Italian Cooking: Central Italy

I may have mentioned that I’m a fan of George Brown’s culinary school in Toronto. A few weeks ago I was thinking to enroll and started browsing through the catalog of online courses. I am back on Vancouver Island, so I had the following criteria:

  • Gotta be interesting … and a cuisine in which I have no experience
  • Gotta be timely … I once made the mistake of enrolling in 10am classes Toronto time. In Pacific time it was 7am and I was barely awake
  • Gotta use accessible ingredients … which eliminated cuisines requiring exotic spices and herbs

I chose Italian Cooking which is very popular at GBC. Unlike other countries, there were three courses to cover Northern, Central and Southern Italy. I’d already taken Northern, Southern wasn’t available, so Central Italy it was!

On the first day of class I eagerly read the course material for dishes, ingredients and resources. Most important was the shopping list as I had source my groceries for the weeks ahead.

In my little coastal town (population:1,700) there is a reasonably well stocked grocery-bakery-pharmacy-hardware-almost-anything-you-want co-op store. Items have to be trucked in, so prices are typically higher and inventory fluctuates according to day of the week and time of the year.

In the height of summer when tourism is at its busiest, week-ends are the worst time to shop. The parking lot is jammed with RVs and camper vans and a steady stream of holidayers regularly empty the shelves. Of course, the store stocks groceries suitable for vacationers: steaks & burgers for the BBQ, veggies for salad, prepared foods & snacks.

Unfortunately, these are not the kind of supplies I need. Here are some of the problematic items on my shopping list:

  • Wild Boar
  • Duck legs
  • Pancetta
  • Juniper berries
  • Truffle paste and Truffle oil
  • Pecorino cheese
  • Rennet and Citric Acid for making cheese

I made a 1.5 hour trek to the nearest larger town of Port Alberni and wasn’t able to find any of these items.

Maybe, if I went to Nanaimo? It’s only a three hour trip one-way. Six hours return. Still, it’s not the kind of shopping trip I relish. In the weeks ahead … Substitution, Imagination and Amazon will be my friends.

Luckily for the first class, I was able to make the dishes with ingredients on hand.

The region was Lazio and dishes were Pomodori Ripieni di Riso (Tomatoes stuffed with Rice), Pollo alla Ciociara (a peasant-style chicken stew made with peppers, tomatoes and white wine) and Scarola Strascinata (lettuce sautéed with anchovies and olives.)

Does it sound delicious? It certainly was. Have you ever been to Lazio? If you’ve been to Rome (lucky you 😉 ) you’ve been to the heart of Lazio. Visiting Italy is on my bucket list. Until then, I’ll cook the dishes.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share highlights from my classes on Italian cooking. I hope you stay tuned.


  1. Wait, are you telling us that you don’t have easy access to wild boar on Vancouver Island? Haha
    I admire your commitment to these cooking classes, and can’t wait to read/hear about your adventures through food! So far, the dishes look amazing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been to Italy but not to Lazio. I am sure the food anywhere in Italy is delightful. You should book a ticket.
    This comes from the person who took a six hour drive to attempt to find Jonathan apples – without success. But we did stay overnight and enjoy a winery or two to make the trip worthwhile.


    1. Are Jonathan apples especially hard to find? I think I’ve seen them in Fall in the Toronto shops. I hear they’re good for pie. A drive through wine country is a nice way to spend a crisp autumn day.


      1. I like Jonathan apples for eating and tend to use Granny Smith’s for pies. We used to have Jonathan’s accessible in the shops, but as they don’t have a long shelf life, the supermarkets no longer stock them. Even the farmers no longer have these varieties as the trees got so old and they removed them. They have an especially tart flavour that I am fond of. I have searched but without success. I think there is one farm in the colder regions down south stocking them – you can only buy them on invitation. The supermarkets fresh produce is anything but fresh. It looks good but has been preserved for weeks on end which annoys me to no end. I have been sourcing veges direct from farms where I can.


  3. Online cooking classes from GBC? Never crossed my mind that this would be a THING. Thanks for opening my eyes, Sandy! I will have to check them out. Nesvogs in Nanaimo (2 locations) sells “exotic” meats – I have seen boar there…not sure how wild though 😉. Looking forward to more about your class!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. GBC pivoted to online during the pandemic. I was wary at first. The school’s biggest draw was access to professional kitchens. Plus, they provided all of the ingredients you wouldn’t normally find. The online classes have their own advantage. Taking it remote is one. Here’s the link to find out more:

      Thanks for the Nesvogs reference. I really appreciate it. Part of my reservation is making the 3 hour drive and then having to run around & search before taking the 3 hour drive back. Knowing a place to call ahead is a big help

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Tuscan food and food of Emilia Romagna (Bologna) is amazing! Aren’t there any wild boars in Canadian forests?😉 I have been to Rome and loved its food. We have truffles here too. I think you’ll have to order everything online

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuscany is next up on my list!
      Yes, online shopping is a life-saver. Not everything ships here though and some come with an exhortibant price tag. When that happens, I’ll have to substitute. Food is food, so it’s good either way!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Looks and sounds delicious! I’ve been to Lazio a couple of times as my mother-in-law’s mother came from a small village there, Arpino, in the area between Rome and Naples. But I’ve never encountered any of these dishes!

    Liked by 1 person

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