Slow Food, Quick Learners: Mamma Ciccia’s Secret Recipe

In the lakeside village of Mandello del Lario, the town center is a small cobblestoned square framed by color washed houses of pink and yellow. The dwellings look out to a small port where rowboats wistfully bob up and down and swans glide across the ripples.

The quiet town of Mandello del Lario

​A long portico passes below the buildings letting in the warm sunlight through large open archways. Three elderly men are playing cards in the shade and two young lovers are standing knee-deep in the water, looking out towards the opposite shore. The breeze pushes a scent of sweetness off the honeysuckle plants covering a stone wall. It is a quiet day in Mandello del Lario, but then again, most days here are.

It’s a town off the beaten track located midway between the city of Lecco and the popular resort town of Varenna. It is the perfect place for a slow food cooking class.

Silvia teaches a student the fine art of pasta making


​Mamma Ciccia’s Cooking Academy
 hosts the Lake Como Food Tours cooking lessons.

“Ciccia” means “chubby” but Silvia Nessi, the director and head chef is tall, blonde and slim; hardly fitting the description. She and her brother own and manage the Mamma Ciccia establishment; a café, restaurant, hotel and cooking academy.

They have created a large open cooking space and demonstration kitchen where guests can learn the fine art of mastering a handmade pasta recipe using seasonal, local, fresh ingredients.

She begins her lesson with a swift sweep of her hand, sprinkling flour over the table. “We have to prepare the work surface,” she explains. One by one, the astute students follow her movements, breaking eggs with careful precision. When it comes time to shape the tortelli, she gets their attention by saying “Be very careful! Don’t make them too big or they will not cook properly!”

Fresh homemade pasta made with seasonal ingredients

If you didn’t know anyone in the class before, you easily make fast friends. The family atmosphere is relaxing and welcoming.

The experience of working in a professional kitchen with an expert chef is exciting for students of all levels. Even the most beginner of cooks are made to feel like culinary super stars.

When we asked Silvia for a secret recipe, she said “Everyone knows that pasta is made with flour, water and egg. It’s all about the care and attention you give to what you are doing at that moment.”

With this mindful approach to Italian cooking and tradition, Silvia has personified the cuddly image of a Mamma Ciccia.

The lesson lasts 4 hours and of course, you will eat the fruits of your labor in the academy dining room with new friends and comrade chefs. Afterwards, we encourage you to explore the quiet town of Mandello del Lario and fully experience Lake Como life.

Lessons operate daily, contact us to learn more.