“First, we eat. Then, we do everything else.”
Cold temperatures are passing us here in Tuscany, and we can finally smell the spring air approaching. Days are becoming longer, the hills are turning greener and the sun is excitingly warmer. One of the many charming aspects of Italy is that even with all the signs of a seasonal change, you wouldn’t necessarily need them. You can always tell the exact time of year as soon as you walk in the grocery store. Each season brings diverse fruits, desserts, and pastas! Around Easter you can find chocolate eggs flooding the isles and boxes filled with “Schiacciata di Pasqua” , a sweet Tuscan bread you can only find around this time of year.
Schiacciata di Pasqua is similar to the Pantone (that we can find around Christmas) as it keeps its original historic flavours dating back to the 19th century. “Schiacciata” translates to crushed or flattened, however for Easter, this bread literally rises. Unlike its sister, Focaccia, for this particular season Schiacciata dough is made with yeast and fermented in its natural way. Since every family has their own personal traditions they can edit the recipe to their likings which typically includes flour, egg, olive oil, sugar, butter, and one magic glass of vin santo.
While the seasonal plates are always a yearly hit. Let’s delve into some classic meals we can enjoy all year long. Whether you are coming here for the summer or want to bring a bit of Tuscany into your home, these dishes will not leave you disappointed but instead full and satisfied!
Imagine a fresh summer salad married to an intense juicy bruschetta, their child: Panzanella. This fresh savoury salad is the perfect addition to every meal. Before you throw out your hard bread, think again. Stale bread is an active ingredient in our beloved salad. This dish is simple to make but will be difficult to forget. The combination of red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, and a dash of vinegar allow for the hard bread to soak creating the perfect consistency when taking your first bite.
Apericena has been gifted to us after our cherished aperitivo. Aperitivo is that lovely time of day just before dinner when the sun begins to hit the ground. We can enjoy a glass (or two) of wine with classic potato chips or peanuts before we head out to our main destination for supper. But for some (and I truly mean all) Italian cuisine can sometimes be too difficult to wait for and out of impatient stomachs was born Apercena. After deciding on your wine or beverage for the night, you will be greeted with hot bread or focaccia. Soon after you’ll notice a large board of tuscan cheeses and crostini headed your way. All of this would not be complete without a plate of tagliere di cinta senese, the local meat cuts from the area. The types of food will vary depending on region and the bar/restaurant that you choose but the portion will always be significantly bigger than your typical aperitivo.
It's all about pasta! Whether you prefer tomato sauce, garlic and oil, or the admired cacio e pepe, Pici will always steal the show regardless. These long thick noodles have left their stamp on Tuscany and on visitors all around the world. It is almost impossible to find this pasta in other regions of Italy. It was created as a poor everyday pasta by the Sienese with the original two ingredients of simple flour and water. Although it was created as a poor dish, it is rich in texture and flavour.
For our main dish, I offer you: Bistecca alla Fiorentina. This legendary cut dates back to the Medici era and is bred exclusively in Val di Chiana. This unique beef has strict regulations that must be matched up to in order to identify as a “Fiorentina” cut. The steak must be at least 4 cm high and weigh no less than 2 lbs. If you are thinking of ordering this dish when dining out, be sure you enjoy your meat rare. In Tuscany each chef will cook this steak as it has been cooked throughout history, fresh and in a short time on the grill. You will always find this concealed with natural olive oil and topped crisp salt. It is a noble beef that is cherished by the people of Tuscany and proudly shared with the world.
With each of these dishes, the magic lies not only within the food but also within the company enjoying it. Sharing stories, laughs, and moments with friends and family over meals has always been a common ground of harmony. So for this, why not try your hand at one of these simple tuscan dishes. Because sometimes the most simple things can bring the most happiness. Here’s to drinking and eating well! Buon appetito!
Our Wine Pairings:
Pacherhof Pinot Grigio Valle di Isarcon 2021
Avignonesi Chardonnay Marzocco 2019
Scarpa La Selva di Moirano Brachetto Secco 2017
Querciabella Chianti Classico 2018
Rosso di Montepulciano Il macchione 2020
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Croce di febo 2017
Rosso di Montalcino Loacker 2018
Rosso di Montalcino Cava d'Onice 2018
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Lunadoro 2018
Arrighi Tresse Anfora Elba 2019
Brunello di Montalcino Loacker 2015
Brunello di Montalcino Cava d'Onice 2015
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Il Macchione Riserva 2016
Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 Querciabella
Ripe tomatoes diced
Olive Oil (a generous quantity)
A Pinch of Salt & Pepper
Ciabatta or baguette (the staler the better!) Cut bread into cubes and allow it to soak in the tomato juices and oil
One garlic clove minced
1/2 of a red onion thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber (cubed or sliced)
1/2 cup of basil leaves chopped
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar