Here is a short guide on traditional Tuscan Food! Discover the best known classic Tuscan dishes in the world and where to savour Tuscan cuisine with real Experts!
Tuscan food is strong and simple at the same time, with few ingredients and an intense flavour. Tourists from all over the world arrive in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, to taste the Fiorentina steak. The so-called Bistecca Fiorentina is cooked rare and has got an intense red colour, like the heart of this region which, by offering traditional recipes, has consolidated an international reputation.
Tuscan cuisine is one of the oldest Italian regional cuisine. Tuscan recipes remain unchanged and we can still today find them on local tables. An example of all is today’s use of no-salt bread and its reuse for many classic Tuscan dishes such as Panzanella salad, Pappa al pomodoro and several traditional soups.
A poor cuisine, historically marked by breeding and agriculture, with a significant production of high-quality cheese, meat and cured meats. In this region, the Master butcher is a pillar of the Tuscan culinary tradition. Important Tuscan foods are also vegetables and legumes: we find them in many tasty soups with a rustic character.
In Tuscany food is always paired with fine wines. Therefore we cannot fail to mention the local wine production and how to pair wine with traditional Tuscan dishes (we will see the best food and wine pairings in the article!).
Your journey to discover the best food from Tuscany starts now!
Below you will learn all the secrets of the most popular Tuscan dishes: from the black crouton with chicken livers, through the Pici and the countless first courses, also touching meat and fish main courses, we will end with almond biscuits. You will find recipes for all tastes.
Below all the most famous food in Tuscany, paired with wine. 👇
1. Tuscan appetizers
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Tuscan croutons, also called “black crostini”, are the traditional Tuscan appetizer. The pâté covering unsalted bread is made with chicken livers, a poor part of the animal that can also be found mixed with other ingredients.
This food was used to reuse scraps: it was made a couple of times a month to reuse stale bread which, wetting it with broth and Vin Santo, became an excellent base for croutons. Even today some people continue this tradition by wetting one side of the slice with broth, but fresh toasted bread is almost always used.
The pâté is made with sautéed onions (sometimes it can be found with celery, carrots and parsley) blended with Vin Santo and cooked with a little chicken broth.
For a softer and more velvety pâté, it is passed to the mixer with anchovies and capers for an extra boost. Otherwise it can simply be cut with a knife more coarsely.
- Wine pairing: Rosso Piceno DOC Superiore, Rosso Val di Cornia DOCG, Rosso di Montepulciano DOC, Morellino di Scansano DOCG
Chianti Red Croutons
This traditional Tuscan food is a vegetarian variant to the typical crouton with livers! Almost a small panzanella on crouton, consisting of stale bread soaked with vinegar, garlic, capers, tomato and parsley, all seasoned with salt, pepper and a generous portion of extra virgin olive oil.
- Wine pairing: Alezio Rosato DOC, Orcia Rosato DOC
Spicy Red Croutons
For spicy lovers, a tomato sauce with anchovies, parsley and chilli can be served on Tuscan bread. The choice is yours in the quantity of chilli to use.
- Wine pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, Morellino di Scansano DOCG
Black Cabbage Croutons
Few but good ingredients make black cabbage crostini one of the most popular vegetarian appetizers. The simple gesture of rubbing garlic on unsalted bread is a tradition that is still respected today. A few other gestures make up this traditional Tuscan food: boil the black cabbage, serve it on the crouton and season everything with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Classico DOCG, Rosso Piceno DOC
Appetizer, side dish or single dish, fagioli all’uccelletto (stewed beans with sausages) are a typical vegetarian dish with a multiple function. It is a traditional Tuscan food, poor but with an excellent protein content. The name of this appetizer arouses curiosity: its origin is not certain, but Pellegrino Artusi (a highly esteemed Italian gastronome) leads it back to the ingredients that season the beans, once used to cook the bird.
A second explanation is that this food has been the accompaniment to the little bird for a long time and would take its name from here.
A tasty tomato sauce scented with garlic and sage welcomes the previously boiled beans to make up a glorious food of Tuscany.
- Wine pairing: Cortona DOC
Bruschetta or Fettunta
Stale or fresh Tuscan bread toasted as desired, seasoned with olive oil, garlic, salt and black pepper. Sometimes there is nothing better. Even more so if you use a good Tuscan extra virgin olive oil PGI.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG
2. Tuscan first courses
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Pappa al Pomodoro
Like Rita Pavone’s song says in the title “Viva la pappa col pomodoro”. It expresses Giovannino’s happiness to finally eat something good: the Pappa al Pomodoro. Among Tuscany foods, it is perhaps the simplest one, but few know how to make it well. Its origin is around Siena.
This famous food is a traditional soup with stale Tuscan bread, peeled tomatoes, garlic, plenty of olive oil and basil to flavour. The bread will soften and give texture to the dish.
