There’s no better way to discover the heart and soul of a destination than by eating your way into it. While every country has its own brand of gastronomic charm, we’ve long extolled the virtues of Sicily, and if we’re talking food, this Italian island has to be right up there at the top table. So, what could be better than indulging in fine food, a luxury accommodation and cooking classes in Sicily?
While some of my clients simply want to be presented with their fabulous Italian food, which requires nothing except lifting their fork to their mouths, many express a deeper interest in the provenance of the cuisine. I am delighted to recommend some hotels from our luxury portfolio that offer authentic cooking classes to those individuals. I’ve always maintained that the most important ingredient in Italian cuisine is the people’s inherent and all-consuming passion for the food, but if you want to learn how to replicate some of the amazing dishes when you get home, onsite cooking classes in Sicily are a wonderful idea.
Before I give you my top recommendations, however, allow me to tantalise your taste buds with what you might be cooking.
Want to explore your surroundings while on holiday in Sicily? This blog post uncovers some of the best off-the-beaten-track experiences.
The Cuisine of Sicily
The regional cuisine of Italy is extremely diverse, and some of the Sicilian delicacies are national favourites. Here are just a few dishes for which the area is renowned.
Caponata is a mouth-watering seafood dish that combines aubergine, celery, capers, bell peppers and various combinations of other seasonal vegetables. It’s served as a warm “salad” or side dish that accompanies seafood dishes, such as octopus or fish.
Panelle is one of my all-time favourite dishes, and I think that these simple chickpea fritters are the perfect incarnation of Sicily on a plate. A mixture of chickpea flour and water is moulded like polenta and then fried in olive oil. It’s subsequently finished off with sea salt, rosemary and grated Parmesan… and is unbelievably delicious.
Most of us have tried arancini, but until you’ve eaten the genuine Sicilian once, you haven’t lived. These tasty rice balls are stuffed with a variety of ingredients, including mozzarella, meat, peas and a rich tomato sauce, before they’re slow cooked in olive oil.
Traditionally, the Italians like their pasta as a prelude to the main, but due to the abundance of seafood in Sicily, pasta con sarde is quite often the main event. The delicate flavours of fresh-caught sardines and anchovies are mixed with garlic, olive oil and onions to produce this aromatic pasta topping. When served up with linguini or spaghetti, this dish is nothing short of sublime.
Sicily is the place of origin of some of the most iconic Italian desserts and sweet treats. Needless to say, then, it’s heaven for those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth!
A Cannolo is comprised of a rich roll of pastry dough, which is wrapped around a filling of creamy ricotta. The best thing about these sugary sensations is that traditional cannoli are no bigger than a finger, so there’s always room for another one… or two.
Cassata is another Sicilian sweet that’s travelled around the globe. This liquer-infused sponge cake is layered with ricotta, fruit and chocolate to give it its distinct and inimitable taste.
Learn to Cook in Sicily
If you’re inspired to learn more about the traditions and flavours of Sicily, we’re proud to feature the following three hotels in our luxury portfolio. These venues not only provide fantastic accommodation, but also offer onsite cooking classes.
La Corte del Sole
Located in one of the most unspoilt regions of the southeast, La Corte del Sole boasts a warm, authentic ambience in a stunning natural setting. While it maintains all the charm and character of a traditional masseria hotel, its elegant décor and attention to detail place you right in the lap of luxury.
The hotel offers bespoke cooking classes under the expert guidance of resident chef Rosario Vaccarisi. During the three-hour lesson, you’ll learn the basic staples of Sicilian cooking, such as preparing an appetizer, a main dish and a dessert. The grand finale, of course, is eating everything – accompanied by a glass of local wine.
La Foresteria Planeta
You’ll be in the care of one of the island’s most renowned wine producers at the superb La Foresteria Planeta. This hotel, which overlooks the rolling vineyards, is a contemporary jewel in an ancient landscape. With impeccable décor and luxury appointments, the rooms still manage to retain a cosy and traditional ambience. In addition to a fabulous restaurant and a wellness centre, you may want to pay the onsite wine cellar a visit…
Planeta’s cooking classes are legendary: the chef of Casa Planeta, Angelo Pumilia, takes participants on a culinary tour of the local tastes and gastronomic traditions in the most delightful way. He covers the preparation, using fresh ingredients, such as herbs, vegetables, and other unique local ingredients. Naturally, the lesson concludes with a scrumptious meal and a fantastic glass of wine. If you’d like to make sure that you retain everything you learn, you can also purchase a copy of Casa Planeta’s book, entitled Sicilia, la Cucina di Casa Planeta.
Step back in time with a stay in the family-run Masseria Susafana. Set deep in Sicily’s wonderful rural surroundings, you’re in for a breathtaking view of the countryside. What’s more, you’ll feel wrapped in bucolic bliss in this exquisitely restored masseria, which has the added sophistication of modern amenities.
Almost everything you’ll eat in the rustic restaurant is grown on the estate, and you can take a tour of the orchard and/or of the herb and vegetable gardens with the chef. The hotel also offers cooking courses that follow the same holistic practice – and you’ll be taught everything from the provenance of the produce to the traditional preparation and presentation of the dishes. At Masseria Susafana, the genuine passion that the owners and staff exhibit towards their culinary traditions is truly infectious!