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The Cooking School

CaseVecchie4Welcome to Case Vecchie where you will discover much more than just another cooking school. Founded by Anna Tasca Lanza in 1989, the school at Case Vecchie offers an authentic Sicilian experience for anyone who shares a passion for cooking, natural beauty, terroir, and ingredients from a land that is unique the world over. Case Vecchie is a typical noble country residence with a square design surrounding an internal courtyard on which all the living quarters and the school face. The Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School has existed for almost thirty years and was founded by my mother, Anna Tasca Lanza, in 1989. The cooking school is located within the Tasca d'Almerita family estate, which is known for its fine wines. It was believed, at first, that the school kitchen for my mother was to be nothing more than a pleasant pastime. However, within a few years, the name of Anna Tasca Lanza acquired an incredible reputation in Europe and the United States. In the nineties, Anna wrote and published two books published in the U.S. on Sicilian cuisine, "revealing" to the American public the beauty of a land and a world unfortunately hitherto known only for the "Godfather". Anna directed the school until a few years ago, with the help of Venceslao, my father, an expert in Sicilian history and extraordinary storytelling. In 2006 I, her only child, started first to join her on trips abroad and then within Sicily. My mother and I traveled part of the path together, a short but intense trip. My mother passed away in July of 2010 and left me with endless pride with which to continue her mission, the wonderful gift of her passion and her work.

Anna Tasca Lanza

anna-tasca-lanzaAnna Tasca Lanza was the first of four children (born Tasca, married to a Lanza) and has always lived in Palermo. At 15 she was sent to L’Ecole Ménagère de Lausanne Briamond, where she learned some notions of French cuisine and, basically, how to be a good wife. Back home after two years, was immediately put to the test with the preparation of classic cheese puffs. This was her debut as a cook in the family! In 1959 she married Venceslao Lanza di Mazzarino, the scion of one of the noblest families on the island. In 1961 she gave birth to her only daughter, Fabrizia. In 1989, Anna, with the help and support of her parents, the now established wine producers Giuseppe and Franca Tasca, put together a small cooking school at Regaleali, the family winery. The idea was to spread Sicilian home cooking to America, where she was immediately greeted with great enthusiasm. In 1898 the first group of American students arrived. Within a few years Anna knew and worked with stars of international cuisine, such as Julia Child, James Beard, Alice Waters, Carol Field, Robert Mondavi, the Coppolas.

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Chef Fabrizia Lanza

Fabrizia Lanza was born in Palermo on 8 March 1961. Feeling asphyxiated on the island, she left Sicily at 18 years old. She wanted to make her life outside of a protected and sheltered nest. She graduated with a literature degree in Art History and worked for twenty years in the museum world. Fabrizia went on to organize exhibits and to write, directing, at the end of her career, two small town museums in Feltre, located within the province of Belluno. At 45 she ended her life as an art historian and decided to move back to Sicily. Anna needed help, and Fabrizia’s food-impassioned roots were calling! The first step was to support Anna in Travel: Fabrizia set off for Delhi, Malta, London, Paris, New York, Boston, Philadelphia. Anna introduced Fabrizia to her American audience in 2007 and before long Fabrizia found herself speaking about Sicilian ritualistic foods at a conference at Boston University. Fabrizia slowly took matters into her own hands, helping Anna at the school, with travel, with the set up of school programs, with creating new contacts. Meanwhile, she was still studying and researching -- Sicily is a continent in terms of culinary traditions, and some are still amazingly intact.

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Farm-to-Table Practices

 

 

AgricoltoreThe philosophy of the school is not so much to "invent" new recipes as much as to find and share with visitors the richness and diversity in the history of our cuisine. A recount of Sicily through food will lead one to find that in reality there are a thousand Sicilies that, when combined and tasted together, make a real culinary continent.
In a country where water is a precious gift, gardens are almost always edible and cultivated with plants that are useful to man. On this very topic Anna wrote two books, “Endangered Fruits” and “Endangered Herbs” dedicated to the research surrounding rare aromatic herbs and fruit trees facing possible extinction. The beautiful gardens at Case Vecchie are the result of this research. It is a kitchen garden that combines flowers, ancient roses and aromatic herbs to a vegetable garden and an orchard of endangered fruit trees. Nearly everything we use in the cooking school is grown on the property.
There are varieties of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, persimmons, figs, prickly pears, mulberries, pistachio, walnuts, almonds, olives, table grapes, broccoli, fennel, squash, pumpkins, fava beans, asparagus, potatoes, saffron, artichokes, celery, cardoons, tomatoes, chicories, beans, zucchini, swiss chard, wild greens, lettuces and an entire garden dedicated to herbs for the kitchen - the list is endless.
Season after season we plant the ingredients that are integral to our traditional recipes. Giuggiole (a sweet, olive-shaped, brown fruit), sour cherries and carob pods are plants and fruits that evoke a world at human scale, composed of flavors that have largely vanished and that we want our guests to experience in the conserves and jams of Case Vecchie.

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Documenting local culinary traditions

FioriOrtoFabrizia Lanza left Sicily and her family at the age of 18 to study the history of art in France, then Florence, Rome and Verona where for 20 years she organized exhibitions and conferences, translated books and directed museums. Cooking was always a passion and a great pleasure; now it has become a profession which she hopes to exercise with the cheerful light hand of the amateur and the curiosity of a genuine scientist. In food she found an amazing key with which to interpret the history of the family, which brings together two Sicilies both complementary and quite different.
The family of her two grandfathers, both of them lovers of good food who taught her, with great affection, how to eat well. Upon returning to Sicily, Fabrizia found a fascination with the old traditional culinary techniques used all around the island. Many things had changed drastically and she saw the need to preserve the special intricate arts of Sicily. She is constantly working on projects to document and preserve these vanishing culinary traditions.
Whether it is repairing wine barrels by hand, artisans weaving baskets from dried wild plants, making complex breads to celebrate the village’s patron saints day or by watching the Nuns prepare their famous pastries, Fabrizia has discovered a passion for capturing their stories of a beautiful old world that could soon disappear.

 

 

 

 

 

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INGsangiuseppeVideo

VIDEO: The Altars of San Giuseppe

The food offered at a feast is never just food but is also a rite that encompasses various histories and traditions. The Altars of San Giuseppe are mounted to accompany a religious vow made to San Giuseppe and the huge piles of food displayed on the altars are meant for the three poorest children of the village who represent Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

santaluciaVideo

VIDEO: The Feast of Santa Lucia

Legend has it that once upon a time a tremendous famine came to Siracusa, and the people were so hungry they had lost all hope they would survive. Then one day a miracle happened. A mysterious ship appeared, from far away, loaded with wheat. Starving and grateful, the people of Siracusa threw themselves on the grain and taking it to their homes, cooked it just as it was, without grinding it into flour first.