Good in winter as a hot soup, but also excellent warm in summer.
- Wine pairing: Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, Bianco di Pitigliano DOC, Maremma Toscana DOC Viognier, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Colli Albani DOC
Pasta e Ceci
Winter cannot be missing without this traditional Tuscan food: Pasta e Ceci. Slow cooking and a touch of tomato are the secrets behind one of the most famous local recipes.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Classico Riserva, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
The traditional Tuscan food for Friday, which brings together the leftovers of the week.
Seasonal vegetables (usually autumn or winter), beans and stale Tuscan bread are the ingredients. Its name comes from the need for a long cooking that boils and simmers several times.
- Wine pairing: Chianti DOCG, Morellino di Scansano DOCG
Pappardelle with Boar or Duck Sauce
Traditional recipes with pappardelle are really a must. The tasty and savoury dressing with wild boar or duck sauce is beautifully collected by the egg pappardelle. It is the traditional Tuscan food to order at the restaurant or to make at home starting from fresh pasta.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Classico DOCG, Rosso di Montalcino DOC
Today it also called “pansanella”, “panmolle” or “panmòllo”. The name seems to derive from the combination of the words “bread” and “zanella” (which means soup tureen) or from the word “panzana”, that is “pappa”.
In any case, this Tuscan food originates from the sacred habit of saving leftover bread by wetting it and seasoning it with vegetables from the garden. The recipe is made with stale bread, tomatoes, onion, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Tomatoes were probably not used in ancient times, then only a display plant. Boccaccio even speaks of it with the name of “washed bread”.
To date, each city has its own version of this food.
- Wine pairing: Maremma Toscana DOC Viognier, Orcia Rosato DOC, Chardonnay del Salento
With this fresh pasta we are in Versilia, in the north-west of Tuscany, where Lucca is located.
Tordelli from Lucca have got a crescent shape and they are the traditional stuffed pasta. With a thicker and whiter dough than the one from Emilia Romagna, Tordelli (yes, with the d!) contain a meat, chard and cheese filling.
In ancient times, they were among the Tuscan recipes consumed by farmers as a festive dish on Fat Thursday.
- Wine pairing: Colline Lucchesi Rosso DOC
Caciucco alla Livornese
Claimed by the Leghorns, Cacciucco can be both made with sea fish, as well as with meat and game. However, the Tuscans are very attached to the first version and there is a Leghorn legend about its creation: a fisherman dying in a storm left his family in misery. So each fishermen gave fish to the fisherman’s children to eat.
Given the great variety of fish, the mother prepared a soup, which she poured over slices of stale bread to make the meal more substantial. Thus the cacciucco was created.
The main ingredient for sea cacciucco is obviously fish such as redfish, capon, tub gurnard, weevers and many others, along with molluscs such as octopus, cuttlefish, baby octopus and squid.
A few mussels and crustaceans are always perfect with fresh or pureed tomato dressing, a hint of red wine and stale garlic bread. The final touch is to taste such a food with olive oil, sage, chilli and parsley.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Classico, Catarratto, Bolgheri Rosato DOC
Pici all’aglione is a traditional Tuscan food originating from Siena.
Pici is a long and double pasta shape, often prepared at home. It is seasoned with a garlic sauce (large garlic with a less intense taste, from the Valdichiana area) and tomato. It is one of the simplest recipes to make at home, but with an intense flavour.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Classico
Spelt Soup from Garfagnana
Garfagnana is the northernmost area of Tuscany and has always been characterised by spelt production. From this splendid product comes this tasty food of Tuscany.
Few ingredients for this traditional food: spelt, bacon or lard and beans. Tuscan pecorino and stale bread to complete. A rich soup that is also good for you and is perfect for your lunch or dinner.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG, Chianti Rufina DOCG, Rosso di Montalcino DOC
Perhaps more commonly called “acqua cotta”, the Maremma soup is a traditional food with onions, celery, tomato and chillies cooked over low heat with the addition of water and broth and, finally, beaten eggs. It must remain soupy and is usually served with a base of Tuscan bread covered with cheese.
- Wine pairing: Chianti DOCG, Barbera, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC
This dish is less known, but strongly representative of the territory. Testaroli is in fact a very popular pasta shape from Lunigiana (upper Tuscany) protected by the Slow Food Presidium as it is one of the oldest pasta shapes.
It is made with soft wheat flour, water and salt forming crêpes cut into rhombuses, cooked in boiling water and traditionally seasoned with olive oil, basil and cheese.
