Tuscan cuisine, in general, and that of its capital Florence in particular, is poor of sauces. The reason is simple: its strong character is the quality of raw materials such as olive oil, meat, with its selected and precise cuts, the garden with its cereals and legumes, the spices and herbs, cheese, bread, and wine.
Even the pasta dishes were not part of its tradition but with the arrival of tomato and the wind blowing from Naples, soon also "pomarola" has conquered Florence and its villas. The Florentines, in fact, have always eaten soups and beans! It shall be recalled in this connection, the popular adage: "fiorentin mangia fagioli, lecca piatti e ramaioli" (Florentine eats beans, licks plates and ladles.)
Let's look one by one these raw materials.
TUSCAN CUISINE - The extra virgin olive oil
From the beginning: the oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is the protagonist and the basic flavor throughout the Tuscan cuisine, along with spices and aromatic herbs. The use of butter and lard is almost neglected.
This use of fats puts Tuscan cuisine at the top of the healthiest diets.
Extra virgin oil is the ideal condiment for the popular tradition of soups: ribollita (based on black cabbage), pappa col pomodoro of Siena, carabaccia of Florence, soup of farro and beans of Garfagnana, acquacotta of Casentino, panzanella fiorentina, garmugia of Lucca, the super-florentine "Lombard" soup (which is not an imported dish as it means "soup for the Lombard miners").
|Tagliata di Chianina
TUSCAN CUISINE - Meat and Fish
The meat is excellent: the main breed of cattle farm in Tuscany is the Chianina, from which we prepare the "Florentine steak", the "tagliata" (sliced), the "peposo". Among pigs the top is Cinta Senese, from which are prepared "porchetta" (braised pork), salami and sausages, which are known and appreciated everywhere.
The parsimony of Tuscans appears in the dishes derived by the use of offal and the "fifth quarter" of the livestock: "tripe alla fiorentina", "lampredotto", "Cibreo", "fricassee", "cioncia" (the lame), "grifi".
From abundant fishing along the coast is prepared "cacciucco" a rich soup of fishes (usual in Livorno, Viareggio, Grosseto, etc.). From hunting in the Apennines and in Maremma, you get the wild boar stew, pheasant truffle, hare at hunter mode, wild coots to Puccini mode; with back yard animals is prepared "scottiglia", Leghorn cockerels and chickens "la diavola" (coke on the brick), the florentine orange duck, and rabbit with olives Chianti.
TUSCAN CUISINE - Vegetables, grains, legumes and herbs
From gardens and fields are pickled the fabulous Sorana beans and zolfini Pratomagno, pearl barley, asparagus, artichokes, as well as the full natural flavor given from the use of salt, pepper, garlic, sage, rosemary (which has a base mixture, also used to flavor the lard of Colonnata), parsley, tarragon, oregano, thyme, wild fennel, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, ginger, sesame, anise, leeks, shallots and onion (used in cuisine as much as the garlic).
These are the aromas that alternatively enrich all the regional dishes.
TUSCAN CUISINE - Cheese
Since Etruscan times, especially in southern Etruria, milk and dairies have found a large use, as well as cheeses and cheese curds: here therefor, in each zone, a hive of cheeses and Tuscan pecorino, among them the pecorino of Pienza, play an important role.
|Tuscan Wines, Bread and Cheese
TUSCAN CUISINE - Wine
The wine has always been a main product of this land and was made known even to imperial Rome by the Etruscans.
Imported from Greece, already on 700 and 800 BC, wine was grown and produced throughout Etruria and from here was exported to various regions of the Mediterranean.
At that time it was not advisable to be dunk as is, pure, because it was so strong that it had to be mixed with plenty of water, using large vessels with a wide mouth that enabled you easy tapping.
Wine was the only drink reserved to banquets and symposia and it was served by several slaves with jars or jugs in cups of different shapes.
This culture of vines and grapes has never been abandoned in Tuscany and it is one of those arms that Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino have been lulled, just to take two names.
|Corde di chitarra
(Pasta made at home, similar
to spaghetti, with meat, bacon,
and fresh tomato)
TUSCAN CUISINE - Bread
Finally the bread. In Tuscany, it has a unique and original character: it is without salt.
The reason lies in the twelfth century, when Pisa, in the rivalry opposing the town to Florence, stopped the trade of this ingredient to the "lily" city.
This difficulty in finding, in addition to its ensuing costs, determined the Florentines to take the decision to take away the salt in bread making.
But hey, just thinking about it, they have made a great effort to take the decision: in fact, with all this richness of flavors, which could be the plus given by salt to the bread?