, our guide for the day, in Piazza Santo Spirito of the local Oltrarno neighbourhood and because I was the first one to arrive, he did give me a few recommendations about the part of Tuscany I was staying at, advising me not to miss the upcoming truffle festival. Soon the other cooking “students” joined and we headed towards the local market, to buy fresh ingredients for our lunch. Paulo explained how to buy vegetables in Italy, which ones to choose in summer and which ones to go for in winter. Italians cook different dishes, depending on the season. As it was autumn, he recommended us the cauliflower, the cavolo nero, sprouts, fennel and spinach. He told us that when you go to the market you are not allowed to touch the vegetables yourself, you need to let the seller bag them for you.

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For our menu, Paulo gave us a choice for the filling of the ravioli: spinach and ricotta or zucchini. As the spinach was almost eyeing us, with its beautiful green colour and the perfect shape, while the zucchini was not really in season anymore, we went for the first option.

Out next stop was to a local bakery, from where we bought freshly made olive oil schiaciatta (the Tuscan focaccia).

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I mentioned before that the Tuscan bread doesn’t have salt. Do you wonder why? Back in the middle ages, when Tuscany was divided into communes (Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, Arezzo), Pisa tried do make Florence to surrender in one of their battles, so it stopped the salt reaching the town. Florence didn’t surrender and started to bake without salt, and this is how the Tuscan bread was born.

Our last shopping stop was at a local cheese shop, from where we bought ricotta for the ravioli, and prosciutto. The owner of the tiny shop was a cheese connoisseur, working with it since he was a child, learning all the secrets from his father. He shared with us a plate of pecorino and told us all about the different types and tastes of this Tuscan cheese.  Pecorino tastes different, depending on how much time it was aged for. The fresh Pecorino is almost white, with a creamy texture while the stagionato Pecorino (matured) is crumbly and has a nutty taste. Shall I say that I filled my bag with Pecorino on my return from Italy?

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Regarding ricotta, there are also three different types that come from three different animals: goat, cow and sheep. The goat’s ricotta is quite strong, and you would want to use it in combination with honey or fruits, or in salads. Cow’s ricotta is milky, with a hint of sweetness and is the one to use in desserts. We used sheep’s ricotta in our ravioli because of the milky but still cheesy taste.

 

Learn how to make pasta from scratch

After our local products shopping spree, we arrived at the cooking studio, where wet also met Giorgio, the chef who was going to teach us how to make delicious Italian food. We washed our hands, put our aprons on and drank a shot of espresso for encouragement.

Each of us had in front 2 bowls of flour (0 and durum grain), eggs, and a pasta rolling machine. We didn’t wait too much before we got our hands in and make the dough for the pasta. When the dough became smooth, we wrapped it in cling film and let it rest for half an hour, while we made the sauce for it.

Fast forwarding, the best part of making pasta was actually rolling it through the machine. I am not going to lie, it is not easy when you keep rolling and it stretches to over one meter long, but it’s surely fun.

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Depending what are you making, you cut or not the pasta. We’ve made ravioli and tagliatelle and whilst for the first one we left the pasta as it was, for the second one we passed it through the cutting end of the machine. As soon as the pasta comes out cut we had to coat it in flour, so it doesn’t stick. Then let it rest until we boiled it.

 

Mamma’s secret tomato sauce

Every Italian mamma has her own secret tomato sauce and probably this is the reason why the homemade food in Italy tastes so delicious. Now I can’t tell you what the secret is, but you should know that the sauce should be as thick as possible. And for this, you must boil it quite a lot. While our pasta was resting, we moved from the studio into the kitchen and learned how to correctly cut onions and garlic. Did you know that the fastest way of cutting an onion is by slicing it almost all the way through the end then turning it around and chop it? Or that you should use the entire blade of the knife to chop garlic very small?

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The onions and garlic went into the pan drizzled with olive oil and cooked for a few minutes. As the tomatoes season was gone, Giorgio told us that it’s ok to use good quality canned tomatoes as they are much better than the out of season flavourless fresh ones. Another secret of the tomato sauce is to add a pinch of sugar, to balance the acidity.

Bruschetta

The next step was to make the topping for our bruschetta. We chose cherry tomatoes from the market and we chopped them tiny-tiny.

