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Get A Taste Of Italy In Tennessee

A cooking class is one of the most popular activities to do on any given vacation – whether you’re in Naples or Napa Valley, joining a local expert in their own kitchen, learning time-honored techniques and using locally-sourced fresh ingredients is an immersive experience that’s sure to leave you with valuable lessons to incorporate in your own kitchen. 

But what if I told you that experience is attainable right here in Franklin? Thanks to Derek Chirico and his company, Italy from Scratch, it is. 

“I do an all hands-on cooking class in my home,” Derek says. “People come in and they’re served wine, we have Italian music playing, I go over the recipes with them and we make a four-course meal.”

Growing up in Rhode Island, Derek was used to having an Italian eatery on every corner, and with a tight-knit Italian family of his own, pasta dinners were a Sunday tradition. Now his family owns the travel company Italy with Bella, which has led him to visiting the country frequently. 

A five-hour cooking class during a visit to Cortona, Tuscany, inspired Derek to launch a similar concept close to home. He trained under Tuscan chef Ryan Hanley, and soon, Italy from Scratch was born in Franklin. 

“Everything I make uses simple, Italian-inspired ingredients,” Derek adds. Once the cooking is complete – which includes homemade pasta and cheese, up to five appetizers, a meat dish and a dessert – Derek serves each course in a private dining area with paired wines, and a digestif to close the experience. 

While many dishes may be difficult to replicate due to geography alone, achieving more authentic Italian cuisine starts with the ingredients: look for fresh, in-season and organic options when possible. Derek prefers shopping at the Franklin farmer’s market for meats and fresh, local vegetables.

“If you’re making a ragu and you get cheap tomatoes instead of ones that are quality, they are going to have a more acidic flavor, and that little bit of change can ruin the whole dish,” Derek says. “Even when I use wine in a sauce, you have to make sure you’re using the correct type of wine. Don’t cut corners. It will change the whole outcome of the dish.”

The ingredients steer the menu for Italy from Scratch classes, which vary based on season and class size. Both private and group-format classes are available to book, ranging anywhere from two to 10 guests. The current menu includes dishes like strawberry goat cheese bruschetta, authentic Tuscan meat ragu, saltimbocca alla Romana and vanilla bean panna cotta. 

One of Derek’s favorite dishes is also on the menu – a duck and fennel ragu. “It’s not very gamey because it stews in white wine, broth and fennel, and it’s one of my favorite things to eat in Italy.” 

As for the greatest pasta dish he’s ever had? Wild boar ragu, found in the Umbria region of Italy bordering Tuscany (if you’re interested in trying it yourself, Italy with Bella can help get you there). 

Italy from Scratch classes last anywhere from three to four hours and include lessons, hands-on cooking with provided ingredients, a served four-course meal, wine pairings and plenty of fun.

“It’s really enjoyable. It’s not too stressful,” Derek says. “A lot of people come in thinking they don’t know how to cook, but it’s not anything you have to stress about. It’s more of a fun cooking experience.”  ItalyFromScratch.com

“A lot of people come in thinking they don’t know how to cook, but it’s not anything you have to stress about. It’s more of a fun cooking experience."

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