Italian Cuisine: In the Heart of Tuscany
When an American conjures up an idea of “Italian cuisine,” often what comes to mind is pasta, red sauce, and garlic bread. Pasta, no doubt, plays a large part in most traditional Italian regional cuisine, and few cultures know how to employ a tomato the way that Italians can. However, there are so many distinct styles and trademarks within the different regions of Italy that it is hard to lump together all Italian regional cuisine into one general type of cooking. In reality each region has a very distinct style and taste, and there is really no way to appreciate Italian regional cuisine without visiting restaurants and eateries all over the boot.
Tuscany is a region of Italy that takes up a small piece of the western coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Since a large border of the Tuscan region is coastal, seafood plays a large role in the regional cuisine of Tuscany. A coveted destination for tourists, Tuscany is overflowing with cultural experiences, with roots stemming from the Renaissance. Florence, Pisa and the busy port of Livorno all lie within this modest region. Like it’s simple but beautiful landscape, Tuscan cooking keeps things simple. Tuscan bread, for example is a saltless crusted compliment to their judiciously spiced entrees.
While many people think of Italian cuisine as being very salty and filled with garlic, onion, and basil, Tuscan cuisine uses seasoning very sparingly to bring out the natural flavors of the vegetables, beans, and grains that make up their traditional regional cooking. Chefs of Tuscany are renowned for their rice dishes, and a fish or duck dish in Tuscany is often not complete without a risotto base. They also blend wine seamlessly into these dishes, evaporating the alcohol content and leaving the fruits to mingle with the grains and filled pastas that compliment the meat and fish entrees that bring the rich and famous from all over the world to Tuscany.
Along the coast, seafood plays an integral part of the cuisine. A trademark of the Tuscan coast is a soup called caccuccio. Caccuccio is a rich soup made from a tomato and fish base. The secret is to use many different types of fish, pureed bones and all directly into the base of the soup. This soup, served with a hearty Tuscan bread is filling enough to constitute an entire meal. While the coast of Tuscany is home to many a delicacy, it is the varied nature of the Tuscan landscape that provides such variety in the regional cuisine of Tuscany.
The cattle and boars that are particular to the region, for example, make for a taste that you cannot find anywhere else, in soups, grilled dishes, and hams. While Tuscany is responsible for only four percent of Italy’s overall olive oil production, Tuscan olive trees can live to be hundreds or even thousands of years old. So while each tree produces less of an oil yield than trees customarily found in other regions of Italy, the trees have a much more rich history. This simplicity grounded in a rich tradition is only appropriate for the Tuscan region.