Authentic Tuscan Food – More Than Just Pizza And Pasta
Italian food has been extremely popular in recent decades. Go to any English speaking country and their streets will be filled with chain Italian restaurants, most of which serve the same kind of dishes while trying to capture the rustic, cosy qualities of a real Italian. However, when you visit a place like Tuscany, you'll realise that there's more to the local cuisine than heavy pasta dishes and cheese sauce. Staying in a self-catering villa can allow you to discover the joys of authentic cooking, whether you prefer cooking for yourself or visit local restaurants. Here are just some of the culinary delights that await you in the region.
Markets in Tuscany
If you've decided to spend a couple of relaxing evenings in your villa, then you'll want to stock up on fresh produce, and the markets in Tuscany are the best place to do this. Luckily, getting around Italy is easy enough, as most tourists choose to go for a hire car. There's a different market for everyday of the week, meaning you can buy food that's as fresh as possible. Living on the classic Mediterranean diet is easy when you're staying close to a market. Try some fresh fish under the grill or on a BBQ, salads with plenty of fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of locally produced extra virgin olive oil. Be aware that Italian markets have a different etiquette to what you're used to at home, so don't insult traders by haggling or grabbing their produce. They will be happy to choose the best produce for you, as long as you're friendly and polite.
Learning simple recipes
You won't want to cook anything too elaborate while you're on holiday, but luckily Tuscan cuisine is fairly simple, and most recipes rely more on the quality of the food rather than your method. Try making a local dish such as La Fettunta, toasted bread rubbed with a garlic clove, topped with a few drops of olive oil and then seasoned. Simple to make in your villa's kitchen, yet authentic enough to go with any dish. Fresh pasta can be cooked quickly, and you don't need to mess around with heavy sauces. Just make a simple sauce with chopped tomatoes, garlic and fresh chilli, toss into the pasta with some clams and you've made a delicious, local dish, ready to be enjoyed with a glass of wine while admiring the view. You could even dress up your dishes with some
You don't have to spend a lot of money to find authentic, fresh food in Tuscany. One of the highest recommended places in Florence is All'Antico Vinaio, which serves nothing more elaborate than sandwiches and wine, yet is a must visit for anyone in the area. This is because they use the highest quality of ingredients, with wonderful fresh bread and local proscuitto, salami or cheeses. Look out for smaller restaurants selling traditional Tuscan pizza, cooked in a wood fired stove and with a thin crust. It's certainly different from the pizza you get at home, as it allows you to enjoy the toppings, not just eat stodgy dough. Go for pizzas with local meats, porcini mushrooms and plenty of fresh basil for a real taste of the region.
One of the joys of the Tuscany region is being able to take tours, trying lots of different food and wine, and perhaps choosing some ingredients to take home. There are organised truffle hunts, where you are taught how truffles are found, then get to cook and eat any that you find. Drive around to the different independent olive oil manufacturers, tasting their wares and perhaps picking up some bottles as gifts for family and friends. There are tours for lovers of cheese, allowing you to try several kinds of pecorino – sheep's milk cheese, amongst others. An organised tour is a relaxing way of enjoying wineries, as there's no worry about driving yourself home after too many samples. Stock up with the classic Chianti, or some Vin Santo to serve with dessert. Perfect for enjoying in the comfort and privacy of your villa in the evenings.
There are so many gastronomic delights in the Tuscany region, that it's hard to try them all in one trip. Start simple, then try some more elaborate dishes, and you'll soon be impressing your friends back home with your knowledge of truly authentic Italian. Buon appetito!