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Cooking Class in ALBEROBELLO

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When we were staying in Puglia, Italy we decided to take a day trip and a cooking class in Alberobello. Puglia is a region in southern Italy on the heel of the boot. We had been staying in Monopoli as our home base and this was our last day trip before we moved on. Puglia is famous for its trulli, small white stone washed buildings with cone roofs made of flat stones. Alberobello has the largest collection of trulli in all of Puglia, making it very picturesque. 

Trulli in Alberobello

My boyfriend had booked a cooking class in Alberobeloo for us. While I absolutely love to cook, I didn’t want to go do a class on vacation. Besides, I’m a total introvert so the thought of meeting a group of people and driving to a farm together and then cooking with them didn’t sound appealing. It sounded too much like a guided tour with a bunch of strangers and no escape. However, my boyfriend had already registered and paid so off to the cooking class I went.

Luckily for us–and a benefit of traveling during Covid–when we got picked up to go off to the farm there was only one other couple joining us, a honeymoon couple in their own world. SCORE!  

Driving up to the farmhouse in Alberobello we saw a plethora of olive trees and an impressive view of the farmhouse.

The rustic storybook house was stone with white-washed walls. The garden was lush with foliage and color, with every plant you could want, as well as chicken coops and the typical ubiquitous Italian stray cat. 

Greeting us, the husband and wife who owned the farm were quite the pair. They had lived in Puglia, Italy for years, but she was actually a cheeky Englishwoman and he was French. They were cultured, well-versed, and a comical duo. 

When we stepped inside, the dining room was huge and the kitchen was industrial size. The ceilings were high and the rooms spacious. I felt like I was in a professional establishment rather than at a local farmhouse. 

The first assignment for this class on the farm was to pick vegetables and herbs for our meal.

This would be a true farm-to-table experience. We learned we would need greens for the salad, eggplant for one of the main dishes, and a variety of herbs. 

Jillian travel and wellness influencer and blogger at a cooking class in Alberobello
Picking fresh herbs and vegetables from the farm in Alberobello

The farm was gorgeous and they grew everything! We picked tomatoes, basil, red peppers, rocket greens, and eggplants and collected them in baskets. As we were picking, and because our instructor Sofia told us we could taste anything, I decided to try a basil leaf. The flavor exploded in my mouth, it was so strong and so potent. I thought to myself, THIS is what basil tastes like!  One tiny bite of the fresh basil leaf tasted like eating 30 basil leaves from the US. 

One of the things I’d noticed when dining at restaurants in Italy is they don’t serve a lot of vegetables, even though at home they do eat them. I asked the guide about this because it was something I had been curious about for years. She said that it was a good observation. Because there is so much poverty and vegetables are cheap, Italians eat a lot of them at home, so don’t want them when they go out to eat. I couldn’t fathom this because tourists don’t get vegetables like this at home. What a missed opportunity! 

After harvesting our fresh ingredients out on the farm we headed into the stone house’s huge kitchen. The first thing we had to make was the pasta so that it could dry. We made the most famous Puglian pasta, orecchiette

Orecchiette, meaning little ear, is a simple pasta made of flour and water.

The technique in making orecchiette is all in how you shape the pasta with a knife and a fling of the wrist. Sofia  explained this with such passion and checked each of the students’ orecchiette making sure it was up to par. When she found one she liked she would hold it up and show everyone the details in the pasta. She explained, the rough edges the fork provides are perfect for meat sauces so that each bit of sauce gets in every crevice of the pasta. Details like these are what make me love Italians. 

We were to eat our orecchiette with ragu that she had started hours earlier for time’s sake. It smelled delicious. 

Next on the menu was Aubergine Parmigiana.

Sofia explained it was just like little lasagna on eggplant instead of noodles. We deep-fried beer-battered eggplant and then topped it with cheese sauce and basil and baked it. Even my boyfriend, who doesn’t like eggplant, absolutely loved it. 

cooking class in alberobello

Obviously deep frying something and topping it with fresh cheese and hand-picked herbs from the hour prior can make any vegetable taste good. I still make a version of this meal at home today, but without the deep frying that I try to reserve for special occasions. And besides, a deep fryer is one of the few kitchen appliances I don’t own, and for my health it’s probably best to keep it that way. 

We also made stuffed bell peppers which were to die for. We used stale bread (the Italians waste nothing), fresh herbs, and tons of cheese and olive oil. Our chef told us when in doubt to just always add more olive oil. Her husband chimed in that she always used too much olive oil. They bickered back and forth and we all laughed. After he left the kitchen she proceeded to pour more olive oil on top of the peppers. 

This extravagant use of olive oil is a cooking skill I use to this day.

For years I did Weight Watchers and counted macros, and never used more than one to two teaspoons of oil. She changed me for the better. I now measure olive oil with my heart. 

Side Note ** This Puglian Olive Oil is my absolute favorite after much taste testing and research.

Once our efforts at cooking were over, we popped a bottle of Prosecco and had some cheeses and crackers while we waited for everything to cook. Sofia had insured we made hefty portions so she had leftovers, but once the cooking was done she waited on us as if in a restaurant. She sat us in a dining room made of stone and served us table wine. We weren’t alone: It’s very common to find cats wandering around the streets so of course the stray cat from the garden outside came in begging for some food. 

Jillian travel and wellness influencer and blogger at a cooking class in Alberobello

After dinner we had a slice of fresh fruit pie she’d baked the day prior. 

After leaving the farm and returning to the main strip area of Alberobello after our cooking class, we wandered around the city. We walked up and down the streets full of trulli marveling at the beauty and taking tons of photographs. We bought a trulli magnet, a few local souvenirs, and sat at a local Alberobello restaurant to enjoy a spritz. I didn’t want the day to end. 

Jillian travel and wellness influencer and blogger at a cooking class in Alberobello with the chef and her partner
Jillian travel and wellness influencer and blogger at a cooking class in Alberobello with the chef

I didn’t anticipate enjoying this planned group activity, but it was one of the most fun and enjoyable experiences I’ve ever participated in. I’ve applied so much of what I learned in that class to my everyday cooking.

I guess this is one of the perks of being in a relationship, your partner pushes you out of your comfort zone.

Even better for him, I’m an even better cook than before. 

alberobello, puglia, italy

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