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Bruschetta is one of the most flavoursome simple Italian appetisers, where a grilled slice of bread is rubbed with garlic and then topped with tomatoes and basil. An explosion of flavours inside your mouth!

 

Ravioli

I would have never ever imagined that I would make ravioli with my own hands. I always finded them delicious but impossible to even think how to make them. And what a surprise did I have when I realised it is not that hard at all.

The first step into making ravioli is the filling (while the dough is resting). A crushed garlic goes into a pan in which we previously added olive oil, after which the spinach goes in. The goal is to cook the spinach and squeeze all the water out of it. Once cooled down, we chopped it and mixed it with the ricotta cheese but also with parmesan. We seasoned it with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and put it aside.

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The secret of making ravioli is to seal the pasta so that there is no air trapped inside with the filling. For this to happen we had to put the filling in the middle and then fold it from the back towards the front, pressing with our fingers on the sides. The last step is to seal the ravioli with a bit of water in the front, making sure there is no air left inside and that the margins of the dough touch the filling. It is much easier than I’m trying to explain.

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For the sauce, Giorgio chose sage and butter, to compliment delicately the flavour of the spinach and ricotta inside the ravioli. Shall I say that after the cooking class I’ve made sage and butter sauce every time I cooked pasta at home?

 

Panna cotta

Another Italian classic that looks intimidating and hard to make is Panna cotta. I always wondered how to achieve that perfect steady look and shape, while still creamy and soft. The secret is in the gelatine leaves.

Giorgio made the panna cotta in about 5 minutes while we all gazed astonished at how easy it is. He then made a caramel and chocolate sauce to go above it, topped with nuts, while we were outside enjoying prosecco. Yummy!

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Prosciutto and homemade prosecco

The cooking class in Florence took place in a beautiful building with a terrace on top, where the chef is growing his own herbs. The terrace is surrounded by the traditional old buildings of Florence and we were told that the community is very connected together, everyone knowing their neighbours and helping each other when they need something. They often chat from one window to another.

While we took a break from cooking, we climbed the stairs to the terrace where Paolo brought 2 bottles of homemade prosecco and a platter of the prosciutto that we bought earlier. Yes, Italians do make their own prosecco and it tastes delicious! It is not as fizzy as the one you buy in a store, but it surely has a unique flavour and texture.

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Overall, I was extremely happy with the cooking class in Florence organised by Eating Europe Food Tours. It was not only exceptional, with a skilled and local chef, but also very entertaining and it included so much more than it was written on the website. I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to learn how to cook Italian food in Tuscany! And if you are searching for something a little bit different, check out their unique food tours of Florence, where you can taste artisan food but also the famous Fiorentina steak while watching the sunset.

 

 

Disclaimer: Please note that this post has been written in collaboration with Eating Europe Food Tours and I was their guest on the food tour. However, all the opinions and thoughts in this article are my own. 

Some of the links on this website are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on the link and do a purchase, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost for you. This helps me keep my website running and continue to share my traveling knowledge with you. I thank you for booking your flights or hotels using the links on my website. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.

84 Comments

  1. Cooking class in Florence sounds like so much fun! That said, being a veggie, many of the classes may not be suitable for me, but to know this is almost mostly veggie, I’m just so glad! Actually reminds me of the movie 100 feet journey! Tuscan bread & fresh olive oil sounds pleasing! Homemade prosciutto?? Sign me up!

  2. You’ve got to hand it to the Italians, they certainly know their food! It all looks totally delicious and homemade prosecco too?! I’m definitely in next time I visit Florence!

  3. I am pathetic at cooking but won’t mind a cooking class to understand the nuance of a local cuisine of a different country. I love Italian food and it definitely looks delicious. The fact about Tuscan bread was pretty interesting.

  4. I would not mind taking a cooking class in Tuscany! I took some cooking classes many years ago and they were so fun. Plus, I was so surprised by the flavor we were able to achieved. My sister went to cooking school and she used to have problems every time she was making panna cottas. Not sure if there is a trick to make them easily.

  5. Wow, I’ve never tried homemade prosecco, but I’d love to! I eat a lot of Italian food, and cook it too! Still haven’t mastered the art of making pasta, and this cooking class looks like an excellent choice in Tuscany!

  6. I really enjoyed reading your post! I haven’t tried a cooking class before but reading your experience made me wish I tried it during our previous travels. Everything sounds wonderful – ingredients, process, and taste!

