It was originally made by reheating (i.e. reboiling) the leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day. There are many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, beans, silverbeet, cavolo nero (Tuscan kale), onion and olive oil.
A regional Tuscan pasta known as pici resembles thick, grainy-surfaced spaghetti, and is often rolled by hand. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. High-quality beef, used for the traditional Florentine steak, come from the Chianina cattle breed of the Chiana Valley and the Maremmana from Maremma.
Pork is also produced. The region is well-known also for its rich game, especially wild boar, hare, fallow deer, roe deer and pheasant that often are used to prepare pappardelle dishes. Regional desserts include panforte (prepared with honey, fruits and nuts), ricciarelli (biscuits made using an almond base with sugar, honey and egg white), and cavallucci (cookies made with almonds, candied fruits, coriander, flour, honey). Well-known regional wines include Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti, Morellino di Scansano, Parrina, Sassicaia, Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Traditional Tuscan Dishes You Must Try
Tuscan cuisine is based on the so-called “cucina povera,” the peasant traditions that arose out of necessity during hard times. Even now Tuscans prefer to stay close to their roots as natural locavores who take the time to find the best quality meat and produce, even if it means going to a different store for each one. They take pride in knowing where their food comes from, and believe in eating seasonally. In fact, one of the specialties below is only available for a few weeks every year!
Bistecca Alla Fiorentina
Florentine Steak is a T-Bone steak that is served very rare, or “al sangue.” True to the Tuscan tradition of simplicity, it is typically enjoyed with just a bit of olive oil and salt to let the natural flavour shine.
Trippa & Lampredotto
Trippa and Lampredotto are good examples of the “cucina povera” tradition in Tuscan cuisine. When times are hard there isn’t a Bistecca alla Fiorentina on the table every day, so peasants learned to utilize every part of their livestock. Trippa (or Tripe) is the edible lining of a cow’s stomach, and Lampredotto is a cow’s fourth stomach. Lampredotto in particular is a Florentine street food specialty!
Castagnaccio is a traditional Tuscan dessert made with Chestnut flour, raisins, and pine nuts, seasoned with a bit of salt, olive oil, rosemary. The ingredients are mixed with water and baked to make a thin, dense cake. It is eaten warm or cold, and is perfect paired with a sweet Tuscan dessert wine!
Schiacciata all’Uva is only available for a few weeks from mid-September to early October, during the grape harvest. Sweet Canaiolo grapes are used to turn Schiacciata, a tasty and savoury flatbread, into a sweet doughy speciality.
“Ribollita” literally means “reboiled” and was traditionally made by reboiling leftover minestrone. It is a hearty, filling soup made with black cabbage and other seasonal veggies, beans, and stale bread (a good Tuscan chef wastes nothing!) and is usually enjoyed during wintertime.
Pappa al Pomodoro
Pappa al Pomodoro is another thick bread-based soup, this time prepared with tomato and basil, among other seasonal vegetables. It is often served as another warm wintertime comfort food, but since it can also be served room temperature or chilled, it is a popular choice for buffets and appetizers!
Since Tuscan bread goes stale within a few days if not eaten, Panzanella is yet another way to make use of it, this time as a salad! The bread is soaked in water and vinegar, squeezed dry, and mixed with fresh chopped cucumber, onion, tomato, and basil. It’s perfect for summertime since it doesn’t need any cooking and is served chilled.
Not quite “cucina povera,” Truffles are a specialty in Tuscany, but are much more attainable than they are in other parts of the world. Truffles cannot be cultivated, so they must be hunted for in the woods using a dog or pig to sniff them out. Truffles can be saved and used year-round, but October and November provide the perfect truffle-friendly climate, making them a traditional Autumn ingredient. They are perfect with fresh handmade Pappardelle, and if you’re in Tuscany during the last three weekends in November, don’t miss the White Truffle Festival in San Miniato!
Crostini di Fegato
Crostini di Fegato are slices of warm bread with a spread of chicken liver pate. The pate is typically prepared with butter, anchovies, capers, onion and broth, and the crostini are served as an appetizer or snack.
Coccoli Prosciutto & Stracchino
Coccoli, salty fried balls of dough, are a quintessential Tuscan comfort food – the name literally translates to cuddles! Who wouldn’t want to wrap themselves in the warm embrace of fried dough? They are often eaten as an appetizer and served with Prosciutto and Stracchino, a fresh soft cheese.