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When American chef Nell Valenti is hired to design a cooking school at the villa of renowned Chef Claudio Orlandini, she eagerly moves to Tuscany. But Nell gets more than she bargained for when she arrives. The villa is in shambles, Chef spends all his time on the bocce court, and local dignitaries have been invited to dinner the very next day. Bad enough the filmmaker who shows up to document the affair turns out to to be Nell's ex-boyfriend, but worse yet when he's discovered murdered later that evening. To top it off, Chef has disappeared. Can Nell save the Orlandini family, the villa, and her own job before the accusations of murder shut the school down for good -- before it's even opened?

 

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Pasta makes perfect at the Villa Orlandini cooking school.

When a wealthy New York philanthropist pays top dollar for a private, four-day ziti workshop as a birthday treat for his eighty-year old high society mother and her best friend, Nell Valenti wants everything to be perfect. But distractions abound! First, her handsome boyfriend Pete makes the cover of Bellissimo!, a glossy, upscale lifestyle magazine for the one-percenters, and he takes off for Rome to meet his talent agent. And now Chef himself is busy making an audition tape for that popular American TV show, Hot Chef.

Who's minding the pasta pot?

More importantly, who's the well-dressed woman who turns up uninvited to check out Pete's olive grove? What about the rumors that she plans to develop historic downtown Cortona into a block of luxury condos? Nell smells the kind of trouble not even Chef's world-famous ziti lardiati can cover up. When the woman is discovered strangled in the olive grove, Nell learns that for one of the Orlandinis, at least, she was not such a stranger after all.