The Tuscan version of a porterhouse steak is cooked over a grill and served sanguinoso, or rare. Traditionally, the meat should come from the Maremmana or Chianina oxen, but cheaper restaurants might serve imposter steaks from imported oxen. You’ll be charged per kilo for this dish. If it looks like an astonishingly good deal, it’s probably lower-quality beef.
The wild boar, or cinghale, competes with the Maremmana and Chianina as Tuscany’s most revered animal. Every autumn, locals try their hand at hunting it and also at foraging for meaty-tasting porcini mushrooms. You’ll find both cinghale and porcini prepared almost every way possible on any self-respecting restaurant’s menu in the fall.
The Florentines gave France Caterina de Medici, and in turn, the French influenced Italian food. One of the best things to come out of this exchange was crespelle fiorentine, or Florentine-style crepes layered with béchamel sauce and spinach.
CROSTINI AL FEGATO
Many a meal starts with an appetizer of crostini, or little toasts with various toppings. Even if you’re squeamish about eating liver, consider trying crostini al fegato, chicken livers sautéed with vin santo, garlic, and herbs. Vegetarians should look for crostini topped with cavolo nero (dinosaur kale) or with white beans such as cannellini.
Legumes of all sorts are more common on Tuscan menus than pasta. Our favorite preparation is fagioli all’uccelleto, or white beans stewed with tomatoes and sage.
Fat from the stomach of a pig, lardo
comes from the Tuscan town of Colonnata. It’s flavored with salt, black pepper, and garlic, and sometimes herbs like rosemary and thyme. You’ll find it sliced thin on a mixed plate of salumi. Sweet like prosciutto, it should be placed on your tongue and allowed to melt there.
PAPPA AL POMODORO
A testament to the peasant roots of Tuscan cuisine, both of these soups were created to use up stale bread. The pappa al pomodoro
is like a tomato-basil sauce containing disintegrating bread, while the ribollita
most closely resembles vegetable soup
with porridgy bread. Not for the small of appetite, a bowl of either is hearty enough to fill you up on a blustery winter day.
Roasted potatoes go well with many Tuscan dishes, from bistecca fiorentina
to arrosto di maiale,
roast pork, and pollo arrostite,
roast chicken. Often cooked with rosemary and garlic, they could be considered Italian home fries.
TORTA DELLA NONNA
Pine nuts and almonds are common in Northern Italian fare, even in the desserts. Torta della nonna
is nothing more than pie crust filled with pastry or ricotta cream and topped with pine nuts and, sometimes, almonds, then dusted with powdered sugar.
TRIPPA ALLA FIORENTINA
Florentines love offal, and tripe, or trippa
, is no exception. If you can overcome the honeycomb texture of this variety meat, then try it prepared alla fiorentina,
or stewed with tomatoes. Look for it on the menus of hole-in-the-wall cafés and various cantine,
where you can wash it down with a glass of Chianti.