Tuscan and Umbrian Slow Food

Tuscan slow food

The Slow Food movement* promotes a number of objectives, among those of special interest to us here in Italy being:

• forming and sustaining seed banks to preserve indigenous varieties of plant and animal food sources in collaboration with local food providers
• developing an "ark of taste" for each eco-zone, where local culinary traditions and local foods are celebrated
• preserving and promoting local and traditional food products, along with their lore and preparation
• organising small-scale processing (including facilities for slaughtering and producing short run products)
• organising celebrations of local cuisine within regions

A related movement is the Città Slow (slow towns) movement which promotes towns that provide the opportunity to enjoy products and services that allow you to live in an easier and more pleasant way - not least, Slow Food!

Here are a few examples of Tuscan and Umbrian Slow Food or slow food sources
to look for when you visit Tuscany and Umbria.


Garfagnana Potato Bread

In Garfagnana and part of Serchio Valley, the tradition of making this potato bread, also called garfagnino, lives on. The bread is a combination of 85% wheat flour and 15% mashed potatoes, which make it softer and give it a fuller flavour. The huge 1-2 kilogram loaves are sliced and served with the salty cured meats of the Garfagnana, a traditional Tuscan pairing.

Production Area:
Garfagnana (Province of Lucca)


Garfagnana Potato Bread


Garfagnana Biroldo


Garfagnana Biroldo

Garfagnana Biroldo is an old-fashioned blood sausage made with boiled and boned pig's head, blood and spices and is seasoned with wild fennel seeds, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, sometimes garlic, and salt and pepper. The mixture is cured and boiled for three hours. Garfagnana Biroldo is soft and balanced on the palate. The lean head meat, blood and spices offer delicate, lingering aromas.

Production Area:
Garfagnana (Province of Lucca)


Cinta Senese Pig

The only Tuscan native pig breed to avoid extinction, the Cinta Senese has a long snout and a black coat with a white band around the chest - hence the name, cinta meaning 'sash' in Italian. Thanks to breeding in the natural or semi-natural state, the meat is evenly veined with fat, with an outstanding flavour and aroma. A whole range of cured meats are made with the various parts of the animal: lardo, rigatino, gotino (or guanciale), prosciutto, salame, capocollo, and so on.

Production Area:
Province of Florence

Cinta Senese Pig

More about Cinta Senese

 

Dining with a local family in Greve in Chianti

Opportunities arise from time to time for small groups of visitors to our area (usually a single family or 2-3 couples) to share a meal with local people in their home. These are not professional occasions but rather an opportunity to enjoy non-restaurant local specialities and gain insight into Chianti life. Prices are very reasonable and someone who speaks English is available if your Italian is limited. More about dinner with a family in Chianti.


Chianina ox

More about Chianina oxen


Chianina Oxen

The Chianina ox is the largest extant breed of cow in the world. Large cattle were known in Lucania during Roman times and the Chianina of the Val di Chiana may well trace back to these. The breed originated primarily in the west central part of Italy and the largest representatives are from the plains of Arezzo and Sienna - the Val di Chiana. The earlier selection for work animals had produced a very large animal with a docile disposition. T-bone and porterhouse steak cu from Chianina oxen are used to prepare bistecca alla fiorentina.

Production Area:
Val di Chiana

Bio Bed & Breakfast "Il Cielo" in the Chianti Classico wine zone

Chianti Bed & Breakfast

B&B "Il Cielo" offers a double room with spacious modern bathroom, independent entrance and garden. Organic breakfast included, consisting of: coffee, tea, milk, orange juice, yogurt or cheese or fresh egg, home-made jam and bread. More about Chianti Bio Bed & Breakfast "Il Cielo".

Certaldo Onion

Certaldo Onion

Cited in Boccaccio's Decameron, the Certaldo Onion is a symbol of its town of origin. Two varieties exist. The Statina is round in shape and purplish in color with succulent flesh. It is best eaten in the summer months. The bright red and pungent Vernina is harvested from the end of August through the winter months. Both varieties are excellent for soups and for francesina, a dish of boiled beef and puréed onion.

Production Area:
Commune of Certaldo (Province of Florence)


Orbetello Bottarga

In Orbetello, the art of preserving fish was probably introduced by the Spanish, who were smoking eels and dressing fish with escabece, a vinegar sauce, as early as the 16th century. In Orbetello they still make anguilla scavecciata (eel in vinegar) and anguilla sfumata (smoked eel). Bottarga (from the Arabic botarikh, meaning salted fish roe) has always been produced from the roe of the grey mullet. Tender and amber in colour, it is excellent sliced thin with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Production Area:
Orbetello Lagoon (Province of
Grosseto)

Orbetello Bottarga



Books about Italy


Prato Mortadella

Prato Mortadella

In Tuscany, Mortadella was historically simply a means of using up leftover cured meats and poorer cuts of pork. Flavoured with spices and liqueur and boiled in water, chunks of Mortadella were cured in Prato and parts of the province of Pistoia at the start of the twentieth century. Prato Mortadella has a distinctive dull pinkish colour due to the addition of a few drops of alkermes liqueur to the mixture, which exudes exotic spicy aromas.

Production area:
Prato (Province of Florence)


Tuscan Sea Palamita

Wrongly believed to be of lesser quality than tuna, the Tuscan Sea Palamita is a delicacy best enjoyed conserved in oil with bay leaves, pepper and chili. Palmita is a member of the tuna and mackerel family fished throughout the Tuscan islands. It is a long fish (sometimes up to 80 cm), with a wide mouth and sharp teeth and is electric blue in colour with black stripes.

