Located in Central Italy with a long stretch of Mediterranean coastline on the western side of the country, Tuscany is a region that has become famous for the beautiful capital, Florence, and the wonderful culture of the region. At the heart of this culture is a genuine passion for food, but while many regions are known for combining flavors for a wonderful result, Tuscan cuisine is all about simplicity. There is a great food and drink industry in the region, with a huge range of breads, cheeses and wines produced in the region, along with some of the best beef and pork in Italy.
Tuscany was not historically the wealthiest region of the country, and this has led to a fascinating cuisine which not only emphasizes simple flavors, but also one which makes use of all the food available, allowing very little to go to waste. One of the best examples of these is ribollita, a type of thick soup that is made by soaking stale bread in bean puree, black cabbage and any other vegetables available to make a soup that is reheated the following day. This peasant tradition means that Tuscan dishes will often include game or offal meat, and the home cooking of Tuscany is beautifully presented in this video of a home-cooked Tuscan feast.
One of the most distinctive meat dishes originating in Tuscany is the Florentine steak, which is a thick T-bone steak that is lightly seasoned and cooked lightly on both sides before being served, although it is worth noting that Tuscan people generally prefer their meat very rare. Most main dishes in the region will include either beef or pork, although it is still possible for vegetarians to find some suitable dishes in most areas. Game also plays an important role in the local cuisine, with pigeon and pheasant both commonly served with fresh pasta such as pappardelle to make for a tasty and filling main meal.
Fresh pasta is regularly prepared in most traditional Tuscan households and in restaurants across the region, and the thick strands of pappardelle are often served with a ragu sauce, often with game. In the Versilia area of the region, the tordelli versiliesi is a colorful range of semi-circular ravioli which can be green, white or red, and are usually stuffed with meat, cheese or seasoned minced chard. For vegetarians, the potato-filled tortelli are a very good option with a herbed mashed potato stuffing the fresh pasta.
While not usually served as a part of the peasant cuisine in the region, Tuscan white truffles are highly prized, and can be very valuable, while only a small amount of grated truffles can add great flavor to pasta dishes and meats. Beans and legumes are key to traditional Tuscan cuisine, and play a major part in many of the stews and soups of the region. Bread is also a very important part of any meal, and simple appetizers are often made by toasting slices of bruschetta and rubbing them with garlic and drizzling the bread in olive oil.
The region produces some of the best olive oil in Italy, and particularly in the autumn when the fresh olive harvest has just been processed, the extra virgin olive oil is very good and adds great flavor to many dishes in the region. Wine also plays an important part in the area's culture, with many wines only being produced in small vineyards in the region, such as the fruity Brunello di Montalcino, which pairs well with meat and game dishes, and is only produced in the hills around the town of Montalcino.