Tuscan cuisine: 10 dishes worth tasting
Advocates of gastronomic tourism will not regret coming to Tuscany: most of the recipes of Tuscan cuisine have been proven by many generations of aristocrats and common people.
They say that the origins of the famous French cuisine should be looked for here – Catherine de Medici, the future queen of France, took her favorite chefs from Florence to Paris and introduced the fashion for olive oil, artichokes and sauces.
Incidentally, the common fork began its triumphal march across Europe from Tuscany, where it was initially used by noble gentlemen and merchants.
You can learn firsthand about the gastronomic preferences of the inhabitants of Florence on a gourmet tour (more information here), and we’ll briefly review the features of Tuscan cuisine and some of its dishes.
And now moving on to the cuisine, what should you try from the food in Tuscany and its picturesque towns?
The soul and taste of Tuscan cuisine
- The simplest and most typical products in Tuscan cuisine are bread, olive oil and their combinations. Each province has its own type of bread, baked with additives: spices, herbs, olives, nuts and pumpkin. As a rule, the bread is unleavened, unsalted or lightly salted. Stale bread is also used, not a piece goes to waste: it is added to soups and salads, made panzanella – a kind of turkey with tomatoes. The classic version of bread used by the peasantry and the poor is fettunta, the local equivalent of bruschetta. A hot and crispy slice of bread is rubbed with garlic and then smeared with olive oil.
- Salt is of particular value to the Tuscan, as it has been taxed for centuries.
- Sugar is very much appreciated. It is added to many dishes, even to soups.
- A large number of meat dishes and game. Dish from meat of working breeds of cattle dominate, with a long process of cooking, many dishes from rumen. Fish is seldom found in the menu. But the unusual “tuna” is prepared from the piglet boiled in wine, so that the meat acquires a fishy flavor.
- Florentines love vegetables. Typical products of the region include cannellini (white beans), artichokes, fresh and dried tomatoes, capers (pickled buds of a thorny plant), and black cabbage.
- Soups in the form of thick chowder, necessarily with “yesterday’s” bread.
- Tuscan cheeses: pecorino with sheep’s milk and straccino with cow’s milk.
- Sausages and hams in Tuscany are made from a special breed of cintasenese pigs. These are the fennel finocchione sausage and the more economical mortadella di Prato.
Tuscan cuisine: top 10 dishes
Like classic Roman cuisine, Tuscan cuisine is full of meat dishes. In fact, it is rightly called the king of Tuscan cuisine. Just look at the Florentine beefsteak, created in the 1950s. It is cooked from the highest grade veal, grilling it to a ruddy, almost burnt crust. On the inside, a Florentine steak is still raw. Such a piece of meat weighs about half a kilo, enough for two people.
The spirit of Tuscan cuisine is reflected in the toast of Tuscan bread with chicken liver pâté. There are many variations: some fry the croutons in the oven, some fry them in oil, and some don’t fry them at all.
Sometimes a slice of bread is additionally sprinkled with a dessert wine Vin Santo. The filling is also prepared with variations: chopped tomatoes, celery, and onions are added. Crostini are definitely served as an appetizer for the Easter table.
Ribollita is a peasant’s vegetable soup, the most common everyday dish that thrifty peasants used to make for several days at a time in the fall. And to keep the soup from spoiling, it was boiled anew every day.
In Florence or another city in Tuscany, be sure to try ribollita out of the meal. There are tons of recipes for this soup, but the base is always stale bread, white beans and cabbage.
Pappa al pomodoro
Pappa al pomodoro is tomato soup with yesterday’s bread and garlic, another first dish from the “simple” Florentine cuisine. If translated literally, it sounds like “tomato porridge.
Florentines are not without pasta either, but it is not the most typical dish of Tuscan cuisine.
In the south of the region, in Siena and Grosseto, they make pici – thick pasta, twisted by hand. The pasta is shaped like that by rubbing it between the palms of their hands, so the pici vary in thickness and length. They are served with game ragout or with breadcrumb sauce.
For centuries, boiled lambredotto was a simple but hearty meal for the poor. Not only that, but in Florence it was the first fast food dish sold on every corner.
Panini with lampredotto is still made today: the tripe is boiled, shredded and placed in a round bun. Then they sprinkle it with sauce and broth, sprinkle it with pepper and salt, and the peculiar burger with meat flavor is ready!
