Masterclass with Chef Valeria Piccini

Chef Valeria Piccini Da Caino Stephanie Dickison.jpg

Caino Ristorante has only nine tables, serving just eighteen guests each night.

Set in the medieval village of Montemerano in Tuscany, Italy, the family-run restaurant led by Chef Valeria Piccini was established in 1971 by her mother-in-law and mentor.

During her tenure at the restaurant for the last four decades Piccini has been awarded not one, but two Michelin stars, and has maintained the two-star status for the last 20 years. Piccini, along with her husband Maurizio Menichetti, has created what many call “one of the most inviting restaurants in Italy.”  

Born into a family of food lovers, farmers, and cheese makers, Piccini’s legendary dishes are not precious (no tweezers here), but precise, made with simple, local, and seasonal ingredients - chickpeas, farro, and truffles, for instance, all from the surrounding region.

Chef Valeria Piccini and the Italian Trade Commission visited the George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts a few weeks ago to give a Masterclass on some of her beloved dishes.

Demonstrating key techniques to next-level cooking (toasting farro without fat “to release the natural oils,” placing them in the palm of your hand to test for doneness) and proving that water, not stock, will result in just as creamy and flavourful risotto, were just some of the takeaways from class.

Sampling the world-renowned dishes she, her team, and students of the school made in just two hours, the complexity of flavours and textures were easily discernible, even in a crowded classroom under fluorescent lights.

Chef Piccini has kindly shared two recipes from the class, so you can recreate the experience at home.

Buon appetito!

Chef Valeria Piccini Spelt with Truffles Stephanie Dickison.jpeg

Spelt, potatoes, lard, pecorino cheese, and truffle

Serves 4 

250 g        Spelt

100 g        Potato      

50 g          Lardo, Sliced Thick

40 g          Butter, Cold     

50 g          Pecorino Toscano

20 g          Parmigiano Reggiano

1 L             Vegetable Stock       

100 g        Extra Virgin Olive Oil

QB            Salt  

50 g          White Truffle     

40 g          Dried Mushrooms    


Rehydrate the mushrooms with water, then sauté with garlic and oil.

Cook the spelt like a risotto - when you add the stock, add also the cubed potato.

Mid-way through the cooking process, add the mushrooms, and at the very end, add the cheese and butter.

In the meantime, in a pan roast the lardo sliced thin.

Serve the spelt, put the crispy lard on top and a nice slice of truffle.

Castagnaccio con crema di ricotta e lampoon

Serves 9

300 g        Chestnut Flour

375 g        Milk 

300 g        Water       

50 g          Sugar       

QB            Extra Virgin Olive Oil

40 g          Walnuts   

40 g          Pine Nuts

40 g          Raisins     

1 bunch    Rosemary

500 g        Ricotta

150 g        Sugar       

250 g        Whipped Cream       

Zest           From 1/2 Lemon      

200 g        Fresh Raspberries    


In a bowl mix the flour, milk, water, sugar and a touch of oil.

Put the mix in a medium-sized sheet pan, with a 3/4-inch border.

Add the oil, dried fruit, nuts, and rosemary.

Cook in the oven at 150°C for 20 minutes, and then 230°C for 20 minutes.

Cut into triangle shapes.

Whip the ricotta with the cream and sugar.

Serve a quenelle with the ricotta cheese and fresh berries.