Inspired by the picnic lunch we ate in the Ruffino wines beautiful vineyard, I recreated the panzanella bread salad recipe.
Last week I had the pleasure of staying at Ruffino’s relais for two nights to experience their new hotel and hospitality
Relais Ruffino, which opened recently, it is situated on the Poggio Casciano estate, near Bagno a Ripoli.
Guests can stay in a beautiful fourteenth-century Renaissance villa surrounded by delightful Italian gardens, vineyards and wine cellars, which produce two of the company’s most iconic wines.
The striking villa has 7 double rooms, so its a nice small size and makes you feel like you are being well taken care of.
Guests can come and stay and immerse them self in an amazing Tuscan wine experience and wake up to the most beautiful views of grape vines for as far as the eye can see, take part in wine tasting, cooking classes and more.
In its 140 years, Ruffino’s distinctive trait has been to be a pioneer, to always look forward while respecting the past. A past that is so deeply entwined with the history of wine in Tuscany that it is impossible to separate the two.
You can really feel this when you step through the gate of this wonderful place and hear the team talk about their wines.Jump to Recipe
Our trip there last week consisted of all the activities available to guests wanting an authentic wine experience in Tuscany.
I arrived in the late afternoon and after a short drive (about 40 minutes) from Florence airport, i was promptly shown to my room. The decor instantly caught my eye as i love renaissance style interiors.
The other bloggers/instagrammer’s that where part of this trip and I where treated so a glass of cold wine by the stunning infinity pool that had the most amazing panoramic view of the hillside.
We introduced our self’s and talked about the itinerary for the next few days while enjoying a delicious selection of cheese and fruit.
That evening we took a short trip to Ruffino’s Montemasso estate for a cooking class. This was the one thing i was most looking forward too.
We were driven just up the road to find another beautiful house that sat right on the top of the hill. The long winding drive way to get to the house was surrounded by vineyards and olive trees.
We enjoyed more wine, one was their Chianti superiorE and their rose Prosecco from one of their vineyards in Veneto, which i really enjoyed.
We nibbled on some cheese (more pecorino, which i have come to really love) while taking in the amazing views across the valley below. Then we went down to the kitchen and got stuck right in to our cooking class.
Each of us had something to prepare for the dinner, which i thought was really lovely. I was in charge of making the meatballs. They where made with ground beef, ricotta and Parmesan and seasoning and then rolled into bread crumbs and pan fried, before being covered in a delicious tomato sauce. They where so easy to make and where incredibly delicious. I have not tried adding ricotta to meatballs before, and it made them so light, I will be sharing the recipe soon!.
Others in the group had the task of making pasta dough for some ravioli, spinach ravioli filling or gnudi, two types of bruschetta, courgette parmigiana, chocolate cake and biscotti.
The golden evening light shone through the large windows and cast the most beautiful hue that filled the room. It felt so magical.
After some amazing team work we left the kitchen to watch the sun set on the hills.
We stood around the fire pit chatting with some more wine, before we headed in to a beautifully grand dining room and enjoyed the food we had all prepared.
During the meal we got to sample some of Ruffino’s wines and hear more about the company and their venture into the hospitality side of their business. As well as their newly opened relais they hold several wine tasting packages at their estates.
The meal ended with a really delicious dessert, I really loved dipping the biscotti into a glass of their Vin santo.
Then it was back to bed at the relais. My room was huge and had the most comfortable big bed. I felt like a princess in it.
The next morning we enjoyed a tasty breakfast which consisted of lots of delicious local bakes and fruit, meats and cheeses. Then we started our day’s activities which consisted of a visit their Santedame vineyards.
To get there we drove through the most amazing scenery, Tuscany really doesn’t disappoint with its breath taking views, rolling hills and postcard like surroundings!
The first stop was the lovely little town of Castellina in Chianti. If you love wine then you may recognise the name, it is where Chianti classical is produced. We wondered the narrow cobbled streets and took a look around the town square.
There was even a little underground alley way dotted with small shops. We had time to grab a cold drink to cool off In the heat sat by the church, before heading to the estate for a picnic in the vineyard.
We where served a very popular Tuscan bread salad or panzanella bread salad for our picnic lunch, and also some cheese and fruit and more of their wines. I loved their chianti in its iconic shaped bottle.
I have recreated the panzanella bread salad we had and changed it slightly and added roasted courgettes and burrata, recipe below.
Panzanella bread salad recipe
Traditional panzanella bread salad is made using Tuscan bread, this bread is made without salt, so the olive oil is a really important ingredient to lift the dish, at home in England Tuscan bread isn’t available so I used a normal loaf, but ciabatta also works well.
The possibilities as to what to add to a panzanella bread salad are endless really, the most popular consists of tomatoes and bread , onion with vinegar and olive oil. Other ingredients that can be used change from season, or the chef making it. I have had it with capers and peppers and also roasted peaches. See an old recipe of mine with peaches here
That’s what I love most about it, it can be what ever you want it to be, so I thought it would be perfect with burrata and roasted courgettes
- 10 heirloom tomatoes
- 2 small courgettes (zucchini)
- half red onion
- bread like ciabatta or sourdough day old or stale (or tuscan bread if you can find it)
- small bunch fresh basil
- 1 burratta or mozzarella optional
- red wine vinegar
- olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180c and slice the courgettes and place them on a roasting tray drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast for about 20 minutes or until golden, cut or tear up the bread into chunks and place in a bowl, (you can lightly toast it if it is fresh).chop up onion and add to the bowl with the bread and add 2 tbsp vinegar and oil and toss together.slice tomatoes and add to the bowl and toss again and add the cougettes.Tear up some fresh basil, a small handfull will do and toss in the bowl and then drizzle some more oil and season well.add some torn up burrata and servenote – the burrata and courgettes are not traditional to the Tuscan version of this dish. I added it as my spin, for the traditional version, use some capers and even jarred peppers. Panzanella is a great dish to add any veggies you have that need using up, even fruit works, try adding a sliced peach.
After a wonderful picnic in the vineyard, we took the drive back to the relais to relax for a little while before heading to Florence for dinner.
We ate at a wonderful rooftop restaurant with panoramic views over the city and watched the sunset. There we where served some really amazing dishes, I especially loved the beef carpaccio and rabbit ragu with pappardelle and black truffle.
The next morning we had a tour of the Poggio Casciano wine cellar and did some wine tasting. It was so amazing to see the passion that they have for their wines and hear the story of how Ruffino was started.
I found it really interesting to see the process of how the wine is made and walk through the cellar and smell the strong aromas of the wine and wood barrels.
Ruffino is a member of The Grand Wine Tour: an Association of the finest wineries across Italy offering exclusive wine tastings, boutique hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants & unique activities dedicated to wine lovers and a luxury clientele. They are focusing on the hospitality side of the wine industry offering amazing packages for guests to come and enjoy. It really was a wine lovers heaven, and even more enjoyable for a foodie like me. I loved the cooking class and learning more about the local cuisine.
It you want to find out more and stay at the relais yourself then go to their website to check availability. I highly recommend it. They have several wine tasting packages as well as truffle hunting in the Chianti hills which i would love to do next.
This post was sponsored by Ruffino wines, all opinions are my own.