Italian cuisine starts to get really interesting once you start breaking it down region to region. What you find in Rome or what you find in Venice will be completely different to food in Florence. This is what makes Tuscany so fascinating. Tuscany is a central region of Italy with Florence as the regional capital. Tuscany is blessed with a beautiful seaside, a diverse countryside boasting a variety of colorful produce and passionate countrymen who procure the region’s most coveted artisanal goods such as pecorino cheese, heritage cattle and fennel laced salami. There is plenty of good Tuscan food to be had in this stunning culture mecca and it would be a shame to come without experiencing the local cuisine. One of the best ways to ensure tasting the local cuisine is to choose one of our “TuscanYes Tour” of course!
Thanks to Caterina de’ Medici for introducing to France the famous fork!
In fact grasping the meat in touch with the fingers from the plate is indecent and considered intolerable.
There are better methods: observe the noble lady sitting in the center of a long table opens a case where her coat of arms is engraved, takes out a curious object with three sharp metal points, takes it with the tapered fingers of her right hand lifts with elegance, she separate the meat from the metal tips and taste it. The scene brings to mind a banquet back in 1535, in Fontainebleau in the presence of Caterina de’ Medici , Queen of France, mother of three kings and wife of Henry of Orleans who will transform his court into one of the most refined in Europe. Caterina de’ Medici even if she did not invent the fork, she introduced its individual use to the French court!
Among the cultural models of the Renaissance that spread in Europe there was certainly also that of the banquet , ceremonial and social, rich in choreographic dishes , music and entertainment. In this context, the place at the table gradually became more individualized, the use of cutlery became widespread , the division of salty foods from sweet ones was established (fruit from the side dish of meat!); some rules of education were imposed , forbidding touching food with hands or blowing one’s nose at the tablecloth .
The historical relevance of Caterina de’ Medici, however, goes beyond the diffusion of the Renaissance Regarding recipes materials introduced by Caterina de ‘Medici in France , separating the true from the legend is very difficult. So if it is not credible that the French ignored spinach , peas and artichokes , the introduction of American white beans seems more founded: “it brings with it the seeds of the new plant that will make the fields of his new homeland!
As for the recipes that Caterina’s cooks spread in France, the clearest evidence seems to be that of the very Florentine cibreo . Already in 1575, the memorialist Pierre de L’Estoile reported a dangerous indigestion, obtained by Caterina because of her passion for giblets (chicken entrails, a fundamental ingredient for food) and artichoke bottoms.
Choosing “ TuscanYes! “, you are able to feel like a local florentine expert by tasting the traditional Tuscan dishes and foods:
Antipasti Toscani: Antipasti refers to appetizers and on menus in Florence, you’ll find the term “antipasti toscani” written. Tuscan appetizers usually include: sheep’s milk pecorino cheese, cured meats like prosciutto toscano, fennel salami finocchiona, bruschetta toasts but the most Tuscan toast are crostini toscani that have a chopped liver pate slathered on.
For pastas, look for Tortelli di Patate (ravioli-like pillows stuffed with potatoes typical to the Mugello region) or Tortelli Lucchesi (same thing but stuffed with meat and topped with meat- a luxury from Lucca) also tagliatelle with just about anything especially fresh tartufo (truffle), spaghetti con bottarga (fish eggs- sounds weird but promise its a delightful delicacy), or pasta dishes from Siena like pappardelle and pici in wild boar sauce (cinghiale) or anatra (duck), pici pasta anything (especially cacio e pepe for cheese lovers) and tubular maccheroni in a rabbit sauce or other game meat ragu’. For something a little more familiar to foreign palates, try Gnudi which are a spinach and ricotta dumpling otherwise known as “naked ravioli” which are served deliciously with a fried sage butter sauce. And did you know that marriages of spinach and cheese goes back to the Renaissance times when foodie/Florentine noblewoman Caterina De’ Medici is said to have preferred spinach on just about everything? Hence why you see “Florentine eggs benedict” (although I doubt authentic Tuscan food would endorse such breakfast things.) That lady was great. Thanks to her we have delicious delights such as crespelle (spinach, ricotta and bechamel drenched baked crepes) as well as other items like duck, rabbit, rich pastries!
