Tuscan Food and Wine
Tuscan food and Cuisine
Tuscany covers a huge area of central Italy and the food traditions are very strong and fiercely regional with a wide range of traditional foods.
The charm of Tuscan cuisine is its natural simplicity: it is limited to the essentials, the dishes are simple and the ingredients unfold their taste unadulterated.
The basis of all Tuscan food is fresh local, seasonal products: pork, beef, , beans, olives, mushrooms and truffles in the south, porcini in the north.
Italians are known as Noodle eater and indeed the variety of pasta recipes is similar to the various methods to prepare potatoes in other countries. For most Italians, the primo is mostly a pasta dish, however it may be also a risotto or a soup.
They are the most varied pasta type in the world. For almost any pasta dish, in Italy a special type of pasta is used. What kind of pasta is prepared and dressed with a special type of sauce is not unimportant, since only the "right" type of pasta can give the full flavor.
A typical Tuscan soup is the ribollita, a vegetable soup with the origin to use leftovers of vegetables and bread. Also pappa al pomodoro is a typical Tuscan soup which is very simple and prepared with just a few ingredients. This tomato soup can be served both, hot and cold.
During the summer cold dishes are often served as particular Tuscan salads like panzanella which is made of bread, tomatoes and basil, sometimes also with other ingredients like tuna fish. Also insalata di farro (emmer salad) or of course, a rice or pasta salad are often served instead of a warm first course.
Meat, particularly poultry, pork, beef, lamb or game meat is mostly part of the secondo, which means the main course of the menu. In addition to meat vegetables, tomatoes, olive oil and herbs are characteristic ingredients of Tuscan cuisine.
Some local dishes
Prosciutto: cured hams are available in a vast range of flavors from sweet and moist to musty dry. An antipasto of sweet prosciutto with pecorino is a great start to a Tuscan meal, together with various types of bruschetta (toasted bread with garlic, olive oil and tomatoes).
Rosticciana: (pork ribs) roasted or grilled.
Salciccia: (a typical Tuscan sausage, generally made of pork) often eaten with beans.
Tagliata di Manzo is beef, served medium rare and then cut into thin slices.
The Florentine steak is a sort of Tuscan T-bone steak, but from the well-known and very good Chianina meat. Chianina is a special long-horned cattle bred in the Maremma.
Cinghiale (wild boar) roast or mostly also "in umido" (stewed) with olives.
Cinta Senese is a special breed of pigs bred in the area of Siena and in the Sienese Chianti. These pigs are dark and have a white belt around the body, giving them their name “cinta”. Cinta Senese is served in many different ways and is always a very tasty secondo.
Coniglio (rabbit) made in the oven or in umido is a common country dish.
Popular vegetables are fagioli (beans), carciofi (artichoke), spinaci, and of course pomodori (tomatoes)
Polenta: generally used during the winter is made with coarse maize flour, eaten as a boiled puree or fried to make tasty fritters: Topped with fresh porcini in season it is a wonderful autumn dish.
Farro: a grain similar to pearl barley is used in thick soups or with oil and tomatoes as a salad side dish.
Porcini: the king of mushrooms, eaten with beef, pork, on polenta and in a risotto... or on its own, just pan-fried with garlic they is very tasteful!
Pecorino cheeses: sheep's milk cheese, fresh or "stagionato" for at least 12 months which brings out the sharp flavor: excellent with honey and walnuts.
Fish is eaten mainly on the coast, in the heartland it is usually cooked only once a week and mostly on Friday.
It is mostly the dry unsalted loaf, pane patate with added potato flour (which helps it to last longer) and oily focaccia o ciaccino, as it is called in the heartland or schiacciata as it is called on the seaside. Second day bread is frequently incorporated into soups or simply mixed with tomatoes, garlic and oil. In Tuscany and throughout Italy bread is always served and most Italians could not eat their secondo without some piece of bread.
An average daily meal consists of at least two courses, a Primo and Secondo, usually also fruit and cheese. The meal is mostly finished with an Italian café.
A complete gala menu starts with the aperitif, which is served with several types of beverages and mostly prosecco and is enriched by a variety of salty appetizers like cheese bites, crostini, bruschetta, fried vegetables, salty almonds and other types of finger food.
The aperitif is mostly “casual”, which means with only some chair and tables being placed and people walking around, taking photos and so on.
Normally for a Tuscan gala dinner, 3 – 5 antipasta are served, then about 2 primi which normally are too different types of dishes, like for example one soup and one noodle dish or one rise and one noodle dish, but sometimes also two types of noodle dishes are served.
The secondo normally is meat with some side dishes. In case that both, meat and fish is served, some fish should possibly be part of each course, not only with the main course (for example one primo may be with vegetables and one with fish). The dessert is served at the table or also together with the wedding-cake as a little buffet. Normally again prosecco as well as coffee and some digestives are served.
Please find here more about the fine Tuscan Olive oil!
At the restaurant
Here you can find some advises for eating out in a restaurant.
Italy is one of the largest wine producers in the world and Tuscany has a great part of the wine production. To learn more about the variety of Italian wines, please click here.