Gluten-free dream: This Italian cooking class provided the best food of my life

As someone who is severely allergic to gluten, I didn’t have high hopes for good food when I ventured to Sorrento.

Italy is one of my favourite places and I’ve visited Venice, Verona, Rome, Lake Garda and Tuscany many times – but my recent trip to the Amalfi Coast was the first time I’d been to Italy since being diagnosed as coeliac five years ago.

It’s safe to say I was apprehensive about spending five days in the home of pizza and pasta, as someone who can’t even have so much as a whiff of flour near my food.

So, when my friends and I travelled to the Peninsula Experience cooking class on the Sorrento coast, I was very much expecting to cook but be unable to eat anything.

Oh how wrong I was. My brilliant friend Jasmine who booked the class informed the family who run it beforehand of my allergy and they were excellent.

At a glance, the three traditional Italian dishes we were making – tiramisu, gnocchi and eggplant parmesan – were all unsafe for coeliacs, but I had gluten-free alternatives every step of the way.

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Upon arrival we got our aprons and chef hats before heading inside and enjoying an espresso. Yum.

The first dish we made was the tiramisu. I was staring at the very not gluten-free wafers sitting on the table and my heart began to sink.

But I was given my own GF biscuits, my own espresso and my own cream to soak and layer on top of each other to create my own tiramisu.

Each tiramisu was in it’s own unique dish with your name on it so there was no risk of a mix-up or cross-contamination.

So with that in the fridge it was on to the gnocchi, which we were making from scratch.

So that I didn’t feel left out, I created the same gnocchi dish as everyone else (gluten and all). The class included a race between the two teams to crush the potatoes as quickly as possible.

We then let the salt and flour absorb into the carby goodness before kneading it and shaping it into our own gnocchi, which was to be cooked.

The kitchen staff then separately prepared my own GF gnocchi, so I could enjoy it at the end with everyone. The best part was everyone had to share their pasta but not me, I got my own little bowl all to myself.

Finally, the star dish in my opinion, was the eggplant parmesan. When I say it was literally the best thing I’ve ever tasted…I mean it.

Eggplant parmesan may seem gluten-free at a glance, but the eggplant (or aubergine as us Brits call it) is fried in flour before being layered with cheese and tomato sauce.

I had my own fried aubergine which was done with GF flour and in its own pan. I then had my own tomato sauce and cheese put to the side to ensure no cross-contamination occurred.

Again my dish was separate while everyone else had to share – woohoo.

While everything was cooking we were able to enjoy a glass of white wine on the balcony overlooking the coast, then once the food was ready we had a glass of red wine to pair with it.

Then comes the best part – you eat every last bite. There’s even a shot of homemade limoncello served at the end. Delicious.

All in all, it was the best Italian cooking experience I could have asked for, and it was a great addition to our Amalfi coast itinerary.

The details:

The Penisola Cooking Experience costs 95 euros per adult, or 75 euros for those aged three to 12-years-old.

Transport to and from the family’s Italian villa is available but note this costs an extra 25 euros per person. We got caught out on that one, and they only take cash on site.

There are two slots available each day. The morning session begins at 9.30am and the evening session begins at 5.30pm, with both lasting three and a half hours.

What will you cook and eat:

  • Espresso
  • Homemade gnocchi
  • Eggplant parmesan
  • Tiramisu
  • Wine and limoncello

Inform them well beforehand about any allergies and be aware there will be a slight increase in cost to cover the GF ingredients. Book early to avoid disappointment!

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