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settimana della salsa a lecce
tomato sauce week in lecce

What’s more Southern Italian than everyone pitching in to make the annual tomato sauce?

tomato week long cooking classes italy
Tomato Week Long Courses Lecce Puglia

It's all too easy to visit Italy time and time again, only to passively say, 'isn't this great', 'isn't it all so pretty'.

Here is your chance to actively play a part, to actually connect with the land and people.

You've been a consumer for years. This year, come be a producer.

Yes, this is a week that you’ll learn a lot about Italian wine, about Pugliese extra virgin olive oil, of how to cook healthier Mediterranean foods that have been loved here long before anyone even knew what ‘healthy’ meant. Of mastering fresh pasta.

But it’s likely that you’ll look up from cutting tomatoes on the morning that we produce and bottle the annual tomato sauce and realise that tourism is not the only way to experience Italy.

Book now Or write us. We’d be happy to hear from you!

Where: At the Lecce school, in the historic centre.

When: Early September, every year. View Calendar or Book Classes

Taught in: English

Where you sleep: in Lecce, anywhere you like.

How much? 1995 € Euro.

Best way to arrive, depart, maximise your time with us: Everything is spelled out in our Student Services. You’ll be given access about booking.

Book now. Or write us for information.

Salsa: The Week We Make the Year’s Tomato Sauce at the Castle

Early September Each Year

While this is an entire week of cooking, learning, eating and drinking at the castle, we do set aside one of the mornings for making the annual tomato sauce in the castle’s main courtyard. And it’s your chance to eat your fill of the best tomatoes on earth.  

You’ll likely finish each meal by jumping into the Baron’s impressive pool. 

Before the course begins. 

Arrive in Lecce Saturday or Sunday night and stay wherever you like (our suggestions for our favourite places are in Student Services).

Lunedi

Monday

Meet us with your tagged luggage (first and surname) at Porta Napoli in Lecce at 10:00. This is when the course officially starts and everything is included in your tuition, from Monday morning to Saturday morning. You will not even need to carry a purse or wallet the entire week.

We’ll talk about Lecce’s famous yellow building stone, how it was formed by nearly a billion years of sedimentary rock and how it affects just everything here: the wine, food, climate, agriculture and architecture. 

We’ll head down to the castle, move you into your rooms, give you time to freshen up, plug in and join the WIFI (the castle has 6 wifi systems that cover all the grounds, pool area, kitchen, dinning rooms and your bedroom). 

You’ll get a tour of the castle and grounds and hear about its history and layout, making you feel instantly at home for the week. 

We’ll have God Smiled on Us: An Introduction to Italian Food and Wine. (This sets the tone for the week, of going deeper than you might expect, but in a new and engaging way). We’ll move over to the table and have our first guided wine tasting. 

That will segue into a staff prepared meal (the only meal of the week that you will not cook). Like all the meals of the week, we’ll have an antipasto, fresh, hand-made pasta, a second course, 4 vegetable side dishes and un dolce ( ‘dessert’ or ‘pudding’).  Lunch runs long and the wines flow freely. 

After lunch you’ll have a break to spend time sending your pictures around the world, go for a walk in the local olive groves, read from the Baron’s multi-language library or just to nap off all the wine.

We’ll reconvene at 6pm to have a chalkboard talk— God Smiled on Us: An Introduction to an Italy You May Not Know. Then we’ll discuss tonight’s dinner before we head into the kitchen to make the fresh local pasta from scratch (Italy’s healthiest). 

We’ll have a hands-on lesson (you’ll learn to make 10-14 dishes, collectively) and then head up stairs to the main hall for wine tasting of tonight’s wine, that eases into dinner. Students will take turns returning to the kitchen (with the staff) to both finish and then explain at the table the final, finishing steps.

The wine and stimulating, international conversations will flow late into the night. 

You’ll visit Silvestro’s personal amaro bar for after dinner drinks. 

Martedi

Tuesday

Breakfast in the main hall at 9 am. (Early riser? Go for morning walk, visit Salvatore at the local caffè or help yourself to coffee, tea, etc. in the castle’s main kitchen.) 

