Tuscans pride themselves on the selection of food they offer to travelers. They are more than willing to tell you everything that is in the dish just so that you can enjoy it more. There are many types of specialty foods offered in Florence and Tuscany. I have sampled just about all of them and will let you know how each one tastes.
Tuscany has a very simple meal structure. It goes back to when they all used to work in the fields and there were limited ingredients for an extravagant meal each day. One of my favorite summer dishes is panzanella. It consists of day old bread with vegetables from the garden, topped with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Simple as can be and filling as well. This was made for the farmers that would be working all morning long just to stop working long enough from the hot Tuscan sun (around midday) to enjoy a hearty meal of panzanella so they could continue to work all afternoon long.
Bread is a staple in every Italian’s diet and more often than not Tuscans always have bread in the house. You can use the stale bread to make bruschetta with a rub of garlic and a drizzle of olive oil and topped with fresh plump tomatoes.
Ribolita is a thick soup I tried recently. It is typically a soup for the winter season filled with beans, vegetables, spices and then in true Italian style, adding a couple pieces of bread to make it even thicker. Oh yum! This is one dish you must sample if you are visiting in the winter months. Zuppa di farro is another signature Tuscan soup. A soup rich in flavor and taste and can be eaten hot or cold. Similar to Ribolita, adding vegatables like carrots, onions, beans, farro(a type of rice), garlic, olive oil and then making a puree out of it.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a one of the most famous meals of Florence. A huge piece of beef, grilled ever so slightly so it is still pink. There is really nothing like it. If you don’t like it that pink you can ask to have it done medium well or well done. But you will miss out on trying a trademark Florentine dish. Tuscany shares with it’s visitors cantucci (almond-flavored biscotti) which can be had with coffee or a glass of Vin Santo. Note: if you go to a restaurant in Florence that doesn’t serve typical Tuscan cuisine, they will not serve Vin Santo with cantucci. Lesson learned.
Pasta is Italy’s national food. So there must be an abundance of types of pasta to choose from, right? Yes! 350 varieties of pasta, in fact, like spaghetti, fusilli, bavette, bucatini, farfalla, to name a few. Pasta in Italy is simply made with two ingredients, flour and water plus sometimes egg. It is eaten as a first course meal (primi), before the meat of fish. Pasta isn’t dripping with sauce in Italy. The sauce should stick to the pasta but not drown it. By law, dried pasta can only be made from durum wheat (durum means “hard” in Latin). It is ideal for supplying the firm al dente (to the tooth taste) pasta. Fresh pasta is made with eggs for extra plentifulness and flavor which is also considered a luxury.
Signature foods and wine in Tuscany:
- Marrone del Mugello IGP: Chestnuts grown to the north-east of Florence
- Chianti classico DOP: A single estate Tuscan olive oil (and also a wine), produced between Siena and Florence
- Lardo di Colonnata IGP: Strips of cured pork fat aged in Carrara marble tubs, Tuscany