La cucina povera

Tuscan cuisine is generally very sober, based on poor but tasty ingredients. But the apparent simplicity in our traditional dishes is accomplished through a very balanced mixture of ingredients, and most require a lengthy preparation.

 

Authentic Tuscan recipes to try at home...

Pappa al pomodoro

Pappa al pomodoro is a Tuscan recipe, typical of the region’s farming culture. In olden times housewives would make this traditional dish with leftover bread, so as to prevent it from being thrown away. It is a signature dish of Tuscany’s Cucina Povera (”poor cuisine”) - where saltless bread (salt, too, was too costly until recently!) forms the foundation of many other traditional dishes, such as panzanella and ribollita.
In the XXth century pappa al pomodoro became famous nationwide - and perhaps internationally, and in the 1960’s even inspired a song by Rita Pavone, “Viva la Pappa al Pomodoro!”

Ingredients:
1kg mature tomatoes, 400g stale bread (saltless), 100g extra virgin olive oil, 4 garlic cloves, salt and black pepper, a sprig of basil, vegetable stock, 
1 white onion, 1 stick of celery, 1 carrot

Preparation:
Wash the tomatoes and quarter them. Meanwhile, in a thick-based pan, heat up the olive oil, the garlic, the carrot, the onion and the celery. Fry it for 10/15 minutes, add the basil, then add the tomatoes, a couple of pinches of salt and some ground pepper. Cook the tomatoes for 1 hour and then pass the sauce through a food mill. Pour the sauce back in the pan, cover and let it sit for 30 minutes. Mix the sauce well and add vegetable stock or water to arrive at the desired consinstency.
Remove the crusts from the bread and cut it into cubes. Toast it in the oven for a few minutes to dry it out a little. Add the bread little by little to the tomato sauce.
The pappa should be served hot with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly torn basil leaves.

Focaccia

Ingredients:
500g bread flour, 250g whole wheat flour, 18g sugar, 10g salt, plus a pinch for the top, 30g extra virgin olive oil, 400g warm water, 35g fresh yeast, fresh rosemary & thyme

Method:
Place all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl, initially trying to keep the salt and the yeast separate. Mix together either by hand or with a food processor using the dough hook and knead for about 10 minutes (you should expect a very soft dough). Leave it to rise to about double its size then roll out on a well floured surface and place in an oiled tray; leave for a further half hour to double in size again. Push holes with your fingertips until they almost touch the bottom of the pan, sprinkle rock salt over the top and drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil. Bake in a hot oven (200°C) for about 16 mins.

Cinghiale in dolceforte.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons of flour, 2.5 kg diced wild boar, 500 g fresh red onions, 2 carrots, 4 sticks of celery, 1 garlic clove, 2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder, 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste, 1l red wine, 1 orange zest, 
5 cloves of garlic, 150 ml balsamic vinegar, 3 heaped tablespoons of sugar,
salt & pepper - as optional, a handfull of raisins and pinenuts

Preparation:
Brown the meat well in a pan with olive oil, sprinkle with flour and put aside. Brown the diced vegetables and add the remaining ingredients, except the wine. Cook it for 3-4 minutes, add the stir meat, then add the wine and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cover with water and bring to the boil. Once it boils turn down the heat, let it simmer and cover with the lid.
Cook until the meat until it is tender for about 6 hours, adding water if and when necessary.


 

The Primi Piatti (first courses)

Primi piatti are the most representative dishes of Italian cuisine. The most famous primi are of course based on pasta, which became widespread throughout Italy in the Middle Ages. Nowadays a primo may refer to a pasta dish, but also to a soup or to a risotto. The phrase primo piatto itself means first course, in the sense that the primo precedes the secondo - or main course, which is usually a meat or fish dish. In Tuscany one of the most famous pasta dishes is the pappardelle al ragù di cinghiale - strips of fresh pasta with a wild boar ragout. This dish originates in the Maremma area of Tuscany, but has become a signature dish of the Chianti area, where wild boar hunt is a popular seasonal sport. In late 2009 famous chef Eric Ripert participated in a wild boar hunt, hosted by VILLA BORDONI, in what became the first episode of Avec Eric - Big Flavor!
 

