A region in central Italy which is also referred to as Toscana, is known for its landscapes, traditions, history and art. Filled with beauty and splendour, to one side you are faced with rocky and sandy beaches that look into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The coast is full of picturesque villages, pine forests, lakes and sandy beaches. As you travel away from the coast you will come to the Apennie Mountains which divides Tuscany from neighbouring Emilia Romagna. Filled with chestnut trees, olives and grapevines.
With so much to see and do in Tuscany, the only problem is – where do you start? Tuscany expresses its characteristics through the various churches, palaces, art galleries, museums, villages and piazzas – many of these are found in the main cities such as Florence and Siena.
Embracing Tuscany is also done through its cuisine, cultivated in the nearby countryside and Florence and is cooked fresh for every meal. Dating back to the Etruscan people evolving to what it is today.
Strong and straight forward the flavours of Tuscany are based on outstanding local ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, which is the highest possible quality olive oil. Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is used in almost every recipe and defines Tuscan cooking. Olive oil is used both ‘raw’ as a condiment on bread, salads and tomatoes or in cooking. Tuscan olives are a concentrate of flavour and aroma, which makes their oil more pronounced. Generally the olive oil is pressed from olives that are picked by hand, doing this ensures that there is minimal bruising before they are brought to the mill – picking olives before they are fully ripen yields a more intense flavoured oil.
One might describe the food in this region as ‘rustic’ from its basic ingredients – bread, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans), spelt and vegetables. Fettuccine-like noodles called pappardelle, are often found in the regions and are usually tossed in elaborate meat sauces such as hare or bore. Rice dishes are cooked in rich mixtures of mushroom, meat and chicken giblets. Tuscan meat, and especially beef from the Val di Chiana, is known for its excellent quality and simple preparations. The classic Florentine steak, or fiorentina, for example, is grilled over juniper wood with aromatic herbs, while pork loin, or arista, is slow-roasted in the oven.
Moving on to the much loved favourites, sweets! Tuscany famous for the cantucci (biscotti), which are a twice-baked biscuit originating from the city of Prato. Oblong-shaped sweets are made dry and crunchy through cutting the load of the dough while still hot from the oven. Due to the dryness, these biscuits are stored for long periods of time, making them a non-perishable food during long journeys and wars – a staple food for the Roman Legions.
Another favourite is brought out during Christmas time – Panforte which literally means “strong-bread”. A traditional dessert which contains fruit and nuts resembling a fruitcake. Dating back to the 13th century, it was believed that the panforte was paid to the monks and nuns o a local monastery in Siena as a tax. The name of the cake refers to the spicy flavour, which explains the original name of the panforte being ‘panpepato’ (peppered bread), which is due to the strong use of spices and pepper in the cake. Today the panforte has been recreated and interpreted in many different ways using a range of different ingredients, just like our Masoni Fig & Walnut panforte.