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A Culinary Journey through Tuscan Cuisine

Category: Food & Wine | 12.2.2022

The romance of Tuscany is not just about the magnificence of Renaissance art and architecture, rolling hills and an abundant wine production. It is also about Tuscan cuisine. The diversity of flavours, aromas, colors and textures of Tuscan cuisine is so divine that you might be surprised to discover the sheer simplicity that underlies it. Let’s embark on a culinary journey and discover Tuscan Cuisine and its traditional dishes.


La Cucina Toscana is simplicity in its purest form. It is based on local ingredients that have been magnified for ages by cooks who take advantage of the freshest seasonal products and tamper with them as little as possible. Much of the so-called cucina nuova offered in many of North America’s Northern Italian restaurants is not new at all. Tuscans have been eating prosciutto and figs for generations, and lasagna with cinnamon, nuts, veal, and wine was a concoction invented for Catherine de Medici in the 16th century.

Tradition is long-standing in the Tuscan kitchen. Olive oil, wine, white beans, game, fresh garden greens, and porcini mushrooms form the basis of many primo (first) and secondo (main) dishes today, just as they have for years. Surprisingly, pasta plays a very small role in Tuscan cooking so don’t be surprised that many restaurants offer only a small selection.

Like regional cooking everywhere, local food is best accompanied by local wine. The Chiantis, the Brunellos of Montalcino, the Vino Nobile of Montepulciano, and the Sassicaia of Bolgheri reveal their true character when served with local pecorino cheese, a hunk of fettunta drowned in fresh olive oil, and a few slices of finocchiona sausage.


Amongst Tuscan traditional dishes you will find:

PAPPA AL POMODORO – tangy tomato soup thickened with crumbled bread. Delicious and not to be missed.

FINOCCHIONA – A large salami-type dried sausage studded with fennel seeds which permeate the pork with a hint of anise.

PEPERONATA (image on the right) – A rich vegetable dish of roasted sweet red, green, and yellow peppers stewed with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic.

FETTUNTA – The Tuscan version of bruschetta. The bread is grilled with garlic and olive oil poured over it ­ truly a rich delicious dish.

PORCINI (image on the left) – Porcini mushrooms are large wild mushrooms which appear in the spring and fall. Their texture is firm and meaty, and their flavor pungent and distinctive. Porcini are served grilled in large slices dressed with olive oil, as well as stewed in sauces and casseroles. Sformati di porcini, made of eggs, flour, and mushrooms, are also excellent, like a dense soufflé. When dried, their flavor intensifies, and racks of sliced porcini drying in the sun are often seen in the Chianti farmyards.

FAGIOLI BIANCHI – white beans boiled with onions and garlic, then dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Crema di fagioli is a delicious soup in which some of the beans are puréed.

CROSTINI (image on the right) – Small rustic canapés made of toasted bread with various toppings. Milze (spleen and spices, don’t think about it, just eat it!), chicken liver with sage, pureed bean, rosemary, tomatoes, and onions are the popular crostini of Tuscany.

FIORI DI ZUCCHINI FRITTI – Deep fried zucchini flowers ­ simply that. They taste as romantic as they sound.

PANZANELLA (image on the left) – A salad made of tomatoes, onions, parsley, capers, and fresh basil chopped finely and mixed with grated bread and olive oil.

PAPPARDELLA – A wide ribbon noodle, usually homemade but also available in the bread/pasta shops. In spring and summer, pappardella is served with uncooked chopped tomatoes, basil, garden herbs, and olive oil – its heat cooks the tomato mixture sufficiently.

BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA: A huge steak grilled over coals, seasoned, dressed with olive oil and served with lemon. Quite unlike any steak in North America – meat eaters will think they have died and gone to heaven. One steak is plenty for two people. True bistecca alla fiorentina is made only from Chianina cattle from the Chiana valley in Tuscany.

POLLO – The Leghorn breed from Livorno is the commonest type of poultry in Italy and is now bred all over the world. In Italy the Leghorn chicken, white with bright yellow legs, is considered the ‘classy’ chicken and the popular saying “she (or he) has yellow legs” means a person has class. In Tuscany, chicken is usually served simply; either oven roasted with sage leaves, or alla diavola, flattened between the sides of a hand held grill, dressed with rosemary, and grilled over an open fire.

FORMAGGIO – Apparently Italy offers more types of cheeses than does any other nation (yes, even France). Within the many types of cheese available, there are even more variations.

PECORINO – Tuscany’s national cheese, made from the milk of the pecora (sheep). Although also produced on a commercial scale, true pecorino is made by artisan methods on small farms.

PANFORTE (image on the left) – Literally “strong bread,” panforte is a specialty of Siena. It is much like the heavy fruitcake we eat at Christmas. Composed of figs, almonds, honey, sultanas, candied fruit, spices, and dusted with sugar, Panforte keeps very well, and can be easily taken home.

MARZOLINO, a white pecorino cheese produced in the vineyards of Chianti Classico, was created by the Etruscans. It is dolce (mild) when made with animal rennet and piccante (sharp) when made with vegetable rennet. In Tuscan houses, marzolino is often served as a snack, cut into cubes, and dressed with olive oil and coarsely ground pepper. Accompanied by a hunk of crusty bread and a glass of Chianti Classico, this humble snack takes on noble proportions.

CANTUCCI OR BISCOTTI CON VIN SANTO (image on the left) – A popular Tuscan dessert, as delicious as it is simple. Biscotti (dry almond cookies) are served with small glasses of vin santo (holy wine), a strong, sweet wine. The biscotti are dipped into the wine, quickly absorbing the sweet liquor and enhancing the flavor of the almonds. In Umbria they are called Tozzetti.

MIELE – Honey, introduced by the Etruscans, is produced on many small Tuscan farms and forms the basis of many dolci (sweets) and desserts. Miele di castagno (chestnut) has the most distinctive flavor.

We hope that this (virtual) culinary journey through Tuscan Cuisine have inspired you to explore charming Tuscany – in the kitchen or beyond…

Stay in one of our Tuscan villas and indulge in delightful cuisine or take our Italy Culinary Tour for an immersive degustation experience.


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