- Wine pairing: Riviera Ligure di Ponte Pigato DOC, Vermentino Ligure
For those who say that the filling is the best part of ravioli, they have found their paradise: Gnudi (translated “naked”) are just that. Spinach, ricotta, grated cheese, eggs, a little flour and a touch of nutmeg form quenelles that are boiled and polished with sage-flavoured butter.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG
3. Tuscan main courses
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Bistecca alla Fiorentina
The Florentine steak is the queen of traditional Tuscan food. Here high-quality meat is everything: in Tuscany we find several important cattle breeds, but the Academy of Fiorentina says that the meat used for the preparation of this food must come from the White Central Apennine Steer PGI.
The cut we are interested in to obtain the Fiorentina steak is the loin of veal or heifer, with the fillet, the sirloin and in the middle the rib bone, always very popular.
Even ageing and meat marbling play their part in the taste. Cooking at high temperature forms the crust containing the meat juices. Bistecca Fiorentina will be salted only at the end of cooking.
Well done, medium or rare, in any case the steak thickness must be at least 5 cm. In many restaurants, it starts from a minimum size of 0.800-1.200 kg. Each restaurant has its own philosophy and you can even reach a minimum of 2 kg, obviously to share!
- Wine pairing: Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Nebbiolo d’Asti, Amarone DOCG
Prosciutto Toscano PDO
Placed on a slice of Tuscan unsalted bread, Prosciutto Toscano PDO is perfect with its salty note.
In its whole form, this ham can be recognised by the slightly enlarged size and appearance of a V. This shape facilitates the penetration of salt and aromas such as garlic, rosemary, myrtle and juniper, which give a characteristic taste to this food of Tuscany.
- Wine pairing: Alezio Rosato DOC, Chianti Classico DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
It is a famous Tuscan sausage flavoured with fennel seeds.
The pork used to make finocchiona is dipped in red wine and packaged in larger shapes than a classic salami. It was registered as a PGI in 2015 with extensive historical evidence. It is said that even Machiavelli praised this extraordinary food.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG, Chianti Rufina DOCG, Rosso di Montalcino DOC
Lardo di Colonnata PGI
Colonnata is the town in the municipality of Carrara where Lardo di Colonnata PGI is produced.
This food has got an interesting processing: the garlic is first rubbed in the Carrara marble basins and then the lard is seasoned in alternate layers with salt and aromas (pepper, rosemary, sage, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves).
When matured, after 6-10 months, this traditional Tuscan food will have a white, slightly pink colour and a delicate taste with a sweet note, enriched by the aromas of spices. Taste it natural, then indulge yourself in original recipes and the most daring pairings.
- Wine pairing: Morellino di Scansano DOCG, Chianti Rufina DOCG
Pecorino Toscano PDO
This ancient Tuscan food has arrived from the Etruscans to the present day. In the fifteenth century it was celebrated, like Parmigiano Reggiano, as the best cheese in Italy.
The PDO regulation limits its production not only to Tuscany, but also to some areas in Lazio and Umbria. It can be found in the soft or semi-cooked pasta type.
- Wine pairing: Bianco di Pitigliano DOC, Chianti Classico DOCG, Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Morellino di Scansano DOC
Street food in Tuscany is a serious matter, especially in Florence where tripe sandwich is a must.
Tradition has it that the top of tripe sandwich is quickly soaked in the broth where lampredotto (it is the abomasum, the fourth stomach of the cattle) was previously cooked.
The tripe sandwich is stuffed with the lampredotto and, in some cases, it is covered with green parsley sauce made with stale bread, olive oil, vinegar, anchovies in oil and, obviously, plenty of parsley, which gives it the bright green.
- Wine pairing: Chianti Classico DOCG, Morellino di Scansano DOCG
We continue to talk about offal, but this time the topic is Florentine tripe. This traditional Tuscan food is tripe seasoned with a sauté of carrots, celery, onions and with tomatoes that almost form a soup. It is a typical winter dish with slow cooking.
- Wine pairing: Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG, Etna Rosso DOC
Arista alla Toscana
Arista (pork roast) is the Sunday dish. It is a very ancient dish and its name dates back to 1400, when Greek guests in Florence while tasting this Tuscan food called it “arista” (superlative of good).
The Florentine and Tuscan recipes are very similar, but the Tuscan one is a little faster: a mince of rosemary and garlic is put into the incisions obtained in the meat, then tied with string and sprinkled with salt and ground pepper.
A couple of hours’ rest in the fridge will give it all the scents. Baking in the oven is important for the success and a trick to obtain the delicious crust is to raise the temperature in the last few minutes.
- Wine pairing: Sannio DOC, Chianti Rufina, Colli Berici Cabernet
Triglie alla Livornese
Fish cannot be missing in Tuscan recipes.
Charming villages and towns overlook the Tuscan coast: there are perfect places to stop in a restaurant and taste seafood dishes. Among classic Tuscan dishes, triglie alla livornese (mullet alla livornese) are an excellent choice, with their tomato sauce called the “scarpetta”.
