The other day a treat arrived at our door – The Hunting Season Food Box – kindly sent by Passione Toscana, an online delicatessen passionately dedicated to Tuscan food and wine.
We unwrapped the box with glee, to find it full of the goodness and flavours of the Tuscan early Winter: earthy sauces, including one made from cinghiale (wild boar), two varieties of pasta, a jar of traditional chicken liver patè, plus a bottle of deliciously spicy olive oil and a red wine from the Maremma.
These products herald the beginning of the cold season, which in Tuscany means wild boar hunting, olive oil production, and the arrival at table of rich ragouts being cooked over a slow fire. It’s a time when game makes an appearance on Tuscan menus, wild boar being the absolute favourite and most widespread.
Once the box was open and the surprises unwrapped we began where all good things do: the starter!
The Crostino Toscano is synonymous with Tuscan menus. A quintessential starter, that appears everywhere from Sunday family lunches to Christmas feasts. The main ingredient is chicken liver, cooked with capers and anchovies to giving a uniquely flavourful and perfectly balanced taste. Heat it up, and spread it on slices of toasted bread – you can sometimes soak one side of the slice in broth or milk to make it more tender – this ‘patè ai fegatini’ is simply irresistible.
This brings us to the olive oil, with its intense greenish-golden colour, and what could be better than to have a generous serving on some more toasted bread. We add a tiny bit of salt but no garlic, the perfect way to savour its slightly spicy and nutty flavour.
After our aperitivo, we were impatient to try the Pici al cinghiale. What could be better on a cold evening than a kitchen filled with the earthy scents of this dish? The wild boar sauce is a perfect match for this traditional pasta, thick spaghetti (similar to noodles) made with flour and water following an ancient but simple recipe.
This was the first time we’d cooked pici (shame on us!). After 19 minutes of cooking in boiling water, we drained the pasta and stirred it in with the wild boar sauce, heated up on the stove. The combination between the thick pici and the richness of the sauce, makes for a sensational meal bursting with authentic, natural flavours.
=> Discover the Best Towns in Tuscany for foodies.
The red wine selected by Passione Toscana suits this meal well. A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot grapes, its heady flavour with hints of cherry blend well with the game sauce and with the second too – a hearty Maremman ragout created from beef mince and tomatoes and made following organic principles.
We ate this ragout on another occasion with the caserecce pasta, made with the Senatore Cappelli durum wheat flour. This isn’t your everyday pasta, famous both for its nutritional value and the way it captures the flavours it is cooked with. Cook for 8 minutes for ‘al dente’ pasta, then heat up the sauce and stir your pasta in once it’s been drained.
With our stomachs full, and the kitchen alive with all these inebriating smells, we knew we’d be counting the minutes until the next food box arrived. A big thank you to the team at Passione Toscana for sharing all of this with us, and the world!