Specialties of Florence: Typical Florentine Food

Italian culinary tradition is known worldwide, in Italy cookery is considered an art just like the others, in effect art in general is a magic mix of ingredients; So it is the florentine cuisine.
Florentine cookery comes from a long and poor tradition made of simple courses and a lot of fantasy.
Down in this page i review a typical tuscan menù but before let me describe two basic elements of the florentine cooking:

Bread

The basic food is without any doubt, the bread, made in different shapes and tastes. Common in all the Tuscany is the filone (1kg or ½ kg) this kind of bread is the most usual and has no salt, which once was too expensive: in 1540 Paolo III the Pope, levied a tax on the salt, this was really very dangerous for the inhabitants of Tuscany and Umbria, who decided to stop using the salt in their bread. Now in Tuscany and in Florence we usually eat a bread with no salt.
Even if not very expensive, this bread could not be wasted: if they had stale bread, they used it to prepare simple dishes as: panzanella, pappa al pomodoro, ribollita.
The filone can be used for two or three days, but in the past they prepared it once a week, only in the last two days of the week the bread was a little stare, because they used natural leaven. On the opened “madia” (kneading trough) women mixed flour, water and leaven, natural leaven. The dough was put into the oven and cooked, one little part of it was left into the madia, covered with a little flour and with linen or cotton cloth and left there to form the natural leaven for the next bread.
In Florence you can find many bakeries, if you don’t see any, follow the delicious smell. Here you can find the filone (you can have also only one part of it) many kinds of bread with salt or flavoured with spices, and the schiacciata (a kind of flat bread) with olive oil. A bit of shiacciata was, and it is even now, a common snack for children both in the morning at school or in the afternoon.

Olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the fundament of our cooking.
A little history: olive trees and olive oil have been in men’s life since the mist of time. It was a dove which brought a little olive branch to Noah’s Flood.
The oil was used both in cooking and in massages and cosmetic.
Ancient Romans classified olive oil in five kind:

  1. “oleum ex albis ulivis” oil coming from the pressing of green olives
  2. “Oleum viride” oil coming from riper olives
  3. “Oleum maturum” coming from ripe olives
  4. “oleum caducum” coming from olives which had fel down to the ground, this one was used to feed slaves.

Today the oil is made by mechanical processes and even chemical processes:

  1. extra vergine olive oil: first pressing, it cannot have an acidity more than 0.5 gr per 100 grams
  2. olive oil: extra vergine olive oil (second pressing) 1 gr acid per 100 grams
  3. olive and sansa oil: 1.5 gr acid per 100 grams.

This is a very simple schematization, what I mean is that if you are staying in Florence and cook in your residence, you have to buy extra virgin olive oil (Tuscan product). Tuscan product, or at last “product of Italy”, is important because lots of olives arrive from different Mediterranean countries and we are not sure they are correctly grown with healthy products.

The Typical Florentine Menù:

Of course we do not eat all these things together every day! But in special days or in a dinner with friends I like to prepare many dishes so that my guest may taste a little of each.
In the following part I write first the Italian word and than the translation, so that, if you are in one restaurant which has only an Italian menu, you can understand what you are going to ask… Also for the recipes I’ll use the two languages, if you are shopping in Italy it will be useful.

Antipasti = Hors d’oeuvre (starters) (see all the recipes)

In Tuscany in the most important meals and in festivity days the “antipasto” is necessary. In the restaurants the antipasti are divided in:
antipasti di terra (land hors d’oeuvre) or antipasti di mare (sea hours devours).
Florentine starters consists in a dish of sliced salami and “crostini” = canapés

Affettati = Sliced salami

  • Prosciutto crudo Parma = Ham (from Parma)
  • Prosciutto crudo toscano = Ham (tuscan product)
  • Prosciutto salato = A salty prosciutto
  • Salame toscano = Tuscan salami
  • Soppressata = Soppressata
  • Capocollo = Capocollo
  • Finocchiona (sbriciolona) = Salami seasoned with fennel
  • Lardo di Colonnata = Lard from Colonnata
  • Salsicce di cinghiale = Sausage made from wild boar

Crostini = Canapés

  • Fettunta = Bread, garlic and oil (see the recipe)
  • Crostini di cavolo nero = Canapés with black cabbage
  • Crostini di fegatini = Canapés with chicken liver pathé (see the recipe)
  • Crostini di Cibreo = Canapès …..
  • Crostini di funghi = Canapés with mushrooms
  • Crostini di polenta = Canapés with polenta (kind of porridge made from cornmeal)
  • Funghi sott’olio = Mushrooms in oil (see the recipe)
  • Carciofini sott’olio = Little artichokes in oil (see the recipe)
  • Panzanella = Cold bread soup (see the recipe)

Antipasto di mare = Sea hour d’oeuvre

  • Crostini = Canapés
  • Acciughe = Anchoves
  • Insalata di mare = Sea salad (octopus, etc)
  • Muscoli = Mussels in oil
  • Aringhe = Herring in oil
  • Cozze ripiene = Filled mussels

Primi piatti = First courses

Also here we have to separate the soups, the pasta dishes and the “gnocchi” and at finally the rice.