Breakfast includes fresh local pastries, fresh fruit, eggs, toast, yoghurt, cheeses and meats. Tea, juice and locally-roasted espresso.

At 10 we’ll move over to the chalkboard for Pasta, Polenta, Risotto and Old Bread: The First Courses of the Peninsula. We’ll discuss today’s lunch menu before we head down into the kitchen and make fresh pasta from scratch, then segue into a lesson on how to prepare the entire meal (as always, we’ll cook just enough to get you started but it’s you who will be cooking the entire week). 

Then we’ll move upstairs to talk about today’s lunch wine. We’ll do a guided tasting and then the food will be begin to arrive, with various students taking the opportunity to be finish a dish (with the guidance of the staff) and then explain it to those at the table. 

You’ll have a break to go for a walk in the nearby olive groves, practice your Italian with those in the village, read, scroll your device or just to nap off all the wine. 

We’ll meet again at 6 pm for Da Mieru a Vino: How Italian Wine Become Modern. We’ll discuss changes in Italian wine making and how Old World wines differ from that of the New. You’ll learn about the history of the amaro (Italian after dinner drinks) and how they aid digestion. We’ll discuss tonight’s menu and then move down into the kitchen to make a different fresh pasta from scratch (every meal a different shape). We’ll have a lesson on Mediterranean vegetables and pulses in the kitchen and how to introduce more of them into your diet. 


We’ll move upstairs for a wine tasting, both to learn about dinner’s particular wine but also how to taste more critically in general. 

Dinner will start to arrive, with each course finished and then explained by your class mates. Many corks will be liberated and we’ll go late into the night. 

A visit to Silvestro’s personal amaro bar for night caps. 

Mercoledi

Wednesday

Breakfast in the main hall at 9 am.  Breakfast will include fresh local pastries, fresh fruit, eggs, toast, yoghurt, cheeses and meats. Tea, juice and locally-roasted espresso. 

At 10 we’ll move over to the chalkboard for Kaveh to Coffee to Cafè: The Little Bean that Conquered the World. We’ll discuss Italian coffee culture, roasting.You’ll learn how to order your coffee in it Italian and we’ll head out to Salvatore’s café to practice your new skills. 

You’ll learn about today’s lunch menu before we head down into the kitchen and make fresh pasta from scratch, then segue into a lesson on vegetable cookery. We’ll prepare lunch together, using our new skills and then move upstairs to talk about today’s lunch wine. We’ll do a guided tasting and then the food will be begin to arrive, with various students taking the opportunity to be finish a dish and then explain it to the table. 

You’ll have a break to spend time in the pool (weather permitting), go for a walk, read, scroll your device or just to nap off all the wine. 

We’ll meet again at 6 pm for Gear: Knives, Pots, Pans, their Purchase and Maintenance. You’ll learn to buy the best (including knives) for the least amount of money. And how to protect your investments.  We’ll discuss our menu and then move down into the kitchen to make a different fresh pasta from scratch (every meal a different shape). We’ll have a lesson on the fresh cheeses of Puglia then prepare 10 to 15 dishes together- collectively- using those new skills to work together to assemble dinner. 


We’ll move upstairs for a wine tasting, both to learn about dinner’s particular wine but also how to taste more critically in general. 

Dinner will start to arrive, with each course finished and then explained by your class mates. You’ll finally eat your fill of burrata and your wine will pour generously. 

A visit to Silvestro’s personal amaro bar for night caps.

Giovedi

Thursday

Breakfast in the main hall at 9 am.  Breakfast will include fresh local pastries, fresh fruit, eggs, toast, yoghurt, cheeses and meats. Tea, juice and locally-roasted espresso.

At 10 we’ll move over to the chalkboard for Many Seas: A Brief History of The Mediterranean. You’ll learn about today’s lunch menu before we head down into the kitchen and make fresh pasta from scratch, then segue into a lesson on how to cook all the world’s fish employing only a handful of simple techniques. We’ll prepare lunch together, using our new skills and then move upstairs to talk about today’s lunch wine. 