  7. I think cooking pasta in Italy has to be the epitome of gastronomic food tours. I’m not only craving pasta now, but also wanting to go for the tour. The fresh ingredients really pop out and from the sound of it, the entire class is well organized and a great lesson to be learnt.

  8. I don’t like cooking much but I sure would not mind learning this one just for the cultural experience of it. The food does look yummy. And the sparkling wine at the end of it…might just be worth everything. 😉

  9. I would have never thought to take a cooking class while traveling. What a cool idea! That dessert you made looks so good. I cant wait to do this!

  10. Now I really am hungry. I adore Italian food and should really learn to cook more of it, think an amazon cook book search is in order. Lovely post and full of so much information! 🙂

  11. that recipes were just amazing 🙂 I always do my very own home-made tomato sauce from scratch and it never fails to be delicious – the secret is definitely the quality of the ingredients 🙂

  12. I can’t say that cooking is my thing but I somehow loved this post. I guess the sheer allure of Italian cuisine is the reason for it. Everything just looks too photogenic and colorful. I think I must also commend the food photography here.

  13. Oh my word, are there really people who would go to Italy and eat at McDonalds. Nooooooooo, that’s just wrong. I would give anything to learn how to cook like a real Italian. I’d probably pick up a few pounds but it would be so worth it. All those yummy flavors and they always seem to put so much passion into the whole experience

  14. I am Italian, I have been to Florence and I didn’t even know there were cooking classes there! All the food look absolutely amazing, it made me so hungry! I am glad you had such a nice experience and a good time!

  15. Cooking class in Florence sounds like so much fun, i would love to get cooking classes there!! i have to add it to my plans for Florence.

  16. All of this sounds like a dream! I love Italy and even though I have never been there yet, it is my most favorite place lol. I love it so much that my youngest daughter’s name is Italy! Your food looks great and it sounds like you had a lot of fun!

  17. I LOVE Italian food and would love to go to Italy to eat authentic food. I’m not so great in the kitchen. Are there eating tours? 🤣🤣 I don’t eat McDonald’s here, so I definitely wouldn’t eat at one in Italy.

  18. I absolutely love Italian food and we made sure we ate traditional local stuff when I was there a few weeks ago. I’d love to do a cooking class though, definitely one for the list when I’m in Florence x

  19. I have done lot of exploration in Florence. Walking endlessly in the city. Gazing over fabulous sculptors. Relishing Italian delicacies. But never this idea of having a cooking class occurred to me. In fact now I will like to consider this idea in my next visit to the city.

  20. Oh my goodness! Those foods are really tempting! I love Italian foods and I also want to learn more traditional foods. This is a brilliant tips for those loves cooking!

  21. I will take note of this. Learning how to cook an Italian dish before heading to Tuscany. From readings as well, I’ve learned that they have a different way to eat their pasta and some dishes. Would love to learn that as well.

  22. What a wonderful experience. Such a good cuisine to work with, so many delicious dishes and flavours. I imagine it would be great to be taught these skills by experts, and certainly learn from it too.

  23. I had to stop looking at your photos after a few – they were too mouthwatering, and I have not eaten breakfast yet! I will definitely put “take a cooking class” on my to-do list if I ever travel to Italy.

  24. I have the same concerns as well! I mean why would people eat at Mc Donalds when there is so much to try out there from traditional cuisine. I never really thought of going to a cooking class! I think it should be a lot of fun especially if you are a tourist.

  25. I need this because as much as I love eating I am miserable in the kitchen. I love Italian food and I think I would enjoy cooking classes in Tuscany. Ravioli is one of my favourite. My mouth watered as I read your blog!

  26. This is very informative and very inspiring! I didn’t know much about Tuscan cuisine but it sounds exactly like my kind of food! Also visiting local markets is a grerat idea, I always love visiting markets from other countries!

  27. How can anyone eat at the McDonald’s when in Italy?! A glance at your pictures is sufficient to see what a varied and delicious cuisine they have there. I love the photo of the bakery, and I never knew that Tuscan bread didn’t contain salt!

  28. I love everything about this! We’ve been to Florence a few times and we always regret not booking a cooking class. We’ve had some amazing food in Florence, but it would have been cool to know how the locals make it. We’re definitely doing this next time we go back!

