Longing to eat like a local? Here’s a list of top Tuscan food you just can’t miss.
Antipasti are an important, and delicious, part of the menu in Tuscany. And the kings of all Tuscan antipasti are the crostini coi fegatini, slices of toasted or grilled bread topped with chicken liver paté. You’ll usually find them on menus referred to as crostini toscani. Delicate and moreish, they are mostly made using springy Tuscan bread.
Toppings vary from the simple to the sublime. Bruschetta (a staple of the Tuscan food scene), features tomatoes and olive oil, or bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil. You’ll also find lardo, which is a delicious finely-sliced fat or lard, sausage and stracchino soft cheese, cannellini white beans, and mushrooms.
When you see crostini misti in a menu you can expect a selection. 3/4 crostini per portion is the standard. Antipasto misto toscano usually refers to a few crostini misti (mixed crostini) plus a selection of cured meat.
Another glorious feature of Tuscan food is the array of cured meat and cold cuts (salumi e affettati) that are used as starters or in sandwiches. Top products come from locally bred pigs like the Grigio or Cinta Senese. They are the perfect match for a glass of Chianti wine.
The most popular are the fatty and irresistible salame toscano, the more delicate prosciutto (ham) or the fennel flavoured finocchiona. Others include soppressata, made with the pig’s head, and spiced with nutmeg, lemon and/or orange peel; savoury rigatino (essentially fatty bacon), used in a lot of recipes); biroldo from the Garfagnana, and lardo.
Tuscan sausages deserve a special mention, which are gorgeous when grilled.
As in the rest of Italy, you’ll find plenty of pasta, which comes in all shapes and sizes. But if you want to stay faithful to Tuscan tradition, try the typical Tortelli alla maremmana (big ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach) or Tortelli di patate from the Mugello area. Pici are another favourite – thick spaghetti typical of the Siena area.
Crespelle alla fiorentina are a delicacy. This is a Florentine style crepe, filled with spinach and ricotta cheese, and topped with besciamella and grated parmesan. (In some cases tomato sauce is added).
Bistecca and beyond
The renowned Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a thick T-bone (beef) steak cooked traditionally on a wood fire. The size is pretty impressive (600g- 1kg) and it’s only ever served rare. The outside needs to be almost burned while the inside should remain pink and slightly bloody.
Another way to enjoy beef the Tuscan way, is the Tagliata. Cooked on a grill, the inside is very rare. It is cut into fine slices (tagliare means ‘to cut’) and is often dressed with olive oil, rocket and parmesan. This is a real treat when served with truffle oil.
Tuscans are unapologetic meat lovers, and menus feature a wide array of chicken, pork, rabbit, lamb, duck and pigeon dishes. Hunting is still very popular here and wild game is considered a delicacy. In fact menus often include sauces made with cinghiale (wild boar) or hare. ‘Fritto misto alla fiorentina is a delicious feast of various fried meats (most commonly chicken and rabbit) and vegetables.
Not for the faint hearted
There are some controversial dishes too. Trippa alla Fiorentina (tripe) is much loved by locals. Lampredotto or boiled cows stomach, is a popular sandwich filling in Florence. And in some selected restaurants you can still find Cervello fritto or fried cow brain, a real delicacy.
If you like your meat to be well cooked, try Peposo, a feisty but succulent Tuscan beef stew cooked in red wine and pepper.
Soups. The best of wintery Tuscan food
But there is life beyond meat. Tuscany loves its vegetable soups too, most of which use Tuscan stale bread as a base ingredient. These recipes come from a long tradition of country cooking, and are based around the principal of kitchen economy.
Ribollita – the “queen” of Tuscan soups. A robust wintery soup made from stale bread, black kale, mixed vegetables and cannellini beans.
Pappa al pomodoro – A simple, light and delicious mix of tomatoes, garlic, basil and a generous dose of olive oil.
Acquacotta – A typical peasant soup from the Maremma, made with vegetables and bread.
Pasta e fagioli – Pasta with beans.
Zuppa di farro – A soup made with spelt, a speciality of Lucca.
And all this before you’ve even arrived at dessert.