We’ll do a guided tasting and then the food will be begin to arrive, with various students taking the opportunity to be finish a dish and then explain it to the table. 

You’ll have a break to spend time reading, go for a walk, scroll your device or just to nap off all the wine. 

We’ll meet again at 6 pm for The Pig: a Global Love Story. We’ll discuss our menu and then move down into the kitchen to make a different fresh pasta from scratch (every meal a different shape). We’ll have a lesson on blank and then use those new skills to work together to assemble dinner. 


We’ll move upstairs for a wine tasting, both to learn about dinner’s particular wine but also how to taste more critically in general. 

Dinner will start to arrive, with each course finished and then explained by your class mates. 

A visit to Silvestro’s personal amaro bar for night caps.

Venerdi

Friday

Breakfast in the main hall at 9 am.  Breakfast will include fresh local pastries, fresh fruit, eggs, toast, yoghurt, cheeses and meats. Tea, juice and locally-roasted espresso.

At 10 we’ll move over to the chalkboard for 1493: A history of Italian Vegetables. As today is the new the new wine comes out, we’ll also discuss high level wine making techniques, including carbonic maceration (how the Novello [Italy’s beaujoie nuevou] is made). You’ll learn why wine recently become a grocery in many parts of the world, how to store it and age it and what’s the difference. 

You’ll learn about today’s lunch menu before we head down into the kitchen and make fresh pasta from scratch, then segue into making fresh sausages from scratch. We’ll prepare lunch together, using our new skills and then move upstairs to talk about today’s lunch wine. We’ll do a guided tasting and then the food will be begin to arrive, with various students taking the opportunity to be finish a dish and then explain it to the table. 

You’ll have a break to go for a walk, prepuce your luggage, read, scroll your device or just to nap off all the wine. 

We’ll meet again at 6 pm to talk about what you’ve learned this week and to answer any questions. , then our menu and then move down into the kitchen to make a different fresh pasta from scratch

We’ll make fresh sausages from scratch and grill them over olive wood. We’ll have the first clementines of the year, the first chestnuts and eat enough to rupture internal organs. And the new wine will flow late into the evening. 


You’ll receive some departing gifts. 

Sabato

Saturday 

departure

Breakfast one last time in the Baron’s main hall. 

We’ll arrange transportation back to the Lecce train station, for either a departure headed north of Lecce, or to return for a few more days back in Lecce, one of Italy’s prettiest cities. 

About a week after your course we’ll send you a password to all of our recipes and include all the email address of the others on your course. Many if not most make life-long friendships while here. They send us many happy pictures of wine-soaked reunions, held all over the world.  

There are two ways to render the sauce biologically sterile, and thus, preserved. One involves wrapping the bottles in woollen blankets, so that they take so long to cool down that any potential microbes die.

Or you can use a water bath and bring the bottles back to the boil again. 15 years later we still have the marks on the school’s wall from our last attempt with the blankets.

It’s hard for many of us to remember that the tomato actually started it’s life in Perù and that it didn’t cross the Atlantic until after the Columbian Exchange. A hundred years after that it started to appear ornamentally in botanical diaries and two hundreds years after that made its way into the diet, especially in the south, where they reach their full potential under the Mediterranean sun.

The best tomatoes are still Southern, thriving in the rich volcanic soils and red, red earth for which the south is justifiable famous.

If you are interested in swimming in the Baron’s pool, this is the best week for it.

Unless you’re Swedish. 

Q: How much of this week is dedicated to the annual making of the tomato sauce?

A: Only one day, from about 9 to 16:00 with a break for lunch and a swim in the baron’s pool while the sauce returns to the boil. 

Q: Is it better to drink ice cold beer or wine when making the sauce?

A: Beer. Wine goes down too smoothly and you’re too likely to walk up in the park with your pants around your ankles. Again. 

Q: Can we stay in Lecce (or another city) but commute to take the week-long class at the castle?

A: No. Our castle courses are a completely different format than our Lecce school. Staying at the castle- and drinking wine late nights without worrying about the drive- is a big part of the fun. Trust us on this one. We’ve been teaching courses at the castle for 15 years now.