Cooking in A Convent, Sicily

June 21, 2014

Happy summer!

My buddy Roberta and I welcomed the season with a luscious summertime lunch whipped up by the chefs-in-training at the Nosco Cooking School at Antico Convento Ibla in Ragusa Ibla. Talk about “Farm to Table” fresh! The chefs were out in the school’s garden picking our lunch a mere 30 minutes before we scarfed it down. Their assignment was to find something in the garden that inspired their creative fancy.

Chefs at the Nosco Cooking School in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

The squash blossoms were out in full glory. (Can you guess what ended up in one of the dishes?)

Nosco Cooking School, copyright Jann Huizenga

This chef threatened to stab me if I didn’t stop taking his picture.

Nosco Cooking School, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The wizard behind the magic is Peppe Barone, below, a chef who has inspired and trained many top chefs in Southeast Sicily. (He also owns the restaurant Fattoria delle Torri in Modica.) You can watch him on TV here.Peppe Barone of the Nosco School, copyright Jann Huizenga

An illicit aside:

Right under that rock wall is a deep black hole. Peppe explains: “It is the tunnel that the monks dug. It leads all the way to the nunnery.” He was not kidding. (The convent and nunnery were vacated sometime in the 1950s.)


Goodies in hand, the chefs traipse back to the kitchen and get to work.

Nosco School of Cooking, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Steam steam steam. Chop chop chop.


Roberta and I went down to the dining room in high anticipation, studying the skulls, scrolls, and other frescoes, wondering why there were no more monks. Is gastronomy the new religion?


Frescoes at the Nasco Cooking School in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

And then the moment arrived. We were poured a local bubbly rose.  And then these marvels–and many others–were placed before us, like benedictions.


Eggplant and tomato torte


Tomato pasta with local cheese–and do you see it?–the squash blossom! Stuffed with mozzarella and deep fried.


Pasta with great big green leaves picked in the garden. That’s all I know. Divine.


Pasta with a leek, onion & potato broth. Shoestring potato garnish.


A “convent cannolo” with sweet ricotta cream. Cute and amazing taste.

A big GRAZIE!!!!! Chef Peppe, to you and all your fine sous chefs!


The Nosco Cooking School at Antico Convento Ibla can arrange custom cooking classes for you  You’d need to find nine friends, to make a minimum group of ten. Or visit Ristorante Cenobio to taste the student chefs’ creations. The convent is at the back of the Ibla Gardens.


31 comments to Cooking in A Convent, Sicily

  • The pictures are as yummy as the food surely was!

    in MN.
    Jann, everything looks exquisite. The Eggplant and tomato torte…OH, MY!
    And the “convent cannolo!!” Ridiculous!
    Luv you from over here. xxxx
    Superb photos.

  • What wonderful stuff Jann. Makes me want to book a flight and come on over! And regards to that buddy of yours, Roberta.

  • Jan Walcott

    Hey Jann,
    Is a reservation necessary at this marvelous looking place? We will be in Ragusa Ibla in September, and this looks like a marvelous way to while away un giorno!!!

  • Yum, Jann — NOW I’m hungry all over again! Your meal looks delicious (especially dessert!) This definitely would be on my “must see” list — thanks for letting me tag along.

  • John

    Wow, I’m so hungry right now Jann! We have go to try that restaurant soon! A presto!

  • Vicki Carol

    Oh My Goodness, I haven’t even had breakfast yet and I am presented with these delicacies to eye savor. Going to the kitchen and re-read my Sicilian cook book for an afternoon snack . Great photos as always.

  • What a start to your summer Jann! Incredibly beautiful in every way and your photos do it justice too. I can only send you wishes that this wonderful meal sets the tone for your bella stagione. xxx

    • Jann

      Janine, the stagione has been incredibly beautiful thus far weather-wise but a heat wave is on the way. Non mi piace per niente! Send me some of your winter air please. xxx

  • Sounds amazing! Mental note to round up some friends and head down.

  • Wow! Gorgeous food and photos, Jann. Peppe is very sexy. I do like a man who cooks x

  • Charlie

    Hi Jann,

    This is Charlie you “old” amico from NY. Have not visited your blog much sorry to say over the past year or so. You are very fortunate to have had the courage to follow your dreams and move to Sicily. Most of us want that (a dream to start anew someone where else) but will never do it. Thanks for always sharing your life and adventures with us.


    • Jann

      Charlie! I’ve missed you. So glad you stopped by again to say hello. Blowing you a kiss from Sicily.

  • I would love love love to go there every day to eat. I think just looking at the beautifully presented food would be nourishment enough! Ehhh, NOT. It obviously has to taste good and boy, does that food look amazing. I will join you in a class jsut as soon as I can’t talk Alpha Hubby into a vacation to there!

  • Just spectacular – the food AND the photos.

  • Angelo Milo

    The monks and the tunnel reminds me of that line in one of Shakespeare’s plays…”Get ye hence to the nunnery…” I think it had bawdy connotations.

  • Don Modaro

    Mamma mia! Sono affamato!

  • Sam

    So not only is there no menu for the meal, the chef and food preparers don’t even know what will be served until the cooking begins?

    • Jann

      There is a set menu, Sam, and the chefs-in-training usually stick to that… maybe with a few specials. This was something a bit unusual for us. 🙂

  • Mmmm. Looks delicious. And the photos are gorgeous. Thanks again, Jann! Susan

  • Josef Pace

    Just can’t wait to go there…wonderful pictures

  • Bonnie

    Bookmarked for my next trip to Sicily. As always, stunning pictures and great story. Thanks.,

    • Jann

      Bonnie, if you want to take a class and I’m here, I’ll join your group! (I’d like to meet you anyway.)

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