I must admit I was a little dubious when I let my husband talk me into an Italian cookery lesson. There are two reasons why in our house Ian does the cooking and I do the washing up: Ian is a better cook than I am; Ian enjoys cooking more than I do. However, I’m really glad that I tried it.
It took place at the guest house where we stayed in Sorrento, and our hosts, Andrea and Valerio, coached us and a Canadian couple, Chris and Lyn, through making a three-course meal, which we all shared.
First of all we made the dough for our pizzas, and after kneading it we left it to rise. In the meantime we made a start on our first course – Parmigiana, and while that was cooking and cooling we made a tiramisu between us.
Then it was time to sit down for our first course. I’m not usually a fan of aubergine (eggplant) as I find it quite spongy, but Andrea had some good tips for getting the water out before cooking, and I have to say that every mouthful of that first course was heaven.
Time to start cooking pizzas the Italian way. Our little dough balls had risen impressively and were ready for turning into pizza shaped bases. Valerio showed us the proper way to do it – no rolling pin involved – and within a couple of minutes it was perfectly round and perfectly flat.
I won’t reveal too much about the one he demonstrated as it’s a secret recipe passed down the generations – suffice it to say that it was a combination of toppings I could never have dreamt up in 100 years and it involved a locally grown fruit. And it was the most delicious pizza I have ever tasted.
So, our turn to have a go. Under Valerio’s expert guidance, one at a time we flattened out our dough base, and although there was an emergency rolling pin on hand, Valerio was such a good teacher that none of us needed it. Andrea had suggestions for combinations of toppings that we may not have thought of on our own, and we each did a different combination: three white (no sauce) pizzas, and one red (with sauce) pizza. One by one we placed our creations in the woodfire oven and were shown how to turn it to cook evenly on all sides. As each one came out we gathered round to share – and they were all superb.
After demolishing all five pizzas we sat back contentedly full – and then Andrea reminded us that we had tiramisu in the fridge. It’s a good job we all had a separate stomach for dessert.
As well as learning some great cooking techniques, it was a fun and sociable evening, and a chance to meet other travellers.
If any of you are planning a trip to Sorrento I would make two recommendations. First of all that you stay at the delightful Villa Adriana, which is small and friendly and especially good for couples, and secondly that you book a place at one of Andrea and Valerio’s cooking classes. You won’t regret either decision.