Tagliatelle fatte a mano con ragù di cinghiale

Ingredients for the pasta:
4 eggs, 400g white plain flour “00”, semolina flour

Ingredients for the sauce:
1 large red onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stick, 5 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, 2 tbsp juniper berries, a sprig of rosemary and of sage, 1kg minced wild boar, 100g concentrated tomato paste, 500g chopped tinned Italian tomatoes, 2 glasses of red wine

To make the pasta:
Place the flour on the work surface and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well, adding a good pinch of salt. Gradually incorporate the flour together with the eggs using a fork. When the flour is roughly mixed in, start to work the dough with your hands. When the mixture starts to firm up begin to knead it with the heel of your hand. The dough should be worked like this for about 5 mins, at which stage it should be wrapped in cling film and left to rest in the fridge for about 30 mins. If you are not going to use a pasta machine, you should work it by hand for a further 10/15 mins before leaving it to rest. After it is “rest”, roll the dough out to the required thickness and then sprinkle liberally with semolina and fold over a few times. Cut into large ribbons. The pasta should be cooked in boiling, salty water for about 3 mins.

To make the sauce:
Finely dice all the vegetables and the herbs (apart from the bay leaf) and cook them in abundant extra virgin olive oil, in a heavy-based saucepan until golden brown. Then add the meat and cook until brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomato paste and cook it out for about 5 minutes; add the red wine and cook for another 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Add a ladle of vegetable stock and bring to a low simmer.
The sauce needs to cook for a minimum of four hours. Make sure that it retains its “sauce” consistency by occasionally adding stock.

 

 

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

Ingredients for the pasta:
4 eggs, 400g white plain flour “00”, semolina flour

Ingredients for the sauce:
1 white onion, fresh basil leaves, 4 cloves of garlic, 12 large slices of pancetta, chopped in small pieces, 2kg of chopped fresh tomatoes, 1/2 glass of white wine

To make the pasta:
Place the flour on the work surface and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well and gradually incorporate the flour together with the eggs, using your hands. When the mixture starts to firm up begin to knead it with the heel of your hand. The dough should be worked like this for about 5 mins, and then left to rest in the fridge for at least an hour before working it further with the pasta machine (or by hand).
To cut, work the dough into a long, even sheet, rolling it gradually to reach no.1 on the pasta machine. Sprinkle it liberally with semolina flour and then roll it up from both sides, cut it into spaghetti using the “guitar” machine (you can find one online - try here), then shake out and pile into portions.

To make the sauce:
Finely chop the onion and the garlic and fry them in a heavy based pan with extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes, until transparent.
Add the basil leaves and, immediately after, the chopped tomatoes; cook it for about 1 hour. Pass trhough a vegetable mill and put aside.
Dry fry the pancetta in a pan, deglaze with white wine and then add the tomatoe sauce. Cook the spaghetti for about 9 minutes then finish cooking the pasta in the sauce with fresh chopped basil and grated pecorino cheese.

 

The Secondi Piatti (main courses)
 

Ossobuco

Anatra in porchetta con melanzane grigliate e riduzione di mirto

Ingredients (serves 6):
2 red onions, 2 sticks of celery, 2 garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, 2 carrots, 1 pinch of saffron, 1/2 bottle of white wine, 1 tablespoon tomato concentrate, salt and pepper, 3 or 4 tablespoons of flour, 6 veal shins

Preparation:
Flour the meat, season with salt and pepper and fry in a heavy based casserole, until golden.
Dice the onions, carrots and celery, then fry them with plenty of olive oil in another pan. Add the saffron, one tablespoon of flour and the tomato concentrate, then cook for a few minutes. Add the white wine and pour the mixture over the veal shins.
Cover with hot water, put the lid on and cook for about 4 hours in a
moderate oven (150°).
Remove the meat from the casserole, season it further to your personal taste, and then reduce the sauce and vegetables on a high heat until it becomes dense.
Serve together with potato purée or polenta.

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 duck legs, 1 blond onion, 1 stick of celery, 1 carrot, 4 cloves of garlic, a sprig of rosemary and sage, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 1 tbsp black pepper corns,
salt & pepper, 1 or 2 aubergines, myrtle liquor

Preparation:
Rub the duck legs with salt and pepper and place in an oven dish. Roughly chop the onion, celery, carrot and garlic cloves, place them in the dish along with the remaining herbs and seasoning. Cover with cold water, put the lid on and slow cook in a medium oven (150°C) until tender. When it is cooked, cool it down and drain off and dispose of the liquid and vegetables. Pat dry the duck legs and fry in a non-stick pan with olive oil, until golden brown and crispy.

To prepare the aubergines:
Thinly slice the aubergines, then salt liberally and place them under a weight for at least 30 minutes, so as to squeeze out the bitter water. Pat them dry, and grill. Marinate with extra virgin olive oil, pepper, garlic, and a little salt. Serve the duck legs with the grilled and marinated aubergine, and a reduction of myrtle liquor.