Though we’re well-accustomed to zero-waste cooking, Tuscany was a pioneer in this culinary tradition. Most of Tuscan cuisine is based on using every part of each ingredient or recycling leftovers. High-quality, locally grown products are the secret of Tuscan cuisine’s success. Italy has different traditional recipes from one region to the next and also within individual regions.
Tuscany represents this concept perfectly. There is a wide variety of recipes ranging from meat to fish and vegetarian or vegan dishes.
Is the wine different from the food? Not at all. The flagship region of Italian wine offers a broad selection of vino,too. Consequently, Tuscan wine pairings are a great example of “what grows together, goes together”.
What is it?
A vegan bread and vegetable soup. The name literally means “reboiled” since it was originally made by recooking the leftover soup from the previous day and adding stale bread. By reboiling, it gets a thicker consistency and more intense flavors.
Chianti, especially fruity and young ones. The aromas of cherry fruit, together with the high acidity and fine tannins, make it a lovely accompaniment to this dish.
2. Pappa al Pomodoro
What is it?
Some define it as a thick soup. While others consider it more similar to a salad, served cold. Pappa al pomodoro is made with fresh, fragrant tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, stale bread, and basil. It’s a culmination of top quality Italian products, all in one dish. The ideal summer speciality in Tuscan cuisine.
Sangiovese rosé. Simple as that. The acidity is less pronounced compared to white wine. The freshness is more prominent than red, and we don’t need to worry about overpowering tannins. All we need is a bit of fruitiness and delicate notes. This pairing will easily become one of your all time favorite pairings.
What is it?
Lampredotto is a symbol of Florence as much as the Ponte Vecchio and Michelangelo’s David. Kiosks, trucks or restaurants all serve lampredotto. If you visit the city, you can’t miss this tradition.
What is now a superstar Florentine street food was once a cheap snack for the working class who couldn’t afford the best part of the cow’s meat. This appealing sandwich is filled with the cow’s fourth stomach, slow-cooked in a broth with herbs, and topped with salsa verde.This traditional dish is easy to find, but it’s up to you to spot the best one.
A Tuscan classic method sparkling. Although the region is famous for its reds, there are other wines worth discovering. Producers are doing exceptionally well with sparkling and this wine pairing is sure to surprise you. The blend often includes local varieties, including Sangiovese and Vernaccia. Enjoy tasting unconventional wines.
4. Bistecca alla Fiorentina
What is it?
Don’t just call it a steak. It’s a t-bone, thick-cut steak that requires some simple yet specific steps for its preparation. For instance, it must be room temperature at the time of cooking. Bistecca alla Fiorentina should be served rare and seasoned only with extra virgin olive oil and salt. It weighs approximately 1-1.5 kg and is 5–6 cm thick. The mission requires some help. So, this is definitely a dish to share.
Here, tradition can’t be broken. The very classic pairing with bistecca alla fiorentina is Chianti Classico. This Italian wine supports the structure of the dish without overpowering it. Tannins are needed here, but they must be soft and not excessive. If you think of a must-have pairing for Tuscan cuisine, you can’t miss this.
5. Cacciucco alla Livornese
What is it?
We need only a few fresh ingredients to make this fish soup, such as various types of fish, tomato, and stale bread. There are several legends about the origin of this dish, the emblem of Livorno. The most reasonable story sees this dish created by fishermen using whatever was left in the bottom of their boat after selling the best fish. Another example of no-waste cooking.
However, the most beautiful origin story is the one which sees Cacciucco as a symbol of Livorno’s population born from different cultures. Mixed fishes create a beautifully balanced dish as various people can make a great community. How cool and inclusive is that?
Savor Cacciucco alla Livornese with a Morellino di Scansano. The conventional pairing calls for Chianti Classico, but there’s been such a significant evolution over time that it would be a shame not to give another Tuscan wine a chance to succeed. And can you imagine how boring this article would be if Chianti were the suggested wine pairing for every dish?
6. Fagioli all’Uccelletto
What is it?
Fagioli all’Uccelletto is a very easy and flavorful bean-based recipe which can be served as a main or side dish. Some versions include sausages, but the original one doesn’t. Depending on the area, there are different kinds of beans used. Sage is the unmissable ingredient and the one that makes this dish so special. The name has carnivorous connotations as “uccelletto” means “small bird”, but this Tuscan dish doesn’t traditionally include meat. Let’s leave the birds be and allow legumes to satisfy our palate.