Cibreo is a dish made of chicken giblets, egg yolks and cockerel combs and beards. This dish is ancient and exotic, the legends connect its name with the name of Catherine de Medici.
Most likely, it was prepared by industrious peasants who wanted to use even such dubious ingredients. Cibreo can also be made in a modern interpretation, that is, without scallops.
Cacciucco is a fish soup characteristic of the cuisine of Tuscany, especially for the inhabitants of the coastal area of the region.
Count how many “C’s” there are in the name of this dish? That’s how many species of fish and sea creatures are supposed to be added to cacciucco, and gradually, depending on cooking time of each ingredient. And of course tomatoes – what can be done without them?
Salame dolce is a familiar sausage made of cookies, nuts, and chocolate. As it turns out, it comes from Tuscany! They make it for Christmas and not only, they slice it thinly and sell it in pastry shops and cafes.
Cantucci look like little toasted breadcrumbs with nuts. They are actually twice baked biscuits: the first time whole, the second time cut into slices. They taste tender and crispy and are served with dessert wine or Italian coffee.
Cantucci are long-lasting, which is why they were taken on long journeys by sailors and other travelers. And you and I will take advantage of this and bring the dessert with us as a gastronomic souvenir.
And Tuscany is also famous for its endless vineyards, so in addition to food you just have to try the amazing and varied Tuscan wines from the local wineries. Read more in our article: “10 Best Tuscan Wineries”.
What to try in Italy
Those who have tried Italian national cuisine in its homeland: Rome, Naples, Bologna and other cities will confirm that it is a very special story.
The peculiarities of Italian cuisine are explained by local climate and the products that are widespread in one or another region. Each region of Italy boasts special recipes. This makes getting to know Italian food twice as fascinating. Take a look at 10 national dishes of Italy that tourists must try.
Contrary to popular belief, the Italian cuisine is not limited to such dishes as pizza or spaghetti. Soups are very popular in Italy: burrida (with seafood), ginestrata (with egg yolks and white wine), minestra di noche (with walnuts and nut puree) and others. But first of all you should try minestrone – traditional vegetable soup that has become the embodiment of the peculiarities of Italian national cuisine.
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Originally in Italy minestrone was prepared from leftovers of second courses or cheap vegetables. And although today there is no such approach to food in the national cuisine, as in many other Italian recipes, it involves the ability to “mix it all up” so that it turns out divinely delicious.
Main ingredients in minestrone are meat broth and fresh vegetables. Therefore the consistency of the dish varies from liquid to incredibly thick. In some national recipes of Italian cuisine minestrone is supplemented with rice, pasta and pesto sauce. Before eating the soup, grated parmesan and freshly chopped herbs are added to the plates.
The list of things to try in Italy from food is impossible to imagine without Carpaccio – thinly sliced meat or fish slices seasoned with a sauce with mayonnaise, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice.
Although the recipe for this dish appeared in Italy relatively recently, today it is included on the menu of all restaurants of the national cuisine. For its preparation they usually take the raw beef loin, previously placed in the freezer. In Italy you can try and variations of the dish, in which beef is replaced by venison, tuna, salmon, seabass, octopus or smoked duck.
According to Italian cuisine traditions carpaccio is sprinkled with thin shavings of cheese and garnished with fresh herbs before being served. It is interesting to try carpaccio with Italian wine. For example, sommeliers recommend rich red wines for venison and rose wine from the south of Italy for tuna.
The list of Italian national dishes continues with Tortellini – a kind of pasta, which is similar in appearance to such a familiar food as dumplings.
In Italy tortellini are made of unleavened dough and served as a separate dish (with aromatic mushroom, cream or bolognese sauce) or added to broths, soups and salads. Meat, ham or cheese are used most often as toppings for tortellini. The result is a very hearty and tasty meal.
Do not miss the opportunity to try other varieties of this traditional Italian dish. For example, torteletti (they are much smaller) and tortelli (these, on the contrary, are larger). Sometimes spinach or tomatoes are added to the dough to give it an original color: in the first case the tortellini will be green, while in the second case they will be red.
Gnocchi is a quite simple Italian dish, which is nevertheless considered one of the most worthy examples of the national local cuisine. This dish is a kind of dumplings, made by cooks by taking flour, eggs, semolina or corn grits and potatoes.
