Cooking in Catania with Monica.

What a wonderful  experience that was!  We met her in Catania near the outdoor market area. She took us shopping in the markets in Catania:  the cheese vendors, meat stalls, fish stalls, vegetable stands and the amount of shouting that was going on made it a bit difficult for all of us to hear her comments.  To many in the group they had never experienced this before.  To me it was the largest food market ever! And I have been to a few in Italy.  After everything was purchased we walked back to our bus and we followed her to her private home/cooking school and prepared our lunch.  We made caponata, homemade pasta, Sicilian meatballs, salad and she prepared a lovely dessert for us.  Of course, it was served with local Sicilian wines.  She made it very special for all of us and we all appreciated her techniques and hospitality.  Hopefully many of us will take what we learned from Monica and try to duplicate the meal in our own kitchens.  She did provide us with the recipes .   We all received a certificate and a very contented appetite.  No need for dinner that night.

Here we are with Monico inside the market purchasing our ingredients.

Here we are with Monico inside the market purchasing our ingredients.

The fruits of our labor. So light and delicious!

The fruits of our labor. So light and delicious!

Order you copy of Mamma Agata's cookbook and pasta!

I know that I have been writing about my fall tour and my favorite restaurant in Rome, so now I am going to write about my favorite Italian subject and that is:  Mamma Agata’s cooking program in Ravello.

The other day I received, by mail, my first and best Christmas present.  I noticed the package was sent to: Gourmet Getaways.  I could not imagine who was sending me a package.  I didn’t order anything.  Quickly I got out the scissors and managed to get through layers and layers of packaging tape.  Before my eyes were four packages of Mamma Agata’s pasta and a few other prized treats from Italy along with a thank you note from Chiara.

Well, I could not resist making pasta for dinner.  Each package is sealed with the logo and a recipe on the back.  How clever!  Now you can get first hand recipes from Italy!

My husband and I had a wonderful delicious pasta dinner.  It was  so good he had a second portion.  The texture of this pasta is best described by a smooth surface but a definite al dente center!

Suggestion:  cook according to directions but watch is slowly as you do not want to over cook this pasta!  It must have an al-dente center!  That’s what makes it truly Italian.

For those of you that want to book a cooking class please send me an email and we will work together to get you schedules for the best cooking class in Italy.  An experience not to be missed!

Those that cannot go I highly recommend you purchase her cookbook.  You will think you are in Italy and after looking at these pictures you will want to give me a call and book that flight to Italy and register for her class.

If you have not purchased your cookbook you can do so by contacting Mamma Agata at

HINT:  Best to order the book directly through Mamma Agata's website so that you can get a signed copy!

If you enter Gourmet Getaways in the dedication portion of the order she will know that I recommended you!  Also she will personally send you a signed copy of the cookbook.

Cooking at Mamma Agata's in Ravello!

One of the highlights of this past exclusive Gourmet Getaways tour was to go to Ravello and cook with Mamma Agata.

Our day began early as we had to depart from the Excelsior Victoria hotel in order to arrive in Ravello by 10am.  It was a beautiful day and the ride to Ravello was breathtaking.  Upon our arrival Chiara greeted everyone with a cheerful smile and encouraged us to sit on the terrace and have an Italian breakfast:  Mamma Agata's famous lemon cake and a cappuccino.

Mamma's house is built into the hillside of Ravello with beautiful views of the Amalfi Coast .  Pictures cannot due it justice!  One has to see this to believe this view!  I often wonder what it would be like to wake up to this view every day.  This family works hard to grow their own vegetables and  herbs.  They also have their own lemon trees .    The land is terraced so as to use every available space. 

After we had a chance to collect ourselves we went into Mamma's kitchen and were eager to learn. Everyone was given an apron and folder with notepaper and pens so we could take copious notes. Mamma does not speak English so her daughter, Chiara, translates and together they make quite the team.   The first part of the lesson we concentrated on making eggplant parmesian and fresh tomato sauce.  I has to bake for one hour and then it must rest for about 45 minutes before eating!

Mid way we took a break and explored the working farm and took in the beautiful vistas.  Many of us just marveled at the amount of work that they have to do to  make this an ultimate cooking program. The family works together every step of the way and together they are quite the team.  Even Chiara's children help during the season when another pair of hands are needed.