Tuscan cuisine is very traditional and aside from being richly flavored from the Renaissance, it is firmly rooted in la cucina povera (peasant cuisine) Apart from pastas, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with bean and bread based rustic soups. Soupy indulgences with the greatest amount of fame include no other than “Ribollita” (twice-boiled bean, veggie and leftover bread soup) and pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread stew.)
Pappa al Pomodoro is a simple, tasty and traditional recipe. It comes from the age when to waste any single piece of bread, even if stale, was a kind of blasphemy. Stale bread soups are typical of the traditional cuisine of all parts of Italy.
“Viva la pappa, pappa/col pomo-pomo-pomo-pomodoro!” sing an old Italian song of the musical transposed from the boy’s novel “Il Giornalino di Giamburrasca” published on 1907. In all probability, The story of this recipe date back to the last half of the 19th Century, when in Italy tomatoes become an ingredient for sauces and other cooked dishes, as well raw.
Here below we decide to leave you the recipe and the secret to make it so good and delicious
PAPPA AL POMODORO /TUSCAN TOMATOES & BREAD SOUP:
•This recipe is one of the most traditional Tuscan soup. Prepare this dish is very easy, but it needs prime quality ingredients. Tomatoes sauce and bread quality must cook along with best extra virgin olive oil, sweet basil leaves, and Tuscan bread creates a delicious cream soup very healthy and digestible and tasty, perfect for kids!
For something a little fishy, try “Cacciucco alla Livornese” – a seafood stew with local catches and in a savory tomato bath or anything you see “zuppa di pesce.” Of course, Tuscany is renowned for vegetable “minestrone”. Other soups worth trying are “zuppa di farro” (spelt soup- did you know spelt is a Tuscan grain?) “pasta e ceci” (pasta with chickpeas) “zuppa di orzo” (orzo grain and bean pasta) and some places do a sort of Etruscan soup with chestnuts, honey and beans.
Meats lots of meats! But in special occasion quantities. The key meat dishes in Tuscany: “bistecca fiorentina”, (that massive T-bone…) “peposo” (beef peppercorn stew cooked for hours in wine) “arista” (roasted pork), involtini (one of my favorite things- slices of meat stuffed and rolled. There are also vegetarian involtini made with cabbage.) “Polpette” (meatballs- it sounds basic but when a place does polpette right they are quite magical) “Lampredotto” (forth cow’s stomach!!) brave it if you have a curiosity for bizarre foods…
On our Tour you cannot miss the famous Gelato we really believe that has a wonderful history. Was born in Florence Thanks again to Caterina de’ Medici strikes One famous gelato recipe original to Florence that you must try is: Buontalenti: a sort of cream, egg, honey and a touch of sweet wine zabione-type named after the architect who is another suspect in gelato’s invention.
Buontalenti was a very famous architect of Francisco the first from the Medici family ,working hard on every demand from him , also a very good friend and definitely an artist,an Italian stage designer, architect, theatrical designer, military engineer and a very creative person who had the possibility to develop his experience thanks to Francesco I de ‘ Medici , it works and design mostly every famous architecture at Pitti Palace and Boboli Garden and he had the opportunity to develop and use icehouses , are incredible building used to store ice throughout the year, commonly used prior to the invention of the refrigerator. Some were underground chambers, usually man-made, close to natural sources of winter ice such as freshwater lakes, but many were buildings with various types of insulation.
During the winter, ice and snow would be cut from lakes or rivers, taken into the ice house, and packed with insulation (often straw or sawdust). It would remain frozen for many months, often until the following winter, and could be used as a source of ice during the summer months. The main application of the ice was the storage of foods, but it could also be used simply to cool drinks, or in the preparation of ice-cream and sorbet desserts. During the heyday of the ice trade, a typical commercial ice house would store 2,700 tonnes (3,000 short tons) of ice in a 30-by-100-foot (9 by 30 m) and 14-metre-high (45 ft) building.
Did you know that there is a difference between Gelato and Ice cream?
