Tuscany is an Italian region with an area of about 23,000 square kilometres (8,900 sq mi) and a population of about 3.8 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence (Firenze). Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its permanent influence on high culture. It is regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and has been home to many influential figures in the history of art and science.
Tuscan cuisine is humble and incredibly rich at the same time. Most of the recipes are simple but bring out the best in the ingredients, whether from the vegetable garden, the farmyard or even the woods. Two main themes bring the different dishes together from this vast region: the first is the extra virgin olive oil for which Tuscany is rightly famous, and the second is bread.
Not only does bread accompany dishes, it is often the main ingredient, with recipes such as Acquacotta, a symbol of traditional Maremma cuisine. It is made of bread, oil, water and vegetables, simplicity itself and at the same time, extremely tasty and also nourishing.
The same is true for pappa al pomodoro, ribollita, fettunta, panzanella, panata and lots of other recipes where bread – more often than not stale – is the main ingredient. Another well-known feature of Tuscan cooking is meat: beef, pork, poultry or game. The famous Florentine porterhouse steak, hams, cured meats, “soppressata” salami, sausages, and poultry, all make delicious dishes.
La Toscana produces wines both great and famous. The Tuscany itself is extolled by the virtues of Chianti made form Sangiovese grapes to which may be added Cannaiolo Nero (10% maximum), Trebbiano Toscano and /or Malvasia del Chianti, but the Tuscan wine-makers have long been convinced of the value of other grapes, which have found the perfect terroir in the hilly region. So they have created wines called Super Tuscan. This is the term coined to denote the finest of Tuscan wines made by artisan winemakers.
These wines are classified as IGT, which was created to recognize the exceptionally high quality of these wines, and it means that they don't have to conform to the strict composition of the DOC and DOCG wines such as Chianti or Brunello. Ferdinando Giordano believed in the potential of these grapes and the results are these great and fine wines.
TYPICAL RECIPE: TUSCAN PENNE IN WALNUT-GARLIC SAUCE
Similar to Liguria's beloved pesto, the sauce for this pasta is rendered creamy by a good dose of walnuts; substitute blanched almonds for a mellower flavor.
Ingredients (serves 6):
2 cups basil leaves, 1 garlic clove, peeled, 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, 2 cups shelled walnut halves, 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 pound penne rigate, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Crush the basil, garlic, Pecorino, and walnuts into a semi-smooth paste in a mortar or in a food processor. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Beat in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream until a creamy paste forms; the sauce will not be smooth. Set aside. Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil; add the penne and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook until al dente, then drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Toss the penne with the sauce and the reserved pasta cooking water in a heated bowl. Serve hot, sprinkled with the pepper.