There is always so much going on at Christmas time — presents to buy, activities to organise and definitely food to cook. Why not make this Christmas a little easier and a whole lot more delicious by taking a Christmas cooking class?

Imagine how easy your preparation will be and how relaxed you’ll feel as you whip up some impressive but surprisingly easy dishes. Sicilian chef Mario Cali has chosen three of his favourite recipes and is hosting a night for you to learn how to cook these authentic and delicious dishes.

With Christmas only 42 days away, it’s time to get organised and work out a plan to make this one your best yet. And by best, we mean the most relaxed, fun and tastebud-tingling Christmas ever.

The Italian food experts at Locale in Newstead have heard your cries for help and have been working on a little something to help you out. Passionate and talented chef Mario Cali has prepared an interactive and fun night of cooking, eating and sipping wine with the added bonus of 10 per cent off all products in-store on the night to help you get your gift shopping (or pantry stock up) completed.

On the night, you’ll learn to make:

  • Pane Pizza (rustic pizza bread)
  • Involtini alla Palermilana (Palermo style veal involtini)
  • Zabaglione (limoncello sabayon)

We chatted to the man himself about why he offers these classes.

Why a Christmas cooking class?

I see a lot of people getting stressed about cooking for friends or having family over for Christmas. For me, cooking is fun and a way to make people happy. My wife picked three of her favourite meals from her travels to Italy that she has learnt to cook and that I am now sharing with others to give them some easy options for home cooking. Once you learn to make these three recipes, you can play with them and make lots of different variations, regardless of your skill level.

Favourite Christmas dish to cook, or one that is most requested?

I still find it strange to celebrate Christmas in summer as for the first 30 years of my life it was in Italy and I was often skiing at Christmas time. In Italy, my favourite part of the Christmas meal was any variation of a baked pasta dish, often with sausages or porcini mushrooms. Here, as a summer version, I prefer it with fresh sardines, fennel, sultanas and pine nuts.

One dish I always get asked to make for family and friends, whether in Italy or Australia, is semifreddo. I think I’ve made that for every Christmas since I’ve moved to Australia.

Share something interesting our readers wouldn’t know about you?

I love sharing my Italian heritage, culture and food with other people. I have a range of products (www.kitchenangel.com.au) I have created to help people make authentic Sicilian desserts at home, and you’ll often find me at my café making different Italian dishes for lunch and dessert. If anyone is as passionate about me about Italy and Italian food, then I’d love to meet them and share my knowledge.

Mario’s Christmas Cooking Class is on tonight (Wednesday 12 November) from 6.30pm at Locale (3/50 Commercial Road, Newstead). The cost is $75 per person, which includes the cooking class, recipes, food during lesson, complimentary matching wine and 10 per cent off all products (excluding beverages) in-store on the night. There are still spots available, so clear your social calendar and call 3102 5898 or email eat@newsteadlocale.com.au to book yours.