- Wine pairing: Bolgheri DOC white, Ischia DOC white
Baccalà alla Livornese
A tomato and onion sauce wraps cod and potatoes. It is a Tuscan food where cod retains all its aroma and texture. Simple but really tasty!
- Wine pairing: Chianti Classico DOCG, Bolgheri DOC
4. Traditional Tuscan desserts
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Cantucci with almonds
The perfect ending to any meal are cantucci biscuits, also called Prato almond biscuits. These dry biscuits have become famous all over the world: they are the classic gift to take to friends after a visit to Tuscany.
The peculiarity is in their shape and in the crunchy texture that is given to them obtaining, with the almond dough, a loaf that will be baked in the oven and then cut. The cookies will eventually go back into the oven to dry them and will get the typical crunchiness.
- Wine pairing: Vin Santo del Chianti, Marsala Ambra Dolce
A sponge cake soaked in alchermes containing a heart of sweetened ricotta mixed with candied fruit, hazelnuts or almonds, chocolate chips.
The zuccotto recipe is often found with the addition of cream to the filling, half of which is dyed brown with bitter cocoa. A layer of white cream covers the sponge cake and a layer of cocoa fills the central part. Its shape is a half sphere, a zuccotto to be precise, left bare like a nacked cake or covered with powdered sugar or bitter cocoa.
- Wine pairing: Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà DOC
Castagnaccio is also called “baldino” or “pattona”. It is made in many Italian regions, but it seems that the original castagnaccio recipe was created in Tuscany in the 1500s, more precisely in Lucca. Only in the 1800s did castagnaccio become one of the most famous Tuscan recipes.
In ancient times it was based on chestnut flour. Only later raisins, pine nuts and rosemary were introduced.
It is also an excellent dessert for celiacs due to the absence of gluten!
- Wine pairing: Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice, Aleatico dell’Elba passito DOCG, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG
With chestnut flour, in addition to castagnaccio, it is possible to make the necci, traditional crespelle without eggs and stuffed with ricotta, very simple to make. Few ingredients: chestnut flour, water and sugar. The result is guaranteed!
- Wine pairing: Novello di Toscana IGT
Panforte di Siena PGI
Panforte di Siena is a traditional Christmas dessert, a symbol of the confectionery tradition from Siena. In ancient times, it was called gingerbread and was simply a bread with spices and pepper.
The Panforte di Siena recipe changed over time and became a bread with honey and fresh fruit which, by fermenting, gave the dessert a sour taste. In the following years, dried fruit, almonds, honey, candied fruit, spices and vanilla sugar were added to replace pepper.
- Wine pairing: Vin Santo del Chianti DOC, Marsala Ambra Dolce
Torta coi Bischeri
Moving towards Pisa, we find this traditional homemade festive dessert. Shortcrust pastry base and a rich filling with chocolate, rice, cocoa, pine nuts and raisins. The decoration can be the classic checked net but the bischeri, called “becchi” in Lucca, are indispensable: they are the spikes surrounding the cake.
In Lucca, this Tuscan food is salty and the filling is with herbs!
- Wine pairing: Vin Santo Toscano, Passito di Pantelleria DOC
Schiacciata alla Fiorentina
Among the recipes baked during Carnival time, Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a soft sponge cake.
In the past, lard was used. It has now been replaced by butter or olive oil, but the result is always soft, delicate and fragrant. Schiacciata is usually decorated with a lily, the symbol of Florence.
- Wine pairing: Vin Santo Toscano
Savour classic Tuscan dishes with the Experts!
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I will not be the first to talk about the Tuscan territory with its boundless beauties, but I am here to tell you that there is a fantastic way to discover the most famous Tuscan foods. Indeed, there is more than one!
To take the first steps among Tuscan recipes and beyond, a visit to the farm may be perfect for you: a day at the farm, discovering olive oil producers or taking a tour in the oldest wine cellars of the area.
Italia Delight can help you book an authentic food and wine experience in Tuscany!
Tasting a food where it was created, feeling not only the flavours of what you eat but also the smells and sensations I receive from the local environment. All this will make you enjoy a unique experience.
You will be able to fully understand the terroir of a wine thanks to the explanations of Italia Delight’s Food Experts, who will accompany you on a wine tour with sommeliers in Chianti or on culinary experiences in Montepulciano.
Food and wine tours in Seggiano to discover Seggiano olive oil PDO. Or in Certaldo, San Gimignano and Maremma to taste Tuscan olive oil PGI are always interesting.
And if traditional Tuscan food has aroused your interest, many cooking courses await you: from Maremma soups to a day in the kitchen and in the wine cellar in San Miniato.
Find all the food experiences on Italia Delight so you can choose the one that’s right for you to discover Tuscan cuisine.
Did you like the article on Tuscan food by Nur Migahed, a graduate student in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures at the Roma Tre University? Discover all the experiences and travel to this beautiful region with Italia Delight! 😉🚗