On her recent culinary trip to central Italy, Duso’s marketing manager Raeanne Schachter noticed how passionate the locals were about their food – much like the company with which she works.

“It’s in their blood – they take time to source the highest quality products and they buy locally as much as possible,” she said.

Schachter’s trip was led by Dana Reinhardt, a long-time chef and restaurateur in British Columbia who takes eight to 10 people twice a year to Tuscania, in the central west region of Italy. It’s a fun and educational outing for people who are looking for a slightly different vacation experience.

The tour is called Cook Italy, and visitors stay for a week at a 125-acre olive farm called Casa Capponetti, at which they learn how to make pasta, pizza and other sumptuous dishes using fresh, local ingredients. Guests harvest some of them – including dozens of varieties of tomatoes and herbs – right on site!

Besides discovering how to make fantastic recipes from an expert, Schachter was treated to a tour through the Sergio Mottura Winery and Hotel because why go to Italy without sampling the fabulous wine?

She said she learned a lot about the wine-making process – especially the painstaking work that goes into making their version of champagne. The bottles are actually physically turned every day for seven years before their contents are corked.

Dinner at the winery was a delicious six-course affair, with each course paired with a carefully chosen wine from the robust cellar to enhance and complement the taste of the food.

On another day trip, Schachter and her fellow travellers visited Casa Marras, a local farm and cheesemaker. There, they tried their hand at making ricotta – a light, creamy, versatile ingredient that goes into many of Duso’s products. While we Canadians call it cheese, it’s actually not a ‘formaggio’ in Italy, because it doesn’t have a form or rind.

There are dozens of kinds of Italian cheeses that have different tastes and textures depending on where they’re produced. Pecorino romano – a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk that’s used extensively in Duso’s products – was originally made in the province of Rome. Pecorino sardo – the kind made at the farm – is a richer cheese originating from Sardinia.

“In Italy, dining is all about simplicity and enjoyment,” she said.

Schachter’s experience dovetails with her work, in that Duso’s too, continues a strong Italian tradition of using only the freshest ingredients and sourcing locally as much as possible.

“The pasta recipe we made during the cooking class is the same one that Duso’s uses,” says Schachter. “But of course, it’s much more convenient when you’re really busy to pick it up at the store!”

Watch for our upcoming post about wine and pasta pairings that will impress your family and guests for the holiday season!