come with us to Tuscany

“Mama, when are we going to swim again in the pool in Italy?” Lu asked me last month. She must dream of that clear blue, the cool water in the hills of Tuscany. Last May, she jumped with joy back and forth on the steps, watching the big girls dive off the edge and splash and come up laughing. Eight months ago, Lucy didn’t know how to swim. That didn’t make her love the pool any less. I’m sure the longing only intensified her desire to go back.

When she asked me when we were returning to that pool again, I pulled her onto my knee and grinned. “Honey, we’re going back in May. Do you want to return to Italy? Want to go to the villa again?”

She raised her hand in a fist and shouted, “Yeah!”

That’s how we feel too. We’re going back to Tuscany, to teach cooking classes in the villa we came to love last year, with the good folks at Jovial.

And we’d love to meet you there.

This is the kitchen where so much happiness happened last year. I dream of this kitchen.

From May 18th to May 25th this year, Danny and I will be at the villa to rival Downton Abbey in the hills outside of Lucca, teaching gluten-free cooking classes. So many of you write — a new email almost every day — to say how inspired you have been by this post I wrote about our honeymoon in Italy, how graciously easy it is to eat gluten-free there. If you have ever dreamed about going to Italy, may we suggest you go there with us? And learn how to cook in this kitchen and bake something delicious, gluten-free?

We’ll be teaching a baking class, where we’ll teach you about all the gluten-free flours (and you won’t believe the quality of the Italian flours), how to combine them, and how to bake pie, cakes, and cookies.

One morning that week, we’ll all go to the market together, bring the best local produce you can taste to the kitchen, and make lunch together. We’ll also show you how to make gluten-free bread dough for pizza, naan, and pita breads. I’m imagining Danny making pizza in the wood-fired oven outside.

And another morning that week, we’ll be focusing on whole grains: how to cook them, how to store them, and how to incorporate them into your meals even when your life is busy. We’ll eat well.

The first night there will be a huge feast, like the one we shared last year, with Aurelio Barattini. And the last night, we’ll all gather together in this villa kitchen, spilling outside into the warm air outside, to cook our favorite dishes, the ones we learned that week or ate in restaurants in Tuscany, all of it gluten-free.

And in the hours and days when we’re not cooking together, you’ll have time to yourself to explore the Uffizi in Florence or take a dip into the Mediterranean sea. It’s the dream of Italy, made reality, gluten-free.

(Seriously, look at the rooms in this villa.)

We know that this is an expensive trip. It’s the trip of a lifetime, after all. We know most people can’t afford this. (Heck, we couldn’t afford it.) But if you have been dreaming of Italy, and thinking of making it happen, we hope you can make it happen with us.

We can’t wait to be there with you.

Please visit this site to see more details about the Jovial Culinary Getaway with us in May.

GLUTEN-FREE MUSHROOM AND KALE LASAGNA

Even if you can’t make it to Italy this year, you can have authentic Italian pasta, gluten-free. Last May, when we were in the villa outside of Lucca, we talked with Carla and Lorenzo about the egg pastas they were making. Gluten-free egg pasta! Tagliatelle! Lasagna! We were so excited and we couldn’t say anything.

Well, now we can.

These are the best gluten-free pastas we have ever tasted. No one — and I mean no one — could complain that these are gluten-free. They’re tremendous.

The egg pastas should be widely available in stores by May. But for now, they’re only available on the Jovial website. From now until March 1st, you can order the pastas there with the order code GFGIRL and receive 10% off and free shipping.

Trust us. You’re going to love these pastas. And you’re going to want to make this lasagna.

for the sauce
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 18-ounce jars of tomatoes (you can use any tomatoes you like)
1 cup water

Making the sauce. Set a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and garlic are soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the fresh basil and oregano. Stir until you can smell the herbs. Add the tomatoes and water. Cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can easily make the sauce ahead of time for a weeknight lasagna. The taste only intensifies in the refrigerator.

for the vegetables
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups quartered mushrooms (we used shiitakes, in this case)
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and cut into chiffonade

Cooking the vegetables. As the sauce is nearing the end of its simmer, set a large skillet over high heat. Pour in the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms start to turn a dark roasted brown and have wilted, about 7 minutes, add the kale. You might need a couple of tablespoons of water to help the kale wilt. Cook, stirring, until the kale is wilted and dark green, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and set the skillet aside.

to assemble the lasagna
1 9-ounce box gluten-free lasagna noodles
8 ounces ricotta (we used homemade ricotta here)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
4 ounces Parmesan
8 ounces fresh mozzarella

In a 9 x 12 casserole pan, Ladle enough of the tomato sauce into a 9 x 12 casserole pan to cover the bottom. Lay down a layer of the lasagna noodles (these will be raw, remember). Add a layer of the cooked vegetables, then some of the ricotta and shredded mozzarella. Repeat: sauce, noodles, vegetables, and cheese. You should have enough for three layers of this. Finish with the remaining sauce and slices of the fresh mozzarella, distributed evenly over the top.

Cover the top of the lasagna pan with aluminum foil. Put the pan into a 425° oven and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake the lasagna until the top is bubbly and starting to brown, another 15 to 20 minutes.

Try not to burn your tongue when you’re eating!

Feeds 8 to 10.