“I need two more battuto-ers over here!” calls out Marco Canora, the New York City chef and cooking teacher. He’s watching a student hack at a bunch of onions to prepare a battuto, a blend of vegetables, herbs and oil that provides the first layer of flavor for many Italian dishes. The students are eight of Canora’s most devoted restaurant regulars; the classroom is the kitchen of his mother’s lovely villa in Tuscany. “Battuto,” Canora says, relishing the word—and the whole teaching-in-Italy experience.
Students cook with Marco Canora. Photo © John Kernick.
Over the past few years, Americans have founded quite a few Italian cooking schools, and star chefs like Canora are leading classes all over the country. Next summer, he will teach at Montecastelli near Siena. The class at his mother’s house is a test run—a wildly successful one, it turns out.
The owner of acclaimed Manhattan restaurants Hearth and Insieme and the quirky wine bar Terroir, Canora is known for his refined take on regional Italian dishes, such as snapper crudo with lemon and red pepper. But when he teaches, he turns to homestyle dishes like eggs poached in tomato sauce, served warm and runny over grilled country bread. This is the kind of food he grew up eating in upstate New York, where his Tuscan mother, Laura Sbrana, cooked what she grew in her garden. (She eventually opened a cooking school on Martha’s Vineyard.) Canora shares simple, market-driven recipes like these in his first cookbook, Salt to Taste.