Tuscan cuisine: 10 things we love

The cuisine of Tuscany: 10 things we love

Chianina beef

Chianina is the type of cow that produces the famous Bistecca Fiorentina – the impressive grilled T-bone steak you’ll find on many restaurant menus in Florence and across Tuscany. Tuscans are extremely proud of the Chianina cow: a festival in Siena even opens with four cows parading though the city to signal their key cultural role. Much of the cattle is free range which gives the meat more flavour and these days there is experimentation with aging the beef too – now it can be aged for up to a year, giving a funky, full flavour to the steaks. Check out olive’s T-bone steak recipe to bring some Florentine flair to your kitchen.

Pan-Fried T-Bone Steak Recipe

Pici all’aglione

Pici is a popular pasta shape in Tuscany, made simply with water and flour (no eggs) and rolled into long noodles by hand for a hearty, chewy texture. In Val di Chiana, in the southern part of Tuscany, a typical way to serve pici is in pici all’aglione. Aglione is a local variety of garlic with extra large cloves and a milder flavour. The garlic is sliced and cooked slowly in a light tomato sauce and finished with pecorino cheese.

Pici - homemade pasta


Tuscany has a huge culture around pork and cured meats. A typical salami is made using minced pork, seasoned with salt and pepper and fennel. In Tuscany, bread is traditionally unsalted, so the salamis and prosciutto are often saltier than in other regions in Italy. Finocchiona is a signature salami of the region made using the flowers from wild fennel, which have a more intense anise flavour than fennel seeds.

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Cutting board with typical Tuscan appetizer. Pecorino cheese, salami, finocchiona, pods, ham.

Cutting board with typical Tuscan appetizer. Pecorino cheese, salami, finocchiona, pods, ham.


A variety of beans (such as chickpeas and cannellini beans) are the backbone of Tuscan cuisine, used to bulk out stews, soups and salads. Fagioli al fiasco is one of my favourite ways of serving cannellini beans, where the dried beans are cooked slowly over a low heat in a glass bottle with sage, olive oil and water and then served direct from the glass spout. See our best bean recipes for more ideas.

Coastal cuisine

The important harbours of the Tuscan coast have diverse food influences from the different cultures that have arrived at the harbour over centuries, before spreading throughout Italy. Baccalà alla livornese, from Livorno, uses cubes of fried salt cod (with origins from Norway) cooked in tomato sauce. Another Livornese fish dish, Cacciucco alla livornese is a rich tomato fish soup. Designed to use up leftover fish from the markets, this historically included up to 13 different types of fish, requiring expert knowledge of when to add each fish to the stew to ensure they are all perfectly cooked. Today, the soup still keeps the variety with six to seven fish, often including squid, mussels, clams and red mullet.

Cacciucco alla Livornese

Cacciucco alla Livornese

Tortello maremmano

Tortello maremanno is a typical Tuscan pasta course. Similar to the spinach and ricotta ravioli we know in the UK, tortello maremanno are large squares of pasta pinched together with a filling of fresh ricotta and Swiss chard or borage. The extra large size means you get two to three per serving and the creamy filling is the star, usually served with sage butter or traditionally with a wild boar ragu.


Brigidini are not common in the UK yet, but have been around in Tuscany since the 16th century, first made by nuns at the Santa Brigida convent in Pistoia. You’ll find them almost everywhere at fairs and festivals in Tuscany, with stalls dedicated to making and selling these delicate biscuits. A bit like an ice cream wafer, brigidini are made with sugar, 00 flour and eggs, but the secret ingredient is the aniseeds which gives the biscuits their distinct flavour.

biscuits sold by banquets during fair periods

After dinner treats

After dinner, whilst the conversation is still flowing, Tuscans traditionally serve cantucci, perfect for dipping in small glasses of sweet dessert wine such as Vin Santo. Cantucci has ancient roots dating back to the Romans who used to make a sugary bread with fruits, nuts and seeds which has evolved into the biscuits we know now. Cantucci are traditionally made just with almonds (adding dried fruit or chocolate makes the biscuit more like a torzetti, a very similar biscuit found in Umbria), mixed with flour, egg and sugar. The dough is shaped into a loaf and sliced on the diagonal to give the traditional shape, before being twice baked to give the distinctive crunchiness. Cantucci also pair well with coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up. Try our pistachio and cranberry cantucci recipe.