With “TuscanYes!” You will discover it and taste the real Gelato!
Gelato is lower in fat because it contains less cream and more milk, and is churned slower resulting in less air and a richer flavour. … BUT, gelato is actually different from the traditional recipe of ice cream because it is lighter, having a lower butterfat content than traditional ice cream!
And for the final dessert we propose to you one of the most traditional and ancient dessert wine of Tuscany, we have thanks definitely the old monks recipe, are the one who started all of this,
Vin Santo [vin ˈsanto] (“holy wine”) is a style of Italian dessert wine. Traditional in Tuscany, these wines are often made from white grape varieties such as Trebbiano and Malvasia, though Sangiovese may be used to produce a rosé style known as “Occhio di Pernice” or eye of the partridge. The wines may also be described as straw wines since they are often produced by drying the freshly harvested grapes on straw mats in a warm and well ventilated area of the house. (However, several producers dry the grapes by hanging on racks indoors.) Though technically a dessert wine.
The term vin santo translates directly as saint’s wine, not because it may save you, but due to one of two possible origin stories. The Sienese say it dates back to its use to cure people of the plague in 1348, while the Florentines believe it stems from the misunderstanding of the word xanthos spoken by a visiting Greek priest in 1439.
Most likely if you choose to come over to Tuscany during the harvest time in September “TuscanYes!” can show you one of the most ancient method of producing the Vin Santo/ holy wine by hanging the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes all along the vertical wooden sticks
This room called “VINSANTAIA” is an experience itself, it’s like a sensorial painting because between the colors of the grapes that are changing through the 3 months hanging / drying
And the particular smell that the grape relies you will feel like you are in a special painting !!
• “Passito” wine from Trebbiano and Malvasia long of Chianti (white grapes typical of the area) the “chosen” ones are made at the beginning of the harvest and kept to dry hanging on the “penzoli” for about three months, in this period the grapes undergo a drying process that leads to the loss of about 50% of the water content and to the concentration of sugars above all, this will allow the production of more alcoholic and complex wines.
• The barrels used for aging are called “caratelli” these are small barrels of 100lt.
• The wine is left to age for a minimum of three years for the base Holy Wine.
Few years ago we had a client that was blind and we let him touch the grapes hanging from the stick that usually are not allowed to be touch for many reasons …and having him with his family first thing came to our mind is to let him touch and feel the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, was an extraordinary and emotional moment, being so sensitive he has being so thankful towards us !
We cannot forget such a day !!
We suggest to join us on tour in September,
unforgettable mounth of the year for Tuscany with “TuscanYes!”.
Buy the way For many Tuscans, vin santo is cantuccio’s best friend and
Cantucci—what most Americans refer to as ‘biscotto’—has its origins in Prato during the Renaissance. During the Roman Empire, biscotti—from the latin ‘bis’, meaning twice, and ‘coctum’, meaning baked—were created to sustain the Roman League soldiers during long marches into battle. The unleavened wafers, flavoured with almond, consider the best and historical recipe from PRATO, a city at the door of Florence ,are called CANTUCCINI DI PRATO so we decide to leave you a recipe here below :
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup whole almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons anise seeds
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons Vin Santo or other sweet wine
1 large egg white, beaten
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the flour with the 1 cup of granulated sugar, almonds, baking powder, anise seeds, lemon zest and salt. Add the whole eggs, egg yolks and vin santo and beat at low speed until a stiff, crumbly, slightly sticky dough forms.
And don’t forget to dip the biscuits in the dessert wine ….are delicious !!
We also suggest if the Vin Santo is older the 3 years to share with Tuscan pecorino cheese as the best combination!
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it 2 or 3 times, until it just comes together. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and form each one into a 12-by-1 1/2-inch log. Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops of the logs with the egg white and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake the logs in the center of the oven for 25 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and slightly firm. Let the logs cool for 30 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer them to a cutting board.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. While the logs are still warm, cut them into 1/3-inch slices with a sharp serrated knife. Arrange the cantucci on the sheets, cut sides down, and bake, turning once, until golden, about 25 minutes