Tuscan Recipes That Will Transport You to Chianti
If your dream of Tuscany is anything like ours, it probably features long lunches under leafy trees in a vineyard. We nibble on olives, crostini, and slices of pecorino as the sun glints, and then slowly, slowly dips behind castle-topped hills, beaming its golden light upon us. We drink Chianti and share platters of grilled meats and seasonal salads with plenty of fresh Tuscan bread. All of that delicious food and drink comes with a side of laughter and lively conversation.
But this central Italian region is not just a summertime fantasyland; in the fall chestnuts are roasting, and we sample artisanal salami. We sip local wines and dine on ragu spooned over polenta or served with hand-rolled pappardelle. Frugality rules in Tuscan food, so when chickens are being spit roasted, the chicken livers are cooked into a savory topping for crostini. In winter we appreciate more rugged local treats: whole grains like farro, dark leafy greens; robust soups and stews. All peasant cooking, created from necessity: turning what was left in the larder into mainstays like the soup called ribollita, which might be Tuscany's crowning achievement.
Within the dishes of Tuscany is the key to a lifestyle to which we aspire: We should take what it can teach us—using excellent ingredients in simple preparations; slowing down and enjoying our surroundings—and bring it on home in our suitcase.
Here are the dishes that embody that lovely Tuscan way. Pick a few to create a feast or choose just one to call your own.
To start a meal, the thin, crunchy toasts known as crostini are a Tuscan tradition. They're paired with wine or a cocktail for what Italians call aperitivo, a take on happy hour that means drinks and nibbles that won't fill you up, rather they "open" or stimulate your appetite. In cold weather, these pear and walnut crostini drizzled with honey will conjure up the rugged countryside.
Warm, Marinated Olives
Olives are essential to Tuscan cuisine. Pretty much every dish starts with olive oil and a dish of olives is served to accompany all aperitivi. Dress them with olive oil and aromatic herbs before warming and serving, for that extra touch of Tuscan.
Classic peasant food, a bowl of ribollita is the homiest kind of Tuscan ingenuity; a soup that uses up day-old bread with "reboiled" beans and wintry greens is sure to keep out the chill. Try these two warming soups inspired by ribollita and make sure to finish each bowl with a splash of peppery olive oil and a shower of grated parmesan, just like the Tuscans do.
Pappa al Pomodoro
Tomatoes and bread, that's pretty much all there is here. Those clever Tuscans figured out how to take these two staples and transform them into the most delicious, filling soup.
Brilliance from necessity is the hallmark of all cucina povera, Italian peasant cooking, where nothing is wasted. Here, tomatoes and a juicy, piquant dressing soak into day-old bread to create an essential dish for any summer table.
The Tuscans grew it first: cavolo nero, also known as dinosaur kale, and lacinato kale has become one of America's favorite greens. In it's home region it stars in soups, salads, and as a simple side dish.
So very Tuscan, that's these beans, a dish featured on most Tuscan tables. Traditionally beans were cooked over ashes in the hearth inside a sturdy glass bottle and known as fagioli "al fiasco." Today Tuscans simmer their beans in a pot on the stove as in this recipe.
Tender, falling-apart ribs aren't just a southern thing. This rustic Tuscan spin is an entrée that's just right for hearty, cool weather feasting.
Grilled Tuscan Chicken with Rosemary
Simple is best, as the Tuscans know. For those times when the family gathers and you are ready for grilling, this chicken with rosemary will bring you together.
Farro Salad with Oven-Roasted Grapes and Greens
Nutty farro, a Tuscan grain, is wholesome. It's also beautiful when tossed with roasted purple grapes and baby greens for this hearty salad.
Butternut Squash Cannelloni
A beautiful baked pasta, al forno as Italians call it, like this is elevated comfort food. Butternut squash is the perfect substitute for zucca, a pumpkin-like vegetable Tuscans would use. The dense texture and mild sweetness of the squash pair so well with the walnut-cream sauce in this rich casserole.
These crisp almond biscotti, fragrant with orange zest, are the perfect thing to end a Tuscan meal. Dip them in a glass of Vin Santo or an espresso, yes dunking is allowed!