  29. Wow this is cool! Cooking class is one of the things that i wanted to attend. Not really a chef’s degree to pursue with but just to spend time learning and enjoying the kitchen so i could make regular and common meals look at taste amazing even at home.. i can see how much you have enjoyed your cooking class at Florence 🙂

  30. One of my dreams is to take a culinary trip / vacation and Tuscany will certainly be on the list. I really love experiencing the food from other countries and getting to learn how to cook it too.

  31. I think cooking in Florence has always been a dream of mine. I couldn’t imagine how pasta is made from scratch and by the looks of it, it must be challenging. Certainly, this is one way of immersing oneself with another culture and one of the perks of traveling. To think that before, I was so close in pursuing a culinary degree. I think this one’s better for me. Classes wherein you could meet new people. 😄

  32. Cooking is not something I am very interested in, but I think I wouldn’t leave Florence without attending a class! Tuscan food is delicious and not easy to make. I would love to learn!

  33. This sounds like a great experience. That fresh pasta looks so good, and it’s really nice that each mamma has their own recipe for the sauce, I need to create my own signature one from the sounds of things 😀

  34. I love all about the Italian cuisine! It’s my favorite food actually. I wouldn’t want to cook in Florence, but I would love to eat there. The city is very beautiful, I have been there only once.

  35. You have to hand it to the Italians, they certainly know about their food! Everything looks absolutely delicious. I’d love to take a cooking class in Florence 🙂

    Louise x

  36. I so love your post! I also love touring this way too, going to local market, bakery and all. Not to mention booking a cooking class run by locals, so authentic. In retrospect, I wish I came across this post when a client asked for a cooking class in Italy.

  37. Omgosh that sounds so fun! I love watching cooking shows and just eating new dishes. It’s funny because I love food and I do everything related to food but I’ve never participated in a cooking class.

  38. How fun is this! I wouldn’t think to take a cooking class while I’m in another country…but I love it, and will have to look into this the next time I travel abroad!

  39. I love Italian food and learning how to cook one seems like a good course to take. Seeing those veggies made my head thinking on what food to serve my family next. Currently, my child is teething and he barely eats. It was and still is a struggle. Now, by seeing this, I think I should serve him some pasta. He likes it.

  40. Italian cuisine are like foods from heaven haha they are foods made with perfection. I love Italian cuisine especially their wide range of pasta and bread dishes!
    Why simple dine with famous restaurants if you can actually learn how to cook your favorite Italian dishes through cooking classes right? I guess the experience of learning how to cook them will make a trip to Italy even more memorable!
    it’s like when you finally applying what you learned at home and serving it with your guest.. you can brag about it and tell it with confidence saying.. “I learned that from Italy” haha
    kidding aside, it must be a great learning experience!

  41. Ah, what an evocative phrase- food culture!
    And what a perceptive article too !
    Your post has alo reminded of the state of affairs in India. We too have a rich food culture like in Italy but I wonder why there are so many McDs here.

  42. What an awesome experience! I would love to have this experience this too. The panna cotta with caramel sauce seems good to me. I love that dessert 🙂 Anyway, I enjoyed your post. Thank you for this.

  43. I LOVE Italian food, its full of taste, culture and gives you this warm lovely feeling. Cooking classes in Florence seems to be a great idea, I think no trip is complete unless you actually grab a part of their culture and bring it back home, and what a better way to do it. Impress your friend and family with your new cooking skills!! THANKS PINNING IT 🙂

  44. That sounds and looks amazing! I visited Florence briefly in the summer, but only spent half a day here. We are planning to return next year so will look into taking a cooking class.

  45. Wow! I learned so many things from your post – from saltless Tuscan bread to secret tomato sauce to techniques in cutting onions! Very informative! I am also happy with you attending this cooking class in Florence! I will check Eating Europe Food Tours and know more about them. But for now i can only share this to my friends. I can’t go to Europe this time. Thanks for this post!

  46. I love pasta, especially those with red sauces. I also like to make my own sauces from scratch from time to time. I have yet to try making the pasta noodles myself. That would one adventure! I would love to learn Italian cooking from an Italian chef.

  47. Mmmm I love italian food who doesn’t. I have always wanted to visit Florence but haven’t had the opportunity to do so! I would seriously love to take cooking classes although you can find so many videos Online now a days.

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