Florence, Tuscany, Italy - 03 30 2024: Cantucci are Italian almond biscuits that originated in the Tuscan city of Prato. They are twice-baked, oblong-shaped, dry, crunchy, and may be dipped in a drink, traditionally Vin Santo (type of sweet white wine).


Panzanella salad can be found across Italy, but it is very popular in Tuscany. In the Tuscan method, bread is soaked with water, then the extra liquid is squeezed out and the bread is mixed with the dressing and vegetables. Instead of big chunks of bread, this technique is much softer and finer. The dressing should use good white vinegar (not balsamic!), olive oil and salt, but the rest of the salad can use up whatever vegetables you have – tomatoes, cucumber, celery, even carrots. Check out our olive version of a panzanella recipe to get started.

A blue tablecloth topped with two grey plates. Each plate is filled with red and yellow roasted vegetable and green basil leaves


Rolling hills of vineyards are part of the definitive image of Tuscany, which produces some of Italy’s best wines. There are plenty of vineyards to explore and a huge wine culture. Chianti is the signature wine of the region, grown especially in the mountainous regions around Florence, Siena and Abruzzo. Softer red wines are good for easy drinking at aperitivo hour. For a cocktail, Sabatini Gin make a gin using Tuscan botanicals including wild fennel and olive leaves.

Rolling hills of Tuscan vineyards in the Chianti wine region

Where to eat in Tuscany

Amorini Panini E Vino, Florence

A must visit in Florence – they have the best sandwiches with a huge range of flavours to choose from, in either panini or focaccia form. @amorinipaninievino

Gilda, Forte dei Marmi

Visit this classic bath house for a unique place to explore, then pause for lunch at the restaurant on the beach for fresh daily caught seafood. gildafortedeimarmi.com/the-restaurant/

Hotel La Guardia, Isola del Giglio

Located on the Isola del Giglio (one of the most beautiful islands off the coast of Tuscany), enjoy aperitivo or a candle-lit dinner on the terrace with views of the sea and the old village. laguardiahotel.it/en/eat-and-drink/

Where to stay in Tuscany

Il Borro Estate, Tuscany

Il Borro is a true working 800-hectare estate, where guests visiting in autumn can take part in the wine harvest and feast alongside the workers and owners (the glamorous Ferragamo family). The hotel itself is set in the remains of a medieval village in the centre of the estate in Valdarno valley, a wilder, more rustic corner of Tuscany.

This unique climate and soil isn’t solely reserved for wine – 700 olive trees provide oil, fields of buckwheat are a playground for honeybees, plus more fields of organic tomato vines, courgettes, pumpkins, green beans and melons provide the hotel’s three-floored Osteria and Tuscan bistro (and chef Andrea Campani) with the ultimate kitchen garden. The buffet breakfast is also exceptional – so abundant that sweet and savoury options are housed in separate rooms.
Stay in one of the hotel double rooms or, for more of a countryside experience, the hotel has several ‘farmhouses’ available as guest suites – albeit farmhouses that come with infinity pools, vine-covered terraces and dining rooms where you can whip up your own meals. Don’t miss out on a few laps in the infinity pool too.

Doubles from £455, check availability at booking.com

Il Borro Estate, Tuscany

Castello di Casole, Tuscany

Roughly half way between Florence and Siena, and surrounded by 4,200 acres of quintessential rolling, forested hills and golden fields, Castello di Casole is a magnificent Italian country estate. At its centre is an imposing, ochre-coloured castle flanked by gardens of lavender, gravel-edged lawns, roses and olive trees.

Castello di Casole is pitched at travellers in search of an unblemished version of la dolce vita, one with all the luxurious perks you could imagine. It has 41 rooms and suites within the castle and the hamlet that surrounds it, and another 28 villas and farmhouses (rentable by the week) scattered throughout the estate. Décor is tastefully restrained, with sage and burnt umber paintwork, beamed ceilings, antique furniture sourced from local markets, traditional cotto floors and Carrara marble bathrooms.

#Tuscan #cuisine #love

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