Production Area:
Tuscan Archipelago, from Giglio Island to Capraia Island (Provinces of Grosseto and Livorno

Tuscan Sea Palamita


Tuscan cooking lessons

One of the doorways to enjoying Tuscan Slow Food is to take some cooking lessons during your stay in Tuscany. These cooking lessons generally span half a day, morning or afternoon, and culminate in a meal at which the participants enjoy the fruits of their labours. The can take place in Florence or in the country at a location provided by the organisers, or in some cases the cooking teacher will come to your own accommodation. All you require is a well-equipped kitchen such as most agriturismi provide. We can recommend:

Elisa Berghi specialises in pasta and antipaste: Elisa for cooking lessons in Tuscany.

Jacopo and Anna who cover the entire range of Tuscan cuisine: Tuscan cooking lessons with "Let's Cook".

 

Valdarno Chicken

Valdarno Chicken

The Valdarno Chicken is tall and loose-limbed with sturdy thighs and a small breast. It has white feathers with a plumed, sickle-shaped tail, an erect blood-red crest, well-developed wattles, large cream-coloured ears with red veins and yellow beak, feet and skin. The bird grows slowly and reaches optimal weight after 4-6 months. Both meat and eggs offer excellent flavour. The eggs have ivory shells and, though smaller than the battery variety, have much larger, yellower yolks.

Production Area:
Municipalities of the upper Valdarno (Valdarno Casentinese) (Provinces of Arezzo and Florence)


Valdarno Tarese

The most salient feature of this pancetta - known locally as Tarese - is its enormous size. An entire Tarese measures 50 by 80 centimeters. It is made with both the back and stomach of the pig and is seasoned with red garlic and a mix of pepper, orange peel and spices. After about ten days packed in salt, it is cleaned and weighted down to dry for a day. The process of salting and spicing is repeated, and then it is covered in pepper and left to age for two or three months.

Production Area:
Valdarno (Provinces of Arezzo and Florence)

Valdarno Tarese

Zeri lamb

Zeri lamb

This sturdy medium- to large-sized sheep has a well-proportioned head and white fleece. Zeri sheep are pastured all year round, save for winter. The milk is high in nutrition (especially protein) but is used only to feed lambs. Because of this diet of mother's milk and pasture grass, the lamb's meat is exceptionally tender and wonderfully scented. The most traditional local preparation is agnello al testo (roast leg with potatoes).

Production Area:
Lunigiana (Province of Massa-Carrara)


Zolfino Bean

Also known as 'one hundred beans' (because they are sown on the 100th day of the year) or 'buttery beans', Zolfino Beans are small, round and yellow with a soft skin. These beans are cultivated between the Arno and Pratomagno, usually 230-300 m above sea level and sometimes up to 600 m. When cooked, they melt in the mouth like butter. They are eaten boiled, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and piled on toasted bread or served as a side dish with bistecca alla fiorentina.

Production Area:
Pratomagno (Provinces of Arezzo and Florence)

Zolfino bean


spelt (farro)

Spelt (also known as farro) is a nutritious relative of common wheat that retains nearly all of its nutritional value in the kernel so that, even after processing, it contains high levels of proteins and vitamins. Spelt is the oldest known cereal and was already cultivated in 7000 BC. Garfagnana is probably the only area in Tuscany where the spelt (Triticum dicoccum) has always been cultivated. It is now grown organically in the area.

Production Area:
Garfagnana (Province of Lucca)


Pecorino is a generic term for sheep's milk cheese. These strongly flavoured cheeses come in a huge variety but can be divided into three age groups - fresh, medium and aged (stagionata). They don't become better as they are aged, merely more powerfully flavoured and harder. Which to eat is purely a matter of personal taste.

Production area:
Pienza (Province of Siena) and other areas.

pecorino


Pumpkin flowers

Pumpkin flowers, fiori di zucca in Italian, still thrown away in some countries, are a delicious and delicate summer dish. Just rinse them, pat them dry, coat them in a lightly salted egg-and-flour or pure egg batter, and fry them in abundant oil. Wathc them carefully and as the batter browns, remove them from the oli onto a piece of absorbent paper, lightly salt them and serve hot.

Production area:
Throughout Italy.


Norcia lentils, and in particular the lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia, are the most famous and probably also the best in Italy. Some of the characteristics make them unique are their delicacy, a diameter of scarcely two mm. and their long storage capability. Norcia lentils grow in the high plains of Castelluccio di Norcia at about 4,500 ft inside Monti Sibillini National Park, located between the Marche and Umbria. The fields are subject to three-year rotation, lentils being rotated with one year of wheat and one of pasture. Norcia lentils are often striped and vary in colour from speckled green through faded yellow to light brown. The lentils are sown in Spring and then harvested in July and August. The climate and soil of Umbria contribute to their thin skin and soft consistency, allowing them to be cooked without having to be soaked first.

Production area:
Norcia (Umbria)

lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia

We strongly recommend the following guide to
Slow Food-inspired eateries throughout Italy.

Inspired by the Slow Food movement in Italy, this guide is the result of a combination of the "Guida alle osterie d'Italia Slow Food" and the "Guida alle locande d'Italia" and is neatly organised by region (with ALL Italian regions covered), with each region preceded by a map showing all places where one or more osteria/locanda is described in the book. Thus, wherever you are, you can easily identify if there is a covered establishment nearby.

Osterie & Locande d'Italia

Osterie & Locande d'Italia:
A Guide to Traditional Places to Eat and Stay in Italy

 

* This website does not in any way represent the Slow Food Movement of Italy nor any of it official organs.
Our Tuscan slow food website is an independent site that refers to "slow food" and
the "slow food movement" for editorial and informational purposes only.

Tuscan Slow Food © ammonet InfoTech 2005 - 2014. All rights reserved.