The most satisfying and resonant word in the Italian language could well be "mangiamo" – let's eat! Certainly, when you hear the word while you're visiting Tuscany you'll know that you're in for something special. Traditional Tuscan cuisine is loved the world over, with variations on the theme popping up in homes and restaurants all over the world, every day. |
Learn How to Cook Like a Tuscan Local on Small Group Holidays
Experiencing the authentic local cuisine of a destination is one of the best ways of getting to know both the culture and the people. Learning the techniques, ingredients and skills to recreate it at home takes it to the next level. The beauty of small group holidays is the facility to tailor-make itineraries to suit particular interests and, for those visiting Tuscany, cookery lessons are definitely high on the agenda.
Pappa al Pomodoro and Ribolita are two classic staples from every Tuscan's gastronomic repertoire, so where better to learn how to make them than right at the source? And taste testing the world-famous regional wines and cheeses is just the icing on the panettone!
Pappa al Pomodoro
This incredibly simple dish relies on the best quality ingredients to turn a simple tomato soup into an incredibly tasty experience. This versatile tomato, bread and garlic soup can be served either chilled, at room temperature or hot. Using the very best olive oil, basil and tomatoes and regulating the amount of garlic according to personal taste is key to recreating an authentic Pappa al Pomodoro. The addition of chunks of torn bread turns the idea of soup as a starter on its head and makes for a hearty main course dish.
The defining characteristics of Tuscan cookery are that it's honest, easy and totally delicious – and the iconic bread and vegetable soup, Ribollita, is a perfect example. This is possibly one of the easiest dishes to recreate at home, because all the ingredients are readily available from supermarkets. Again, the most important thing is to use only the best quality extra virgin olive oil, but the rest of the ingredients – carrots, onions, garlic cannellini beans, any other fibrous vegetables you like, and some rustic white bread – are a cinch. The wonderful earthy flavours of Ribollita belie its simplicity, and it's a great dish to impress at a dinner party.
Wine and Cheese
Locally produced wines and cheeses are a very important part of Tuscan gastronomy, and they're renowned as being the best in the world. A meal just isn't a meal unless it's accompanied by vino and formaggio!
Wine: The traditional hearty meat dishes, stews and soups benefit from the flavours of the strong-bodied red vino della casa that's served up in virtually every restaurant. (House wine here is very different to the quality you might normally expect.) The classic regional reds are the excellent but very affordable Montelpuciano, and the more expensive Montalcino, which is acclaimed by wine experts around the world.
Cheese: The Tuscans have been making a huge variety of cheeses using the same techniques and production methods for centuries. For foodies, visiting a local farm or dairy to see how ricotta, pecorino or raviggiolo is created first hand is an experience to be savoured – along with the tastings!
For anyone looking to do more than just taste the dishes that embody the spirit and traditions of Tuscany, taking advantage of the cookery courses available on the itineraries of small group holidays is highly recommended. Not only will you get to experience the region's culinary highlights, you'll be able to recreate them once you get home – keeping your memories fresh and most definitely delicious.
Elle Scotter is the Marketing Executive of Back-Roads Touring, a company with 25 years' experience creating tailor-made small group holidays that go off the beaten track to delve a little deeper into the true heart and soul of a destination. Travelling in comfortable mini-coaches with a tour size of generally no more than 18 people, their holidays provide a flexible, friendly and relaxed way to tour. On itineraries across Europe and the UK, you'll experience the road less travelled with Back-Roads Touring.
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