Tuscan Cuisine - Plain, Simple and Basic

Tuscan Cuisine - Plain, Simple and Basic

Plain, simple and basic, but grounded on the excellent quality of the row ingredients; the Tuscan cuisine needs little elaboration to be able to conquer new admirers.

Plain, simple and basic, but grounded on the excellent quality of the row ingredients; the Tuscan cuisine needs little elaboration to be able to conquer new admirers.

The care given to the quality of the basic ingredients is an essential part of Tuscan cultural traditions, still closely linked to country cooking and genuine products.

You only need to taste a slice of Tuscan bread soaked in Extra-Virgin olive oil to appreciate the essence of this cuisine. The locally produced extra-virgin oil is in fact of exceptional quality, wonderful whether cooked or raw, and accompanies almost all the most characteristic recipes in the region.

A typical Tuscan style lunch starts with a meaty appetizer based on cold cuts including savoury salted ham and a special salami called ‘finocchiona’, seasoned with fennel grains and peeper and croutons, slices of toast spread with pate made with chicken livers, spleen of veal, capers and butter. Sometimes you can also get some thinly sliced ‘Lardo di Colonnata’, melted into grilled bread. This is a special and very prized kind of lard, produced in northern Tuscany only, made by curing strips of fatback with rosemary and other herbs and spices, that was the traditional meal of the old quarry-men working in Carrara. This delicacy has been produced in the hamlet of Colonnata since Roman times and traditionally is cured for months in coffin-shaped basins made of the local marble, in 2004 it got the prestigious IGP status (Protected Geographical Indication).

Traditional first courses include simple but delicious vegetable soups like the ‘pappa al pomodoro’ made with tomato, garlic, basil and pepper, or the ‘ribollita’ made with vegetables cooked for hours, the flavour brought out by a last minute topping of oil.

Pappardelle (ribbon pasta) served with a hare sauce made with red wine, oil and tomato, is just one of the typical pasta dishes. The world famous Florentine steak, a special cut of prized Chianina beef cooked on charcoal fire, without any dressing, just with salt and pepper, is a symbolic second course, though we should also include characteristic Tuscan tripe, flavoured with bacon, tomato and Parmesan.

The most popular legumes are beans, cultivated here from Etruscan times and either cooked ‘all’uccelletto’ (in tomato sauce with sage) or in a wine flask. Like the soups, vegetable are almost always tossed in a frying pan with oil and garlic – spinach, artichokes, baby marrow flowers – or fried, like, for example, the crunchy marrow flowers and courgettes.

Typical dishes in the summer months are the ‘pinzimonio’ or sliced fresh vegetable dip of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, or classic fresh field salads.

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