What about Tuscan Cuisine?
One the first things that comes to mind when thinking about Tuscany is its great culinary tradition! Soon comes the image of a quantity of delicious tasty dishes, wonderful organic fruit and vegetables, typical products, fantastic traditional recipes, and yummy regional specialities. All of course in the good company of some great Tuscan wine, like the Chianti Classico or the Brunello of Montalcino.
Tuscan cuisine is famous and appreciated all over the world, also because it is rich in natural and genuine ingredients. Tuscan cooking is mostly made with poor basic ingredients and comes from a long and ancient tradition. The simplicity of the dishes is due to a history of misery and poverty, but it’s what makes Tuscan cuisine so great and unique!
The most dominant influence on Tuscan cooking is in fact the peasant tradition. Simple, rustic dishes made from seasonal ingredients.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most important ingredients, that comes into almost every dish. Olive picking starts around November, before the olives are completely ripe; from the first pressing is produced the extra vergine, the purest and less acid olive oil.
Bread is essential to Tuscan cooking! There’s no lunch or dinner without bread on the table. Tuscan bread comes in all possible forms and flavors! Focaccia o schiacciata, croutons, bread with rosemary, bread with raisins and sugar…Particularly appreciated is the bread from Altopascio and the bread from Montegemoli. The bread of Altopascio, near Lucca, follows a long tradition; it is simply super! Maybe it is the best Tuscan bread.
Its absence of salt, that is what makes Tuscan bread so particular, is due to the fact that salt was once too expensive to be used. Making your own bread at home is then simply fantastic! I suggest you try making it! It can even become a fun activity to make with your children. Try this excellent recipe for homemade Tuscan bread I’ve learnt it from my mother and grandmother!
From bread comes some of the most famous and appreciated typical Tuscan recipes:
ribollita, traditional soup made with bread, beans, cabbage, and vegetables, simply a delight!
pappa al pomodoro, soup made with bread, tomato, garlic, and basil.
panzanella, a first course made with bread soaked in water and vinegar, and dressed with fresh onions, basil, tomatoes, and cucumber
pane e fagioli, soup with bread, beans, olive oil, and pepper
fagioli all’uccelletto, beans cooked with sage, garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes
Pasta and Lasagne
Pasta, better if hand made, is another staple! It can be dressed with all possible and imaginable types of sauce.
The beloved lasagne with ragu sauce (with meat and tomato), though having their origin from the region of Emilia, are also a popular dish in Tuscany and of course the whole of Italy. The original recipe for the lasagne or lasagna is made with homemade pasta, bechamel sauce, parmesan, and ragu, but there are countless ways to make lasagne, as you can replace the ragu with a vegetables sauce, or a sauce with fish, or whatever sauce you most like
A typical Tuscan meal
A typical Tuscan meal usually starts with a great variety of salami and cured meats, like prosciutto, salame, finocchiona, and with the savory crostini croutons with chicken livers. Then follow lasagne or pasta; then it’s the turn of fish or meat with side dishes, then fruit, and finally a cake or dessert, usually homemade.
Each major town and area of Tuscany has its own precise characteristics and its typical dishes and specialities.
Among the main simple rustic dishes of Florence, the most famous one is the bistecca fiorentina, a thick t-bone steak grilled over charcoal. The meat for the Florentine steak comes from Tuscany’s Chianina cattle of the Valdichiana area south of Arezzo.
If you love meat you’ll not be disappointed!
Many of the specialities of Siena date back to the medieval period, especially cakes and biscuits like ricciarelli, biscuits with almond paste, and panforte, a spicy cake with nuts and candied fruit. These cakes from Siena are particularly typical of the Christmas period, you can find out more about Typical Christmas Cakes and Sweets from Tuscany here.
You’ll find also a lot of dishes with game all across Tuscany; cinghiale (wild boar), lepre (hare), and daino (deer). Tuscan people also love arista, roasted pork stuffed with rosemary, sage and garlic, and pollo alla diavola, chicken marinated with lemon juice, salt, herbs, pepper and olive oil before being grilled.
Many of the best Tuscan dishes also come from the sea; fresh seafood is cooked in an excellent way! Some of the most delicious dishes include cacciucco stew from Livorno, bottarga (fish eggs), triglie alla livornese, mullets with tomato.
Wild chestnuts and chestnut flour are also at the base of many Tuscan specialities, including the wonderful castagnaccio, made with chestnut flour, pine nuts, raisins and rosemary.
Among the most popular Tuscan cheeses, we have the pecorino cheese from Pienza, made from sheep’s milk, and the marzolino cheese of the Chianti area, together with a huge quantity of all kinds of tasty cheese.
Tuscan Cakes and Desserts
Tuscan cooking is also full of incredibly tasty homemade cakes and desserts:
- cantuccini, biscuits made with almonds that are dipped into a glass of Vin Santo
- zuccotto, a cake made with sponge cake, brandy and cream
- torta della nonna, one of the most delicious cakes ever invented. The torta della nonna, typical of the Florentine cuisine, is made with pasta frolla, pine nuts and is filled with custard. A treat!
- buccellato, a simple cake made with raisins, a speciality of the city of Lucca
- Pan cò Santi, a typical Tuscan cake again with raisins, slightly different from buccellato
- pane con l’uva, I love it! it’s a very simple recipe made with Tuscan bread, sugar and raisins
Of course there are a lot of other delicious typical cakes from Tuscany, like schiacchiata fiorentina, bomboloni, brigidini di Lamporecchio, castagnaccio, torta coi bischeri, necci.
If you are a foodie, Tuscany is the place to be!
Happy traveling and buon appetito!