11 Foods You Need To Try In Tuscany

If Italy is the land of food and wine, then Tuscany lies at the heart of it.
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If Italy is the land of food and wine, then Tuscany lies at the heart of it. That’s because la Toscana is the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some of the greatest art in Italy. Tuscany is also beloved for its exquisite wine and delicious cuisine.

As you travel throughout Italy, you’ll realize that there’s a different sapore when you eat a local dish in the region where it was born. You can really taste the quality of the fresh, seasonal ingredients in each recipe. In Tuscany, rustic, resourceful dishes may be simple, but they are always full of flavor. Whether you’re planning your trip or are already in the region, these are the best traditional dishes you can’t miss when you visit Tuscany.

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Antipasto Fiorentino

You can’t start an Italian lunch or dinner without a proper antipasto. A hearty appetizer will give you something to enjoy as you salivate waiting for your main course, and it will introduce you to a region’s meats, cheeses, and other delicacies. An antipasto Fiorentino typically comes with bruschette, crostini, mixed meats, and an assortment of cheeses.

Meats often include Finnochiona (a soft salami flavored with fennel), cured prosciutto and salsicce di cinghiale (wild boar sausages). For cheeses, you’ll usually find pecorino Toscano, la caciota (a sweet, mild cheese that pairs well with the region’s crisp white wines), and goat cheese (often served with wild honey). Enjoy — but be sure to save room for the next course!

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Panzanella

When l’estate Italiana comes around and I’m craving something refreshing to escape the summer heat, Panzanella is my go-to! This simple but satisfying salad relies on a few staples: all you need is tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and torn pieces of stale bread. Toss everything together with some fresh basil or dried herbs, good-quality olive oil, and a splash of vinegar — white or balsamic will work. You’ll find this incredibly refreshing salad all over Tuscany, and I can promise you that it will leave your taste buds wanting more!

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Pappa al Pomodoro

Bread, particularly stale bread, is a hallmark of Tuscan cuisine. Famously known as pane sciapo (bland bread) it is hearty and unsalted, meaning it will absorb the flavor from its sauces. It’s also the base of Pappa al Pomodoro — the winter’s version of Panzanella. A thick, Tuscan soup made by stewing with stale bread, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh herbs. It can be served hot or at room temperature, and it’s accidentally vegan (like a few of the dishes in this list!). Tuscany isn’t just meats and cheeses. There are lots of delicious vegetables to enjoy in this region.

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La Ribollita

Another typical dish from Tuscany is la ribollita, a dish usually served during the colder months. This soup’s history dates back to the Middle Ages and was considered to be “a poor man’s dish.” Moreover, Ribollita means “twice boiled” because it can be made with leftovers. The main ingredients in this soup are two types of cabbage (black and savoy cabbage), chard, beans, potatoes, carrots, and stale pieces of bread. This dish is what we Italians say brutto ma buono, meaning ugly but delicious. This nourishing soup is the perfect dish for a cold winter night.

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Pappardelle al Sugo di Cinghiale

Now for my pasta lovers, this is for you! This primo piatto is a dish you will certainly see on every menu. Pappardelle al Sugo di Cinghiale is thin ribbons of pasta served with a fragrant wild boar sauce. You can find wild boars all over the Tuscan countryside, and they lend this dish a distinctive taste. Compared to ragù from Bologna, this ragù has a richer and nuttier flavor. Just take one bite and you’ll see that pappardelle and wild boar sauce are a match made in heaven. In different parts of Tuscany, you can also find this sauce served with pici…

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Pici All’Aglione

This brings us to our next pasta dish: Pici all’Aglione! Pici look similar to spaghetti but they’re usually handmade and much thicker. A simple pasta made with just flour and water, pici are an ancient food believed to have originated in Siena. They are famously served with a rich tomato sauce prominently featuring aglione (giant garlic). Aglione is much bigger in size than regular garlic (it can weigh up to 2 lbs!) and less pungent. Add a little bit of peperoncino and you have a truly satisfying dish.

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Gnudi

In the Tuscan dialect, the word gnudi means naked, or undressed — which is the perfect description for this regional pasta. Gnudi are essentially the filling of ravioli without the pasta shell. These dumplings are similar to gnocchi, but instead of using potatoes, they are made with ricotta and spinach. They are usually served with sage and butter or a simple tomato sauce. Soft and mild in flavor, they’re great for kids.

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Panini

Famed for serving some of Italy’s most beloved panini, All’Antico Vinaio has made Tuscan sandwiches a must-try when you’re in Italy. These delicious schiacciate flatbreads are stuffed with local ingredients and are perfect for an easy lunch on the go. Just be prepared to wait in a long line — this place is popular. There are lots of flavor combinations to try, including some creative ones like beef carpaccio with pistacchio cream, stracciatella cheese, as well as crumbled hazelnuts, or truffled salami with pecorino and honey.

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Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Moving on to our secondo piatto… if you ask Italians what they associate with Tuscan cuisine, most will say carne: meat! Bistecca alla Fiorentina is arguably the region’s most prized dish. This isn’t just any type of steak. It comes from the Chianina, an Italian breed of large white cattle native to the area between Arezzo and Siena, which yields very high-quality meat. This particular bistecca is cut thicker than normal steaks, charring the outside while leaving the inside rare, tender, and flavorful. If you prefer your steak well-done, you can ask for it bencotto, though you’ll lose out on the buttery texture. Naturally, this red meat pairs well with the region’s juicy red wines, like a Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino.

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Torta Della Nonna

For those who have been to a Trattoria or a traditional Italian restaurant, who remembers seeing a tray of an array of delicious desserts? Almost always displayed on the tray would be a piece of delicious cake with pine nuts and powdered sugar on top and yellow custard on the inside, this is Torta Della Nonna (Grandma’s Cake). A classic if there ever was one, this dessert is made of Crema Pasticcera (Italian Pastry Cream) which is the main ingredient, pine nuts, as well as a sweet pastry crust. This cake is the epitome of warmth and comfort and is best with loved ones.

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Cantucci con Vin Santo

There is always room for un dolce at the end of a delicious meal, and in Tuscany, we usually end with cantucci con vin santo. Cantucci are delicious twice-baked almond cookies that are served with a sweet dessert vin santo (holy wine). The Tuscan tradition is to dip the cantucci in the vin santo, which softens the cookie and adds sweetness. I think this flavor combination is one of the most ingenious after-meal treats.

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