Tuscany is not "only" ancient villages, hills that light up with gold in summer, avenues lined with cypresses that offer postcard photos. It is also - and above all - a region to be discovered for its flavors, thanks to the richness of the food and wine offering that reflects the greatness of the region and the variety of landscapes. This wealth, however, originates above all from a “poor", peasant cuisine, based on humble and simple ingredients which were then assembled and transformed to create tasty and nutritious recipes. All obviously paired by exceptional Tuscan wines, with internationally renowned labels that have made this region the destination par excellence for the food and wine tourist.
Come with us on this journey of taste to discover the typical dishes of Tuscany, thanks to the guide of Chef Gabriele Rosini of the La Miniera restaurant of the Monterufoli estate!
A taste itinerary: 10 typical Tuscan dishes
Local is the new global: this is one of the trends that tell the Italian food and wine tourism, which is increasingly close, slow and experiential, focused on the discovery of the territory in all its facets. In this perspective, food and wine become the beating heart of the offer and Tuscan is a region that has so much to give to those who are looking for authentic gastronomic experiences. Not surprisingly, all the Tuscan provinces have at least one traditional dish and typical recipes, as well as local products and raw materials of the highest quality, from cured meats to cheeses, up to oil. The list is very long, so we will "limit" to indicate some of the most representative dishes of Tuscan cuisine.
Chicken liver crostini
Let's start with the appetizer. What is more representative of chicken liver crostini, whose basic ingredient is one of the great regional excellences, bread without salt that also boasts the DOP? They are a very popular dish (then revisited from area to area with some small variations), which include slices of Tuscan bread without salt, to which is added a preparation halfway between a ragù and a paté based on chicken livers, anchovies and capers. They are called “Black Crostini" because they take their name from the color that the chicken livers take on after being cooked in the Vinsanto, used to soften the bitter aftertaste of the meat.
Soups: tomato soup and ribollita
Bread is a very important ingredient in Tuscany. It is not by chance that it is the basis of many preparations, such as soups. Among these, there are above all two that stand out.
The first is the “pappa al pomodoro", so good that they even dedicated a song to it and which has been revalued to the point of entering the menus of many restaurants. An incredible evolution for a dish instead designed to recycle stale bread. What are the ingredients, then? Bread and tomatoes of course, to which are added garlic, basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Being a dish of peasant origin, there are as many variations as there are houses, but there is a fundamental rule: the "real" pappa al pomodoro does not include the addition of cheese, as is found in many restaurants today.
Let's move on to the “ribollita", another must of the Tuscan tradition, always based on bread and this time black cabbage. It owes its name to the act of re-boiling a soup prepared in advance a second time or several times. Not surprisingly, in the annals of cooking it was known as “Tuscan peasants' lean soup", as it was a recovery dish that was usually prepared on Fridays, so that all leftover food could be reused during the week.
Pici and pappardelle with wild boar
Italy is the homeland of pasta, and in this journey through the Tuscan flavors, you obviously cannot miss a glimpse of some special first courses from this region. First of all, the pappardelle, a pasta shape originally based only on water and flour, which derives from the Tuscan dialect "pappare". To pair them, meat sauce and game, especially wild boar.
In addition to pappardelle, the other typical format is undoubtedly the “pici", which represent the very essence of poor Tuscan cuisine and which date back to the Etruscan period. Water, flour and very little oil and salt: these are the ingredients to create this sort of thick and irregular spaghetti, as each one is handmade. To enjoy them, go ahead with your imagination, because they go well with everything: from ragu with all types of meat, including game, to sauces with mushrooms, up to fish.
Meat is a must in a region like Tuscany, and we cannot fail to mention the Florentine steak, which is “the" steak par excellence. Of Chianina breed, over 4 cm thick, with the classic bone that forms a sort of "t", its grilling is almost an art rather than a culinary technique. At the time of cooking there must be no condiments of any kind: only at the end - after a maximum of five minutes of cooking per side - it can be seasoned with salt, pepper, a drizzle of oil and accompanied with side dishes or sauces and, above all, a glass of red wine, like a Chianti.
Cod alla livornese
Let's move on to fish: let's not forget that Tuscany is a region overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Livorno, in particular, was one of the oldest and most important Italian port cities and was also one of the first to know about an imported product from the cold North European seas: cod. In the "Livorno-style" version, it is served stewed, first floured and sautéed for a few minutes in a pan with a drizzle of oil, and then finished cooking in a tomato sauce, with a base of fried garlic and onions. A recipe that has become part of Tuscan cuisine, and which today can be found in many restaurants also proposed with an accompaniment of potatoes always cooked in the same pan.
The small masterpieces of tradition
Last but not least. n addition to wine, oil, cheeses and excellent cured meats, the Tuscan gastronomic heritage also boasts a vast array of desserts. Again, the list would be almost endless, so we only mention three.
Let's start with the “castagnaccio". As the name suggests, the main ingredient is chestnut flour, a widespread product in Tuscany and which was considered "the bread of the poor". During the Renaissance, this dessert of peasant origin was then embellished with other ingredients, such as walnuts, pine nuts, raisins and rosemary, becoming more precious and sought after.
Grapes are another product that is not lacking in Tuscany, and from which are not obtained "only" excellent and world-famous wines. It is also the basis of “a sweet schiacciata", typical especially of Florence, Prato and Grosseto area, which is why it is known by different names depending on the place. Also in this case, it is a dessert of poor origin, prepared in autumn during the harvest period, whose humble origins are evidenced by the simplicity of the ingredients: bread dough, olive oil, sugar and black grapes.
Crunchy and grainy, with the characteristic almond aroma, they usually go paired with Vin Santo: they are Prato's biscuits (or cantucci), an excellence known beyond national borders. Free of any leavening agent, the main ingredient are almonds which must be strictly whole and shelled (but not peeled or even toasted) and which make these biscuits perfect to be enjoyed at the end of a meal, to be dipped in a glass of liqueur or wine.
La Miniera Restaurant at the Villetta di Monterufoli Farmhouse
For those wishing to discover - and savor - Tuscany slowly, farmhouses are the ideal choice. In fact, they have the ability to combine psycho-physical well-being with the taste experience, all in rural places of great charm and tranquility. Not surprisingly, we have defined the Monterufoli Estate as "much more than a farmhouse", for all the services it can offer and the unique and suggestive location, as well as rich in history for the presence of the ancient lignite and magnesite mines and the old chalcedony quarries. The new name of the Tenuta's restaurant, “La Miniera", is inspired by this element, to enhance a simple cuisine, which refers to the land and its origins, but with the touch of innovation added by the new Chef Gabriele Rosini. The restaurant menu - open to both guests of the Estate and to outsiders - varies according to the seasonality of the products, but still presents some great classics that recall the Tuscan tradition, from the inevitable platter of cold cuts and cheeses to the Chianina IGP bar, up to with pappardelle with wild boar sauce. Interesting is the Chef's reinterpretation of the Livorno-style cod, which here is transformed into a millefeuille of cod with polenta. To conclude? Those looking for true Tuscan flavors should definitely try the cantuccini ... to be dipped in Vinsanto, of course.
What are your favorite Tuscan dishes?