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Cooking Tuscan Style: 5 Essential Tips

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone visiting Tuscany not refer to the incredible food you can find here. Every tip is coupled with beautiful landscapes and ending the day (or beginning one) with a wonderful meal of local delights. At Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort, we take food quite seriously. You can dine at our restaurant L’Olivaia or take a cooking class with our chef, we want to bring the ease of Tuscan eating to your daily lives. Since we know that not everyone can visit us directly, we wanted to offer a few tips to recreating Tuscan cuisine at home. Below you will find our five ‘top tips’ on cooking Tuscan style.

1. Keep It Simple

Probably the biggest myth about Italian food is that it is quite complicated to replicate at home. Oh those beautiful sauces, bubbling at the stove for hours on end, perfected in a Nonna’s kitchen. While yes it is true that there are dishes that indeed can take an entire day, the entire essence of Tuscan food is simple ingredients and dishes that come from a culture of poverty, such as pappa al pomodoro, a thick bread soup with tomato or the lovely ribollita (pictured above), using day-old bread, beans and cabbage. Many pasta sauces involve three or fewer ingredients and take a maximum of 15 minutes to complete.

2. Eat Seasonally 

We get it, who doesn’t love an avocado off season or sweet cherries. While it easier said than done to keeping to an only seasonal diet, trust us when we say it is worth it. Eating seasonally in Tuscany has never been a choice, more like a lifestyle. Most locals know when foods will be available, which is why certain dishes can only be found during some times of the years, chestnut cake in the fall, and cherries in early summer. For a calender listing when different veggies and fruits are in season, check out this one by the Tuscany region.

3. Use Good Olive Oil 

Olive oil has been used in cooking for centuries. The Etruscans had their version, the Greeks, then the Romans, and then the everyday populace. Now there is a wide variety when it comes to oils made from olives and not everything is created equally. Thanks to clever marketing and the fact that color means little, it can be hard to distinguish between quality and a pretty label. We encourage you to taste, ask an expert, and know when to use the best kind of extra-virgin olive oil. We offer ‘oil-tasting’ in our own oleoteca and would love to take you on a sensory journey!

4. Wine is your friend: And you can also use it in food

How could we possibly leave out Tuscan wine in this equation? So many dishes use wine as part of the ingredient, even something as simple as Spaghetti alle Vongole Veraci (clams) add a splash or too of ‘vino’ in the simple, fragrant sauces. The key here is to know what to use but also not stress out if you don’t have the exact version. If you are looking for a stronger sangiovese red, think about the dishes that would pair well. For example a wonderful beef ‘peposo’ (a Tuscan stew) matches well with a bold, red Chianti wine. Added to the sauce only adds to the fun, plus drinking it isn’t too bad either.

#5 Embrace Saltless Bread

Probably the biggest complaint of many when it comes to Tuscany is the bread without salt that you find on most restaurant tables. While we get it, people love salt, we say give it a chance. So many Tuscan foods have rich sauces and the light, course bread is a perfect ‘friend’ to eat these with. Plus they make for great classic ‘crostini’ which you can easily whip up as an appetizer for a friends or a party. We love this recipe by Emiko Davies for Food52 for the classic chicken liver pate that you see very frequently here.

 

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