“Cucina povera” or poor cooking/the peasant kitchen is often what best describes Tuscan food and its evolution. Simple, fresh and hearty family meals that can be made easily in large quantities from locally sourced produce. Sounds delicious? You bet it is!
We could go on forever about Tuscan food but here is quick summary of our top picks…
Ribollita – It’s almost a sin to throw away stale bread in Tuscany and farming families have over the years have put it to great use across dishes. Ribollita starts as a bean and vegetable which is reused on the second day, combined with stale crusty bread and topped with olive oil; a truly heart warming and nourishing meal.
Pappa al pomodoro – You will find widely varying versions of this bread and tomato soup across Tuscany but it essentially comprises of just three ingredients; stale bread, fresh tomatoes and good quality olive oil. A classic example of what Tuscan cooking is all about.
Panzanella – It’s all about bread again! On a hot summer day, this cold salad of stale bread soaked in balsamic, tossed with tomatoes, onions, basil and olive oil is the perfect accompaniment to any meal.
Pinci – Pici is a rustic hand rolled pasta originating from the Montalcino; it called Pici in Montepulciano & Pinci in Montalcino. A more irregular and chunky version of the Spaghetti, it holds the sauce much better and is best enjoyed with Aglione (garlic tomato sauce), Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper sauce) or Pici Alle Briciole (a bread based sauce). An absolute revelation and not to be missed! In fact, you should bring a packet back home.
Racciarelli – Soft almond meal biscuits originating in Siena, these started out traditionally as Christmas gifts. Soft and chewy on the inside, crusty on the outside and covered with powdered sugar. Yum! Down them with a cup of cappuccino.
Cheese – When in Tuscany, you must try the famous Pecorino, a cheese made with whole sheep’s milk. Hit any enoteca for a tasting and sample it with some flavoured honey or one of the many wines of the region. It can be had fresh, when it’s soft and creamy or in a harder aged version. It is excellent everywhere but especially so in Pienza.
Wine – Driving across wine country through the rolling hills of Tuscany is a truly memorable experience and we highly recommend that you park a few days in your itinerary for just that. The Brunello di Montalcino, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the Chianti Classico are some of the more famous wines of this region; all produced predominantly from the Sangiovese red grape. Greve is Chianti and Montalcino/Montepulciano in Siena are places you should consider as pit stops in your tour of Tuscan wine country. Tips – stay at a vineyard or agritourismo, research the best vintage years for various wines and make sure to carry a corkscrew to enjoy all the bottles you are sure to buy!
Olive oil – While Tuscany may be all about its wines, let’s not forget Olive Oil; the heart of all Tuscan cooking. You will find tastings on many wine estates that also produce their own Olive oil or at one of the enotecas. Be prepared to be amazed at the intensity & complexity of flavour, as you experience the transformation that good quality extra virgin olive oil can bring to a simple bruschetta.
Cantucci with Vin Santo – For the perfect finish to a long Tuscan meal, have Cantucci (twice cooked crunchy almond biscotti) alongside Vin Santo (a sweet dessert wine). Like most Italian food, Cantucci has many variations, with each family having their own versions. Cantucci on its own may tough to bite into but soaked in Vin Santo, it makes for a delicate finish to any meal.
Like we said at the start, we could go on and on… But what you should really take away from here is that Italian cuisine is very regional. The same dish may vary vastly across regions and even villages, originating from local family recipes that are handed down from generation to generation. So make the most of where you are, ask the locals what they love and try it unafraid.
Buon Appetito !
If you enjoyed this post or want us to write about food from other regions of Italy, do drop a comment below. And if you really liked it feel free to get us some back home – all of Bragpacker‘s travel gear rental inventory is at your disposal 🙂