Regional Italian Spotlight: Tuscany
Montepulciano, Italy

In this series, we look more closely at a lesser-known region of Italy in every issue. As consumers continue to clamor for authentic, regional foods from Italy, it pays to be a step ahead! This month, we travel to Central Italy and to the region of Tuscany.

Located in Central Italy, Tuscany has a rich cultural and artistic heritage, from the ancient Etruscans in Volterra to Florence, the center of the Italian Renaissance.

The land features a widely varied geography and climate, from Alps to the iconic rolling hills and plains, to vast beech, chestnut and pine grove forests, coastal lakes and sandy beaches.  This is the source of the panoramic Italy many Americans envision when they think of Tuscany for travel, culture and romance!

Agriculturally, Tuscany is a heartland of olives and grapes, sheep and cattle. Legumes and vegetables are abundant—robust production of chickpeas (ceci), kale, artichokes, tomatoes, and peas, with simple, rustic, bold flavors.

Val d’Orcia, Italy

Vegetable soups, such as ribollita, are served with homemade bread without salt (called sciapo, meaning saltless), as is panzanella.

Pasta is almost always egg-based and in the shape of wide tagliatelle called pappardelle. It is used in first courses dressed with elaborate meat or game sauces (especially in the Maremma area) with hare or wild boar. Fish, like in the Black risotto Fiorentina-style, is prepared with Swiss chard, squid meat and the ink.

Meat, especially the top-quality beef from Val di Chiana, is simply barbecued, like in the classic Fiorentina, over juniper wood with aromatic herbs. But we can’t talk about Tuscany without mention of lardo di colonnata – the source point for the Slow Food Movement and delicacy of delicacies. It’s pork lard—trimmed, not refrigerated—left for maturation inside marble tubs previously rubbed with garlic, in alternating layers of salt, black pepper, rosemary, garlic, and aromatic herbs such as sage, star anise, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Sheep’s milk cheeses, like the world-renowned Pecorino Toscano, are the stars here. And of course, Tuscany produces fantastic wines. From the classic Chianti to Brunello and Moscatello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano to Bolgheri, and Vin Santo.

Featured dish: Lorenzo’s Mostacioli with Chickpeas and Kale

This dish from Chef Lorenzo Boni is typical of Tuscan cooking, showing its peasant roots and the classic combination of legumes with pasta. Find the recipe here.