Welcome to the Kitchen Winch!

Oh hey there! As I write this post, Atlanta is under a massive winter weather advisory and I just returned from warm, sunny Florida, so I’m NOT into it. Which made me think of other vacations I desperately missed, and my heart started aching for the Amalfi Coast. I traveled to Positano, Ravello, and a host of other places in July 2012 with my family, friends and (somewhat new) boyfriend Graham. It was one of those trips I would do alllllll over again, exactly the same way. But the absolute highlight of the trip, and one of my most treasured life experiences, was an all-day cooking class at Mamma Agata’s Cooking School in Ravello.

Isn't she the cutest?!

Me and the incomparable Mamma Agata. Isn’t she the cutest?!

Mamma Agata is this adorable little 80-something-year-old who is the woman behind the famous name. Her daughter, Chiara, is the genius who decided to market her mother’s incredible cooking, and has turned her into a star. The 12 of us – a reeeal Motley Crue – barged into the idyllic estate where Mamma Agata and her family grow all of their produce, make their own wine, and host these day-long cooking classes.

Learning how to roll Eggplant Rolls with Chiara, Mamma Agata's daughter.

Learning how to roll Eggplant Rolls with Chiara, Mamma Agata’s daughter.

We piled into the kitchen, but not before having a slice of her infamous Lemon Cake. Mind you, it’s 10am. We all easily downed a piece of the cake and filed into the kitchen to start the day. First up was eggplant rolls. We fried the eggplant slices then rolled them up with such delicious treats as pumpkin, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, etc. Oh and BASIL, alllll the fresh basil!!

Sooooo gooood

Sooooo gooood

They were delicious. And they weren’t even really a part of the massive meal we were preparing. At this point, I’m sure we all had glasses of wine. Mind you – probably 11am at this point. Yayyy vacation!

These lemons were freaking HUGE

These lemons were freaking HUGE

Side note: There were lemons all over the Agata property. HUGE lemons, the size of my head. We strolled around the estate for a while, tasting their homegrown treats and saying hi to the little bunnies, when we weren’t cooking up a storm.

Cheesy and delicious

Cheesy and delicious

For the first hour or so in the kitchen, we focused on the Eggplant Parmigiana. Holy hell, I had never made a real Eggplant Parm before this class. There were 3 different types of cheese, layers of deliciously crisp eggplant, and homemade sauce to top it all off. It was piled to the rim and overflowing with cheesy goodness that smelled like a gift from above. And again, the fresh basil was on point.

Mamma Agata's Lemon Chicken - one of my favorite go-to meals. Always a crowd pleaser!

Mamma Agata’s Lemon Chicken – one of my favorite go-to meals. Always a crowd pleaser!

But my favorite dish was a complete surprise. It was the last thing we made, and by the time it came to the table we were stuffed with 3 different types of pasta, drunk from drinking wine for 5 hours, and the thought of tearing into a chicken thigh sounded utterly unappetizing. Then it came out…and ohhh myyy gosh. It’s a fairly simple dish of SKIN-ON chicken thighs (and legs if you want, but I’m a thigh girl), garlic, sage, rosemary, wine, drizzled with lemon upon serving. Simple, but one of the most satisfying dishes that I make almost weekly ever since. It immediately transports me back to the crystal-clear waters, the sound of Chiara’s laugh bubbling throughout the house and kitchen, and an experience that forever taught me the importance of cooking good food, with the people you love.

Big pan 'o pasta

This is where they LIVE. Try to wrap your head around that.

This is where they LIVE. Try to wrap your head around that.

What I wouldn’t give to be back there right now!

This is Mamma Agata's famous lemon cake, which we were forced (begged) to have 2 slices each.

This is Mamma Agata’s famous lemon cake, which we were forced (begged) to have 2 slices each.

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