Going on a gourmet tour in Tuscany means you have plenty of choice: the wine heritage, which is of absolute excellence, has more than half of production reserved only for quality wines, while the traditional Tuscan cuisine reflects its peasant and simple origins. It is the type of food that brings out the goodness of genuine raw materials that make it up, and already the names of acquacotta and ribollita refer to a rural society that makes a virtue of necessity.
The acquacotta is a soup with vegetable and chicken products; the ribollita, on the other hand, is essentially made of black cabbage, beans and bread: it was often boiled and eaten in the days following its preparation. Among the Tuscan soups do not forget: the garmugia is a soup made of beans, artichokes and peas. The zuppa lombarda is a soup and the original recipe of Tuscan bean soup, which was offered to the Comacine Masters and the other Lombard craftsmen at work in Tuscany. Then, the fagioli all’uccelletto, baked beans sautéed with tomato and sage, are also worth a mention. The minestra della sciorna is a soup that contains beans, flour and lard. The use of stale bread as backbone to soups is another constant feature of the traditions of poverty; it is the basis of both the tomato mush, with sauce made of garlic, parsley and basil, and the panzanella, where coarse flour is added to salad with onion and celery. The unsalted Tuscan bread (pane sciocco) is very famous, crispy and tasty. The tradition of the bruschetta (fettunta) is a type of garlic bread that is particularly favoured in this region. The bread is seasoned simply with good Tuscan olive oil or using anchovy, liver or olive paste.
Among the traditional types of pasta, the pici are thick and served with duck or crumbs, fried bread crumbs and sprinkled with chilli peppers. The strozzapreti (“strangles priests”) which are typical of the Siena and Arezzo areas, a name that echoes the famous Tuscan anticlericalism, and the pappardelle, are often served with forest sauces: hare, wild boar, ducks and / or mushrooms. Among the latter, the game and the wild game have a place of honour: the scottiglia di cinghiale is a delicacy of the Maremma region; the traditional duck with fennel seeds with pancetta; the amazing pheasant with truffle; the cibreo di rigaglie is an original dish prepared with chicken liver and crest. Do not miss the buglione: the lamb is boiled for a long time before it is marinated also with wine, in a sauce with wine, tomatoes and broth. The stracotto con gli spinaci is a great stew with veal and beef muscle in a mixture with chicken entrails.
The bistecca fiorentina, is the quintessential Italian steak made with Chianina beef. It was actually discovered by the English while on holiday in Tuscany. “Bistecca” itself is the Italian version of “beef steak”!
For lovers of desserts… do not miss the brigidini, the panforte with almonds, honey, cinnamon and cloves, the dry cantucci dipped in vin santo, the torta di riso (rice cake) and the torta ricciolina, which is a typical dessert of Radicofani. The soul of Tuscan gastronomy are the typical products and raw materials, as Tuscany has been able to protect and celebrate biodiversity. Also famous are the prosciutto (dry-cured ham) and the salsiccia di cinghiale (wild boar sausage), the pork loin salad, the buristo, which is based on boiled and squashed pork head and rind, the pecorino cheese of the Crete Senesi area, which is dry and intense, and of Pienza, which is soft because it is covered with oil sludge, the Marzolino sheep of Chianti, which is sweeter and more fragrant, the aromatic lard of Colonnata, the Finocchiona, which is pork salami flavoured with fennel and wine, white truffle, the black zucchini of Pisa and a series of amazing quality oils, with strong and different characteristics of taste and smell, depending on whether they come from the Colli Senesi, the Colli Pisani, the Colli Aretini, oil from Lucca or Lunigiana.
The great Tuscan reds are a driving force in the evolution of Italian wine and have become important in international winemaking. The Super Tuscans have greatly contributed to the affirmation of Italian winemaking abroad as quality winemaking. The Chianti, which is fruity and has velvety tannins, is a careful blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Trebbiano Toscano grapes: the Classic and Gran Reserva versions are precious. The Brunello di Montalcino, which is robust, dry, warm and persistent, is entirely made of Sangiovese grapes.
The other excellent wines, whose quality and origin are guaranteed, are the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is ruby, ethereal and persistent, and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which is straw-coloured, dry and penetrating. In recent years, along with the historic provinces and wine production, great satisfaction has come from Grosseto with the Morellino di Scansano and the Bianco di Pitigliano. Other excellent wines, whose origin is guaranteed, are the Candia from the Apuan Mountains, the Montecucco and the Montescudaio.