We returned thirty minutes later.  Mamma then teaches us to make two pasta dishes: one with capers, tomatoes and olives and the other is with sausage, red and yellow peppers and cherry tomatoes. Next comes Mamma's famous lemon chicken. All the ingredients are grown on the farm.

After many glasses of wines, eating  rolled eggplant and tasting the tomato sauces we sit down to a fabulous meal.  The eggplant is so light and tasty, the pasta is outstanding the chicken so juicy and tender. 

 Of course for dessert there is the  lemon cake and no one resisted having seconds.  With all the lemon trees abundant with lemons Mamma makes her own limoncello.  I think it is the best on the Amalfi Coast and I have tasted several brands.  This a winner!  Hands down!

After our dinner Chiara tells everyone about the farm, how Mamma cooked for very famous people and still does and other bits of information.  She kept our attention for quite a while.

Now it is time for us to leave. All of us wanted to stay, but before we departed  we gather for a group picture and hope that the memories of this special day will linger for a long long time. Chiara and Mamma make you feel that you are part of their family. 

This cooking class is the ultimate.  You will not be disappointed one bit!  I cannot wait to go back and will definitely put together another tour.

Part I of the Amalfi Tour with Gourmet Getaways

Our spring Gourmet Getaways exclusive tour began in Sorrento.  We stayed at the Excelsior Victoria Hotel, which is my favorite hotel.  It is surrounded by lemon and orange trees and lush gardens.  

After everyone checked into the hotel and unloaded their luggage we gathered by the pool as   I had made arrangements for us to have a pizza making class with the chef at the hotel.  We were all given chef’s hats and aprons and we were ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work. 

As we approached the outdoor kitchen there was the wood-burning oven, which had been burning logs for at least 2 hours so that the temperature would be at least 900 degrees! 

First the chef instructed us on how to prepare the dough using yeast, water, flour and a little bit of sugar.  After a 3-hour rise it is ready for us to shape the dough, add the sauce and cheeses and some olive oil. 

Very simple ingredients.    Using a pizza peel the pizza was headed for the oven where it only took 2 –3 minutes to cook.  Each was dressed with a little basil and then it was ready for us to eat! Everyone had the chance to make his or her own pizza. 


Each pizza was beautifully charred on the bottom and the dough was very tender.  Of course it was the best pizza ever!  Nothing like a simple Neapolitan pizza.

We all enjoyed eating our pizza and drinking wine and Pelligrino sitting among the lemon trees with the sun shining.  A great start to a wonderful tour.

Later in the week after our exclusive dinner at the hotel, to which the chef prepared a special meal for my group, the manager and the chef presented everyone with a cooking certificate and the recipe.


Getting back to this hotel, let me say again that this hotel is my favorite.  I have stayed here at least four times and each time my stay is enhanced and I can never tire of this magnificent hotel.


What makes this hotel so special is the manager Nicolino Grigio(pictured below)  You can read more about the hotel by visiting John and Elana


Cooking in Orvieto with Velia DeAngelis

During my most recent trip to Italy with my daughter, we traveled to Orvieto, my favorite medieval town, and took a cooking class with Velia DeAngelis at Compagnia dei  Buongustai, which is a cooking school located in Orvieto.   Her cooking partner, Maurizio di Mario, owns a pastry shop in Orvieto(more about that later) and we cooked sooo much gooood food that we did not need to have dinner that evening.  We started with making stuffed rolls made with sausage and cheese, then on to liver pate, home made pasta, rolled and stuffed eggplant, stuffed boneless chicken thighs and a fruit tart and cookies that were just heaven. Velia taught us how to make fresh pasta the old fashioned way using a rolling pin!  She made it look so easy.  It was so light and tender. 

The rolled eggplant stuffed with arugela, cherry tomatoes and ricotta salata was so tasty and tender.  A vegetarian would be thrilled with this dish!

Last year,when I took my group to her Champagneria we each left with a taste of her fruit tart.  Well this class she taught us how to make it and I will definitely give it a go!  It was so buttery, tender and flaky.     The secret  is using the highest quality of butter!  Thanks to my daughter and her hi tech camera here are a few pictures of the delicious tart.

Taking a cooking class with Velia is a real treat.  She is so funny and a very creative chef that you will come away with a full stomach and desire to recreate these recipes when you return.  Remember the secret is in the ingredients.

If you would like to take  a cooking class with Velia just contact Gourmet Getaways and we would be more than happy to make the arrangements!  You will be sure to have a wonderful time.