Tom Tilbury wants local and organic produce to be a feature for diners at his restaurant.

After planting Pizzini Wines’ first vines in the King Valley in 1978 with husband Alfredo (Fred), Katrina Pizzini opened the winery’s A tavola! Cooking School in 2010. Like the winery itself, Katrina celebrates her family’s proud Northern Italian heritage, complementing her traditional pasta and ravioli classes with other cuisines and techniques from around the world.  

You have been an integral part of Pizzini Wines throughout its history. What have you learnt about the values underpinning hospitality during this time?

Great hospitality is underpinned by honesty, respect and valuing all people – staff and customers alike. We live this out by ensuring our products and experiences are affordable and inclusive, and always exceed our customers’ expectations.These values haven’t changed over the years; they were important then, and remain so now.

Pizzini Wines proudly celebrates your family’s heritage, epitomised by the Pizzini’s pioneering role in Australian-made nebbiolo and sangiovese. With all that your family has achieved in this space, what are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that our business has remained authentic to the family’s Italian heritage. Our motto has always been ‘generous hospitality’. Nothing of what we do is contrived, and everything is served with passion and generosity.

Describe a recipe from the cooking school that epitomises your cooking philosophy.

My mother-in-law Rosetta worked in a hotel in Bolzano, Northern Italy from the age of 16 until she was 24. Bolzano is an apple-growing region, and one of the recipes she learned there, made for her family and then taught me was her apple strudel. I am so proud to teach our guests the simplicity of the pastry, assembly and baking. We use our own homegrown apples, too, and it smells and tastes delicious.

If you could express the King Valley on a plate, what would the dish look like?

King Valley on a plate would be Gnocchi Bolognaise – gnocchi made from homegrown potatoes, bolognaise with fresh garden herbs and passata from homegrown tomatoes. I have discovered that the word “terroir” not only relates to grapes and vineyards, but to all the food we grow.

How has a career spent in a winemaking family informed your food and wine pairings?

With food and wine pairing, I often ask myself “In the old country (Italy), what came first; the food or the wines? Did they make the wines to go with their food, or the food to taste good with their wines?” The best match is a dish that makes the wine taste great, and the wine that makes the dish taste great. When I find this, it is just wonderful; I eat so slowly and savour every mouthful.

Covid-19 restrictions saw your classes move online. Have there been unexpected highlights of this experience?

Our online class featuring potato gnocchi with Napoli sauce and burnt butter, garlic and sage has been very well received. We send guests a wonderful pack of homegrown and hand-made ingredients, the utensils required for the class, recipes and of course Pizzini wine.

People love receiving the package in the mail, and the informative, casual instructions over the hour or so of the online class. Most importantly, they get to enjoy delicious homemade gnocchi with their loved ones at the end.

It has been wonderful seeing families joining together from around Australia – even once including a relation from Germany – and companies looking to treat their staff who are working from home.

With over 80 classes each year, your recipes cover dishes from Northern Italian classics, to pastries, South-East Asian specialties and dinner party menus. How has your repertoire changed over time?

When we go on holidays, I always include a cooking class experience as Fred loves cooking also, and I always bring those experiences back to my own kitchen. But my favourite is always Italian – using the simplest of procedures on the freshest ingredients, as taught to me by Rosetta.

Connection with community is key to Adams' philosophy.
Connection with community is key to Adams’ philosophy.

When sourcing ingredients for the cooking school, have you come across any particular producers promoting outstanding farming practices?

During the harvest, I love going to Myrtleford and sourcing tomatoes from the old tobacco-growing families to augment our own crops. You find the pride and passion in these wonderful families; the flavour of the terroir shines through their produce.

Your on-site vegetable gardens supply much of the produce for your classes. What are your family’s favourite vegetables to grow?

Fred is the vegetable-grower in the family. We grow the most amazing radicchio, so we have lettuce all year round. I personally love artichoke season – they are so good for you and delicious, too.

My father-in-law Robert has planted umpteen persimmon trees in the gardens. We pick the fruit in autumn, and freeze and dry the ripe, squishy flesh. This is delicious used in desserts, on salads and in our morning cereal.

What produce do you most look forward to cooking with during the summer months?

We have some lovely asparagus in the garden, grown from seeds gifted to us by a friend in Gippsland. The stems are wonderful simmered in salty water, then drizzled with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar.

What do you most want your guests to remember from a class at the Cooking School?

Our guests love the knowledge that we impart about the recipes and ingredients we use. I want to show participants that it is not hard to make good food. There may be just simple things that people have done wrong in the past, so my primary aim is to guide them through the correct procedures. My motto is, “If I can do it, anyone can.”

Fat from wagyu is reserved to take this Yorkshire pudding to the next level.

Thai Style Risotto of Prawn, Asparagus and Broad Beans

1.5l vegetable or chicken stock
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp ginger, shredded finely
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 red chilli, sliced finely
6 red shallots, sliced finely
2 sticks of lemongrass, bruised with a mallet
5 makrut lime leaves, finely shredded
2 tsp flaky salt
500g shelled green prawns
350g Carnaroli rice
a splash of dry wine (1/3 cup)
3/4 cup light coconut milk
½ bunch Thai basil
1/2 bunch coriander, leaves only
6 spring onions, sliced thinly
1 lime, cut into quarters
2 bunches asparagus, hard stems removed, blanched and chopped
250g broad beans, blanched and peeled

1  Bring the stock to the boil and turn to simmer.

2 Heat a flat pan and add the oil, then the ginger, garlic, chilli, shallots, lemongrass, lime leaves and salt. Sauté for 3 minutes.  

3 In a separate pan, sauté the prawns for 5 minutes in a tablespoon of oil and set aside.

4   Stir the rice into the herbs and cook for a few minutes allowing it to ‘crack’. Add the splash of wine and stir for a minute until the wine is absorbed, then add enough stock to cover the rice. Simmer for 10 minutes, continually adding the stock as required.

5 Add the coconut milk, prawns and basil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring gently. Add extra stock if need be and cook until the rice is al dente. Remove the stalks from the lemongrass and stir into the rice with the coriander, spring onions, asparagus and broad beans.

6   Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve immediately with the lime and a salad on the side.

WINE MATCH: 2021 Pizzini Arneis, A$24

With arneis, it’s all in the timing: you need to be quick to harvest and slow to bottle. But when timed just right, the rewards are immense. Featuring beautiful ripe pear characters, this Arneis is fresh, crisp and savoury. A ‘drink me now’ style, best served with joyous, creative conversations and a side of gentle disobedience.