Mamma Mia! I am now a proper Italian cook, thanks to Casale San Pietro, a blissful haven of a boutique hotel less than an hour’s drive from Rome.
My sister Justine and I have just returned from the Casale’s three-day Italian cookery school – and we are feeling that we are now pretty authentic rustic Italian cooks, thanks to Joe and Alana Mazza and their three-woman crack team of Luiga, Pina and Ana.
These three ladies, all experienced and highly skilled Italian cooks specialising in the local dishes of Lazio, guided us through the course. They speak little English so Joe translates, which is often hilarious. Joe moved from his native Italy to Yorkshire when he was 10 and he maintains that his Italian vocabulary is really that of a 10 year old. Anyway, he doesn’t always stick to the script or the recipe, telling us how his mother would have made certain dishes (the regional variations make quite a bit of difference). Our real teachers were not very happy when he told us we could freestyle our pastry designs on top of our jam tarts – which we did.
My favourite dishes were the fried courgette flowers, aubergines with parmesan and crumble of ricotta and dark chocolate – but it was all delicious.
Joe and Alana left their Yorkshire home and careers three years ago to follow their dream. The Casale is a beautiful testament to their imagination, immaculate taste and hard work. There are six lovely ensuite bedrooms, some with sofa beds to cater for up to four people, and all with balconies; there’s a lovely swimming pool, gorgeous terraces and a spa room – Justine and I had a wonderful facial and massage with beauty therapist Serena who comes from the nearby town of Anagni. The Casale uses Neom Organics products (another Yorkshire connection as Neom is based in Harrogate).
There were 10 of us on the Casale San Pietro Cookery Masterclass, including two lovely couples and a posse of four fabulous girlfriends from Yorkshire. We cooked for three hours in the afternoon on the Thursday, the first day, and then we cooked for three hours on Friday and Saturday mornings and returned home, sadly, and rather full, on Sunday morning. We ate all the food we cooked for lunch and dinner on the terrace and in the dining room at the Casale, so it was rather economical too.
We ate, we swam, we talked, we drove – Justine and I hired a Fiat 500 and pootled off one afternoon to Fumone which is an absolutely amazing old village full of atmospheric alleyways and hidden corners. The region is spectacular and probably not somewhere we would ever had seen, had it not been for Casale San Pietro.
The evenings on the terrace were especially great fun – even Joe’s infamous rope game, which we will be introducing to our own family this Christmas, whether they like it or not. Anyway, we had the best time and highly, highly recommend the experience.
The Casale has its own wine which costs 15 euros a litre. It’s delicious, organic and does not cause a hangover. Is this not the best ever reason to return asap?
Casale San Pietro does other courses too, including Italian language, Italian gardens, yoga retreat and walking, plus olive harvest breaks. Check it all out here https://www.casalespietro.com/