If you choose to visit Italy, you will likely come to find that a passion for food lies in the hearts of many Italian people. Traditionally, much of Italian family life revolves around the dinner table, and they even have a phrase ‘gioie della tavola’ which translates to ‘joys of the table’. With so much soul ingrained in their cuisine, it’s no wonder that Italian food is celebrated around the world. While the likes of Jamie Oliver and Gino D’Acampo bring Italian cooking to our dinner tables, we all have our favourite Italian inspired dish. The best place to enjoy exceptional Italian food is, of course, Italy! You will find countless family-run restaurants of all sizes scattered across the towns and cities, and each region has its own unique dishes and specialities to try. Tuscany is no exception, a region located in the centre and home to the country’s capital, Florence. Beautiful scenery, coastline and architecture are synonymous with the area, but we’re here today to look at some of the sumptuous cuisines you could expect to try on a visit there.
Bread is at the heart of Tuscan cooking, and you’ll find many dishes include it in their recipes. Fettunta is freshly toasted Tuscan bread, generously rubbed with garlic, drizzled with a keen slug of green olive oil, the fresher, the better! Tuscany produces a considerable quantity of olive oil yearly, and many Tuscans and Italians revere it. Finish with a sprinkle of salt.
What to do with stale bread? Most definitely do not throw it away as this is sacrilegious in Italian cooking! Instead, the Italians have a variety of dishes that avoid this food wastage. Panzanella is a favourite, traditionally, chopped tomatoes, onions and bread chunks are tossed together with vinegar and olive oil and seasoned to taste.
This dish has its roots firmly planted in street food. Stemming from the port city of Livorno, torta di ceci is chickpea flour, made into a thin, savoury cake. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside it’s best enjoyed with a sprinkle of cracked black pepper.
Another way to use up stale bread, this dish could well be your new favourite comfort food. A thick tomato and bread soup, variations in the ingredients used are ordinary, although typically flavoured with tomato, basil and olive oil.
In other parts of Italy, you may hear Tuscans referred to as mangiafagioli, which translates as ‘bean eaters’. This is for good reason as cannellini beans can be found prepared in many ways. The soup dish zuppa di fagioli is sumptuous, as is fagioli con salsiccia, a simple but effective dish this is essentially sausage and beans.
A special occasion in Tuscany would not be complete without potato tortelli. Traditionally it consists of soft ravioli parcels filled with mashed potato, cheese, parsley and garlic, and served with a mushroom or meat sauce.
High in the mountains of Tuscany, you will find many a magnificent chestnut tree. The sweet dessert castagnaccio originated as a poor persons dish, with its main ingredient being the locally foraged chestnuts. Over the years, elements have been added and is now a sophisticated, decadent treat for any lover of sweets. Made with chestnut flour, water and olive oil (of course), pine nuts, walnuts, raisins and rosemary are added for a sweet, nutty flavour.
Finally, while not strictly food, another classic Tuscan flavour is the delicious red wine of the region, Chianti. One of Italy’s most prominent wine exports this robust and complex wine can be enjoyed responsibly with all of the dishes mentioned here, and indeed all other foods. To visit Italy and try some of these wonderful flavours and more, why not try a mindfulness retreat in Italy? Our bespoke retreats offer a fantastic way to try local cuisine in unique and tranquil environments.
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