Dishes of Tuscany

The region of Tuscany, Siena especially, has a couple of important foods that are unique to their location. These two foods are called, Cinghiale al Ragu, Pici al tartufo, and Panzanella. Each of these foods is used throughout Siena in different restaurants and in different ways. I have had the opportunity to try each of these foods during my time in Siena and was able to experience the Tuscan culture through their foods. 

Cinghiale al Ragu

Cinghiale is the meat of wild boar found in Tuscany. This meat is popular in Tuscan cuisine and is often used in a pasta dish, un primo piatto, called pasta con ragu. In America, pasta con ragu is called pasta with bolognese sauce. Pictured above is a dish of this sauce and tagliatelle. The Cinghiale ragu has a rich flavor and can be made with or without tomatoes. My preference is the ragu with tomatoes because it really enhances the flavor of the meat. I found it to be important to try the traditional Tuscan dish because it is so highly recommended and it also carries Tuscan tradition. 

Tagliatelle al Tartufo

The second type of food that is important in the Tuscan region is Pici al Tartufo. This primo piatto was also found on most menus in Siena and carries a rich creamy flavor through every bite. The pasta dish is made with butter, garlic, parmesan cheese, and right on top the shavings of black truffle. Specifically, in Siena, the pasta of choice is called pici which is a hand-rolled pasta that is native to the city. The pasta is traditionally only made with water and flour, but the egg can be added in for consistency if needed. Since Tuscany is a region that is known for its truffle production, I knew I needed to try this dish. The pasta was creamy, rich, and full of truffle flavor. I am glad I tried this dish because I had never had pasta like it before. 

Finally, the Panzanella dish is a traditional Tuscan dish often referred to as a poor man’s dish. It is almost like a bread salad with tomatoes, red onion, oil, and red wine vinegar. Sometimes it includes cucumbers and basil which were in the salad when I first tried it. It is topped off with salt and pepper to taste. This was one of the first Tuscan dishes that I tried upon arriving in Siena. There was a dinner with our school in which Panzanella was the antipasto course. This dish was refreshing after a long day in the summer heat of Siena. We sat on a beautiful rooftop overlooking the neighborhood, or contrada, where our school was located in. This was an unforgettable experience taking in Tuscan culture.

Rooftop at Dante Alighieri School, Siena, Italy

Trying these dishes in the heart of their origin really filled my time living in Siena with the strong culture of the region. Upon speaking with the Sienese people and the chefs at our school, we were informed that many of these dishes were created because of what was available to the people of Tuscan over the ages. Panzanella was created as a way to use leftover bread and vegetables that fed many poor citizens. The use of Cinghiale within ragu originated from what was available to the Tuscans in their environment. Finally, tagliatelle al Tartufo originates in this area because of the high levels of growth of truffle, or Tartufo, in the area.