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Tuscany – What To Taste

Tuscany boasts a strong culinary tradition featuring simple recipes and authentic flavors with many specialties that differ from one area to the next: in fact every corner of Tuscany is full of surprises when it comes to food!

Bistecca alla fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine style)

Bistecca alla fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine style)

A typical Tuscan meal starts with an antipasto with crostini neri, that is Tuscan bread, made with no salt, topped by a paté made of chicken livers, anchovies and capers, a tagliere with local cold cuts, like finocchiona, a typical salami from Siena flavored with wild fennel, lardo di colonnata, a type of pork lard that is a specialty of the Apuan Alps, Tuscan salami and ham, or with some Pecorino di Pienza cheese, perhaps served with pear and walnuts or fig jam.

Tuscany offers a very large choice of first courses: pici (thick handmade spaghetti typical of southern Tuscany) are, of course, one of the favorites, to be savored with cacio cheese and pepper or all’aglione, with Aglione garlic from Val di Chiana, as well as pappardelle with wild boar sauce, a strong, tasty dish typical of the Maremma area. Instead ribollita, a savory soup made with stale bread, vegetables and legumes, is a typical dish from the area of Florence, and pappa al pomodoro is a humble dish prepared with stale Tuscan bread, tomatoes and herbs.

The range of second courses on offer is just as rich: a quintessential symbol of Tuscan cooking is the bistecca alla fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine style), an appetizing steak veal or heifer steak barbecued or grilled, if possibly of the Chianina bovine breed from Val di Chiana. Instead, peposo dell’Impruneta is another characteristically Florentine dish, a beef stew cooked for a long time with Chianti wine and seasoned with pepper. On the other hand, fish fans will appreciate cacciucco, a traditional dish from the coast between Livorno and Viareggio: this is a soup made with different varieties of fish, crustaceans and mollusks, prepared with tomato sauce and served over slices of toasted bread. Be careful not to be fooled by tonno del Chianti (Chianti tuna): notwithstanding its name, this is actually an ancient Tuscan recipe made with pork meat, aromatic herbs and olive oil (it may not be fish but it is just as delicious).

The perfect ending to a typically Tuscan meal with one of the region’s many desserts: for example, the classic cantucci, almond biscuits dipped in Vin Santo, a local fortified wine; castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour flavored with walnuts, pine nuts, raisins and rosemary; or panforte, a dessert from Siena, with almonds and candied fruit, or its spicy variant, enriched with cocoa powder, candied melon and pepper: pan pepato.

If you only have time for a quick lunch or a snack, Tuscany offers plenty of street food specialties: the most famous Tuscan street food dish is lampredotto, or bovine entrails, the main ingredient of the traditional Florentine sandwich. Another favorite is the Porchetta sandwich, to be enjoyed with bread, focaccia or schiacciata; and anywhere you go in Tuscany you’ll be sure to find  scagliozzi (pieces of fried polenta), torta di ceci (chickpea pie), which has a different name in each different area (it is called “cecina” in Pisa, but simply “torta” in Livorno) and brigidini, anise puff pastry cookies originating from the Pistoia area but commonly found all over the region.

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