Thursday, July 24, 2014

Secrets I Learned Cooking with Mamma Agata in Ravello, Italy

The view from Mamma's terrace at The Hidden Treasure
I recently spent a magical day in Ravello, Italy on the Amalfi Coast cooking at The Hidden Treasure with Mamma Agata. It was a day that I’ll never forget because of the amazing Italian cooking techniques I learned in a panoramic setting with truly interesting people.
Mamma Agatta's cookbook! Available 
Mamma Agata started cooking when she was only 8 years old, by the time she was 13 she went to work for a wealthy American woman in a nearby summer villa. It was there that she honed her skills as she cooked for visiting luminaries of the day such as Humphrey Bogart,  Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jackie Kennedy, amongst many others. These days the rich and famous come to Ravello seeking the secrets of Mamma's simple and elegant way of cooking. 

Mamma Agata shares her secrets with our class

Mamma Agata's secrets to a quality Marinara

  1. Start with fresh ingredients and use a quality tomato sauce. I have found that tomato sauce in glass containers have the best taste. Organic tomato sauces tend to have more genuine flavor and less additives.
  2. Never add onion. 
  3. Add 10 fresh cherry or grape tomatoes for each quart of tomato sauce for a light fresh flavor. 
  4. Use 2-3 whole garlic cloves (no more), and remove them from the sauce once the cooking process is completed. The whole cloves impart a much more gentle flavor than sliced or minced garlic. 
  5. When you sauté garlic or fresh herbs for your marinara, always start with a cold pot, and gently bring up the heat. This helps infuse the oil with the flavors of your ingredients without burning them.

Mamma's secrets to cooking eggplant

  1. Use Japanese eggplant if possible as this long slender type contains less seeds than traditional eggplant. 
  2. Always cut eggplant into ample pieces as it shrinks when it cooks. 
  3. Always sprinkle eggplant generously with salt and let it stand in a colander for at least 30 minutes to release it's bitterness prior to proceeding with any recipe. You will see liquid drain out of the colander.
  4. NEVER rinse salt off the eggplant. Squeeze the water out, and pat it dry with paper towels. 
  5. For recipe's such as eggplant parmigiana, dust the eggplant in a light coating of "00" flour found in many Italian and gourmet markets in the U.S. Using this "00" flour yields a lighter result. 
  6. Fry eggplant in peanut oil at a consistent medium/high temperature to prevent it from soaking up too much oil. The oil is ready for frying when a small pinch of flour sizzles in your deep frying pan. 
Chiara Lima, Agata's daughter

Mamma Agata’s family has lived in their patriarchal home for more than 200 years, and they truly live from the land. They grow the majority of their own food including, herbs, fruits, vegetables, chickens, and even rabbits. They make their own olive oil, and the wine they make from their own grapes is absolutely divine - smooth, fruity, complex, and yet easy on the palate. The family lives a beautifully simple lifestyle. 

A sampling of what we made in our cooking class! 

Parmigiana de melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan
Coccolli de Mamma Agata (Fritters)
Spaghetti del Contadiero (Spaghetti of the Farmer)
Very happy fellow classmates! 

A few memories from The Hidden Treasure

Another breathtaking view from Agata's terrace
Lemon Trees

To learn more about Mamma Agata and her cooking classes, please visit


  1. Great job. Welcome to the blogging world. Your post was helpful, looked like a wonderful experience and WHAT a beautiful setting.

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