A blend of local varieties, like Sangiovese and Canaiolo or a Rosso di Montalcino would each be a proper wine pairing for this specialty in Tuscan cuisine. Generally speaking, red is the best combination because of the consistency of the beans and the sage aroma. It’s the emblem of simplicity and perfection.
What is it?
Imagine a filled pasta without the pasta. This is exactly what gnudi is, an “undressed” filling. Hence the reason for its name, which means “naked” in the Tuscan dialect. They look similar to gnocchi, but they’re made with ricotta cheese and spinach, usually dressed with sage and melted butter. Their preparation requires a delicate touch in every step.
Finally, a white wine pairing. If Chianti is Tuscany’s red icon, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the region’s emblematic white wine. Unique and distinctive in its taste, Vernaccia is a versatile wine that can go with many dishes. There is a fresher version and a more complex one (Riserva). In this case, I suggest you go with the first. The wine’s delicate taste will match with gnudi creating the ideal balance.
8. Pici all’Aglione
What is it?
Pici is a thick hand-rolled spaghetti-style pasta made with flour and water that requires great manual ability. Aglione is a variety of huge garlic that makes lovers and vampires happy. The reason is that it’s free of alliin, the substance that gives the garlic its strong and pungent smell. Consequently, aglione is more delicate and easy to digest. The result of this simple recipe will be a deliciously tasty tomato pasta. Anyhow, pici works perfectly with countless sauces in Tuscan cuisine. While in Tuscany, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
When talking about pici, the association with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is almost automatic. They come from the same area of the region. Every year there’s a contest to promote the territory and its products. The historical city quarters compete, creating the best and most representative recipe to pair with Nobile.Guess which pasta shape is the most popular on this occasion.
9. Crostini alla Toscana
What is it?
Bread hasn’t been mentioned for a while, so here it is again! Chicken liver pâté served on toasted bread. There are different recipes, slightly different from each other and, of course, depending on the one you try, you’ll always hear that it’s the best one.
The bread and the wine used to simmer the meat are the main cause of disagreement. But this is how different specialities are born, and nobody can complain about that. The origin of this dish is ancient, and it’s believed to date back to the Romans. Another name is “crostini neri” (black) due to the pâté’s dark color.
Governo all’uso Toscano or Rosso Val di Cornia. Let’s go with the unusual. If these names sound peculiar to you, don’t worry. They’re not the most popular wines, even for Italians. But isn’t discovering new things one of the coolest parts of learning about wine? Governo all’uso Toscano’s winemaking practice consists of adding a portion of withered grapes to a freshly made wine. This practice intensifies the flavors and the color. The technique is regulated by law and accepted only in specific areas.
What is it?
Crunchy, tasty, and loaded with almonds, Cantucci are the most famous Italian biscuits worldwide. Their origin supposedly dates back to the 16th century, even if the recipe has changed over time. The almonds came later. The preparation is easy and the distinctive shape comes by cutting the cooked log with a sharp knife. They are traditionally served at the end of a meal. Since 2015, they have been protected by the IGP denomination.
Cantucci and Vin Santo are inseparable in Tuscan cuisine. You could pair them with another dessert wine, but it would be like cheating on your partner. Vin Santo literally means “holy wine”. The origins of the name are debated. The most plausible one is related to the fact that the fermentation timing corresponds to the Easter period.
Now that you have all the culinary instructions for your trip to Tuscany, there is no point in waiting. You’ll fall in love with this land, Tuscan cuisine, and the region’s wines!
About the Author
Alessandra Mastrantonio is a sommelier, wine writer, and content creator backed by wine industry experience throughout Europe. She is WSET certified and an accredited FIS sommelier specializing in Italian, French, and fine wines across Italy and the UK. Over a 10-year hospitality career in fine dining and luxury hotels, she gained direct-to-consumer and B2B industry experience while refining her wine knowledge through wine list development and purchasing.
Currently at Prestonfield, a 5-star hotel in Edinburgh, Alessandra continues to hone her service and communication skills delivering VIP experiences to A-list clients, elite politicians, and the who’s who of the business world.
Photos sourced from Cellar Tours. For more on Tuscan cuisine, check out this article on cellartours.com.