They shape the small pieces of dough into oval-shaped pieces and then put them into boiling salted water and boil with seasonings. They are served as a side dish, but it is better to try gnocchi as a separate dish, with a thick, flavorful sauce. Gnocchi with fish and seafood (shrimp, salmon, crab, seabass, vongole) is a real masterpiece of taste!
There are also many original variations of this national Italian dish. For example, in restaurants in Rome and other Italian cities you can try gnocchi with lemon ricotta or gorgonzola, pumpkin gnocchi with bacon and Savoy cabbage in cream, and even gnocchi with chestnuts – such Italian traditional cuisine is sure to impress you.
If you want to try the best Italian dishes don’t ignore risotto – one of the culinary symbols of the country. It is based on a special type of round rice, which is first fried and then stewed. When the dish is almost ready, they add seafood, minced meat, vegetables, or mushrooms – depending on what the chef wants to get in the end.
Many Italian restaurants and cafes offer menus with various, sometimes very unexpected, kinds of risotto: with eggplant, shrimp, bacon and apple, berries and onions, white truffles, cheese and green asparagus, and even cuttlefish ink. In short, this is the national dish, which must be tasted during a trip to Italy.
You can not imagine the traditional dishes of Italy without pizza. This food is simply adored here, and therefore literally at every step you can see a sign of a particular pizzeria. There are Italian eateries, where the menu consists entirely of different types of pizza. And in some places you can even see with your own eyes the process of cooking in the kitchen.
According to tradition, the pizza dough to “mature” for almost a day (about 18 hours). For toppings choose only the freshest products. The pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven, due to which the flavor and aroma of all ingredients are preserved, while the dish itself is divine – you can try and see it for yourself!
Lasagne is one of the most popular and famous Italian dishes that tourists around the world wish to try. It is a multilayered casserole dish in which sheets of dough are interspersed with stuffing from minced meat, mushrooms or vegetables and generously flavored and rich sauce. Ricotta, parmesan, gorgonzola or mozzarella cheese is an indispensable ingredient of the dish.
In no other cuisine in the world is lasagne so imaginatively and fantastically prepared. In addition to the classic meat version, many places offer vegetarian lasagne that tastes just as good as its meat counterpart.
Those who want to try the best and most popular Italian dishes will have to take a risk and order a meal with a very specific name. Which one? Trippa, of course!
Trippa is cooked from tripe, or beef tripe, which is simply put, the front part of the cow’s stomach, which is previously soaked, washed and cut into pieces. Then it is boiled, roasted and stewed with wine, vegetable or meat sauce, seasoned with salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese, sometimes adding mint.
Originally in Italy, this meal was the dish of the poor. This state of affairs persisted until almost the middle of the 20th century. Today, trippa is considered a delicacy and is on the menu of many restaurants in the national Italian cuisine.
It is said that trippa belongs to those traditional Italian dishes that are not very suitable for the “unaccustomed” stomach of the tourist. However, thanks to the long heat treatment the food is quite tender, light and extremely tasty.
Gelato is national Italian delicacy, made from milk, cream and sugar. Nuts, fresh fruits and berries, fruit sauce, coffee, cocoa and chocolate, candied fruits, honey, caramel, liqueur are added to it. Around the world, such food is considered a kind of ice cream, but differs from it with less dairy fat content and production technology.
For a real gelato, only natural ingredients are taken. The dessert may contain emulsifiers and stabilizers, but in minimal quantities. In general, jelato is made at special pastry shops – gelaterias, where each dessert is created by hand and served immediately after preparation.
The best Italian gelaterias offer to try their exclusive versions of this national delicacy. For example, San Crispino in Rome uses for its desserts whiskey Rhum Clement and chocolate, rum Clement and cocoa. And this example is just one of the many subtleties that make jelato the pinnacle of the national Italian art of creating delicious desserts.
Tiramisù hardly needs an introduction. Not many ingredients are needed to make this traditional Italian dessert: cookies (savoyardi), mascarpone cheese, freshly boiled coffee, eggs and sugar and cocoa or chocolate chips for sprinkles.
Over the many years of the recipe’s existence, various variations of it have appeared in the national Italian food piggy bank. You can try tiramisu with strawberries and other berries, liqueur or cognac. Unchanged remains the most delicate, exquisite taste of this dessert, which will captivate you once and for all.
What else to eat in Italy
Italy will take you on a real gastronomic adventure. Cooking in this country even more than art – it is a way of life, a national outlook.
How to have time to try everything? Below you will find a little hint of what else to eat in Italy: