Nothing makes me happier than being able to share the warmth and hospitality of the ‘authentic’ Tuscan way of life – and one of the most accessible ways of immersing in the local lifestyle is through the cuisine. Here in Tuscany, you don’t need an occasion to celebrate with wonderful food – food IS the occasion! And this is Italy, so every day is an occasion.
Because we specialise in small groups, we are able to organise bespoke experiences and one of the most popular requests we get is for cooking classes. This way, people can return home with the passion and skills to be able to recreate traditional Tuscan dishes in their own kitchens.
Here are a few of the regional dishes I’ve had clients request to learn – and, I have to say, invariably with a bit of guidance, the results aren’t half bad, especially when accompanied by some of the local cheese and wine…
Pappa al Pomodoro
Doesn’t that just roll deliciously off your tongue? In fact it’s a lot easier than it sounds and translates to tomato, bread and garlic soup. While it’s a fairly basic concept, it’s also a very versatile soup as it is served either hot, chilled or at room temperature – and tastes just as delicious whichever way you choose. While I’m a big fan of garlic, you can vary the amount depending on your taste and the addition of bread makes it hearty enough for a first course or even a meal in itself. With plenty of basil, a generous slug of olive oil and using the best quality tomatoes, this is definitely the best tomato soup you’ll ever have tasted.
This sounds much more impressive if you can rrrroll your r’s like a proper Italian, so get practising! Ribollita is one of the most famous and delicious Tuscan soups, and the great news is that it’s also one of the easiest to prepare once you’re back home and Italy is just a wonderful memory. All you need is some bread, tinned cannellini beans (a Tuscan staple), onions, carrots, garlic (oh yes, lots) and any other hearty vegetables you like. The most important thing is make sure you use the very best quality genuine Italian extra virgin olive oil to give it that authentic flavour.
Vino e Formaggio
That’s wine and cheese if your Italian’s a little rusty – and if you’re partial to a little vino e formaggio, you’ve come to the right source. I could go into detail with recommendations, but, to be honest, you can’t go wrong with any vino della casa (house wine) in Tuscany. The classic is a strong-bodied red, which is the perfect accompaniment to the traditional, hearty cuisine for which the region is famous. The signature reds include the robust Montelpucianos and the Montalcinos, which are at the higher end of the scale.
For cheese connoisseurs, there’s no end of delight to be found in Tuscany, where the producers still often use centuries-old techniques to produce the classic raviggliolo, ricotta and, my favourite, the pecorino.
There’s no better way to get to know Tuscany than through its food. Even if your actual holiday has to end, your gastronomic journey doesn’t have to if you join one of the fantastic classes and learn how to cook like a Tuscan local.