Good news for vegetarians. Some of the best loved Tuscan cuisine is made from a base of bread and vegetables.
Tuscany might be famous for its meat dishes, but that doesn’t mean vegetarians go hungry out here. In fact, vegetarian cuisine is an important part of the food tradition in Tuscany. And a delicious one too.
Vegetarian Tuscan dishes
Starters – Crostini
Crostini is a popular way to start a meal, and is also served as an aperitivo with a drink. These toasted bread slices don’t only come with meat based dressings, but also with mushrooms, tomatoes, truffle oil, roasted peppers or cheese.
Soups and first courses
The ‘Tuscan kale soup” is the top of the Tuscan soups. A wintery dish that’s a mixture of simple and nourishing ingredients straight from the Tuscan kitchen. White cannellini beans, cavolo nero (black kale) and unsalted Tuscan bread are the main ingredients. The cooking is a slow process and as the name suggests, this soup is better enjoyed when it’s been ‘reboiled’. Excellent olive oil is what makes the difference here, use it unsparingly!
As with other dishes from the cucina povera (peasant cooking) tradition. It was intended as a way to use leftovers (in this case stale bread) and the simple ingredients that were available.
Pappa al pomodoro
Another real treat from the peasant tradition now served in five start restaurants, the pappa al pomodoro is a soup is made with Tuscan bread, tomatoes, garlic and the intensely flavoured olive oil of the region.
Pasta and risotti
Many pasta or rice dishes come with a non-meat dressing. They use a creative mix of vegetables and/or cheeses, one example being the “alla contadina” sauce made with seasonal vegetables. Or of course the tomato based pomarola.
Typical of Siena are the ‘pici’, thick hand-made spaghetti, made with flour and water (no egg). They’re mouthwateringly tasty with pecorino cheese (“cacio e pepe“) or “all’aglione“ with plenty of garlic and tomato sauce.
For something truly special, try the tortelli Maremmani (from the Maremma region), egg pasta filled with spinach and ricotta cheese. They can be simply served with butter and sage and a generous serving of parmesan cheese.
For a Summer lunch, what could be better than a refreshing dish that mixes bread, generous servings of fresh red onion, basil and cucumber, all drizzled with lots of olive oil and vinegar. The bread is first drenched in cold water and then squeezed out to get rid of its excess liquid. Some people add tomatoes or other raw vegetables.
Vegetables and beans
Fritto misto di verdure
In Tuscany we love fried food, and you’ll often find fried mixed vegetables as a “contorno” (side dish). Absolutely delicious and well worth a try.
You’ll find a great range of quiches in Tuscan cuisine. Often made with ingredients like leaks, courgettes and aubergines to name but a few. The Florentine “Tortino di carciofi” is a simple but delicious dish that features artichokes and eggs.
A popular and well-loved feature of Tuscan cuisine. This local type of white bean can be enjoyed simply boiled and dressed with olive oil and salt, or cooked in tomato, sage and garlic to make the “fagioli all’uccelletto“. Irresistible.
Fresh from the bakery
Schiacciata is flat bread topped with salt and olive oil. It makes a perfect snack anytime, try it on its own or with pecorino cheese.
Florence has a tradition of making these fried dough balls. Most often eaten on their own with plenty of salt, served in a paper packet.
A stupendous thin crisp pancake made of chickpeas, flour (ceci means cickpeas). The flour gets mixed with olive oil, salt and black pepper and is then cooked in the oven. This dish is typical of Pisa, Lucca and the surrounding areas, including the coastal towns. A real treat.