Minestre o zuppe = Soups (see all the recipes)

  • Pappa al pomodoro = Florentine tomato soup with bread, tomato, garlic, basil and olive oil (see the recipe)
  • Ribollita = Soup with bread, beans, black cabbage (imagine) and vegetables
  • Minestra di farro = Soup with beans sage garlic and farro (see the recipe)
  • Minestrone toscano di verdure = Tuscan vegetables soup (see the recipe)
  • Cacciucco = Soup with bread, tomato and many different fishes
  • Brodo = Consommé (see the recipe)
  • Stracciatella = Consommé with egge and parmesan (see the recipe)
  • Pasta e fagioli = Pasta with beans (see the recipe)
  • Zuppa di arselle = Soup with bread, tomato and mussels

Pasta (see all the recipes)

  • Spaghetti al pomodoro = Spaghetti with tomato sauce
  • Spaghetti ad aglio, olio e peperoncino = Spaghetti with garlic, oil and chili powder (see the recipe)
  • Penne alla cacciatora = Penne pasta hunters way
  • Pasta con i broccoli = Pasta with oil garlic and broccoli (see the recipe)
  • Penne all’arrabbiata = Angry pasta
  • Spaghetti alla carbonara = Carbonara spaghetti (see the recipe)
  • Spaghetti con le cicale = Spaghetti with the squlls (see the recipe)
  • Spaghetti allo scoglio = Spaghetti with sea fishes

Pasta all’uovo = Egg pasta

  • Tagliatelle ai funghi = Tagliatelle pasta with mushrooms
  • Pappardelle sulla lepre = Pappardelle pasta with the hare
  • Ravioli
  • Lasagne = Florentine lasagna (see the recipe)
  • Cannelloni

Gnocchi e polenta

  • Gnocchi di farina gialla = Gnocchi made with mais flour
  • Gnocchi di semolino = Gnocchi made with semolina
  • Gnocchi “strozzapreti” = Gnocchi with spinaches
  • Polenta col ragù = Polenta and florentine sauce
  • Polenta col cavolo nero = Polenta with black cabbage

Riso = Rice

  • Risotto ai funghi = Rice with mushrooms (see the recipe)
  • Risotto ai carciofi = Rice with artichokes (see the recipe)
  • Risotto alla Toscana = Risotto Tuscan way
  • Risotto nero alla fiorentina = Black rice fiorentine way (see the recipe)

Piatti di mezzo = Intermediate dishes (see all the recipes)

You’ll not find these dishes in a restaurant, but they are perfect to enrich an important dinner, and, at home, they can be a good second course or a good complete dinner.

Secondi piatti = Second main courses (see all the recipes)

We have to separate meat, chicken etc. from fishes, crustaceans, shell fishes etc.

Carne = Meat

  • Bistecca alla fiorentina = Florentine grilled steak (see the recipe)
  • Tagliata = Big steak cut in slides (see the recipe)
  • Arista arrosto = Chine of pork
  • Fegatelli = Roasted pork liver (see the recipe)
  • Cinghiale in umido = Stewed wild boar
  • Coniglio arrosto = Roasted rabbit
  • Polpette alla fiorentina = Florentine croquettes (see the recipe)
  • Lesso = Boiler beef
  • Cappone = Capon
  • Piccioni arrosto = Roasted pidgeons
  • Faraona = Guinea fowl
  • Fagiano = Grouse
  • Trippa alla fiorentina = Florentine tripe (see the recipe)
  • Lampredotto = Kind of tripe
  • Cervello fritto = Fried brain (beef or sheep) (see the recipe)
  • Pollo alla cacciatora = Chicken cooked the hunters way (see the recipe)
  • Involtini alla salvia = Roulades with sage (see the recipe)
  • Agnello arrosto = Roasted lamb
  • Oca ripiena = Stuffed goose

Pesce = Fish

  • Baccalà alla fiorentina = Stockfish Florentine way (see the recipe)
  • Palombo alla livornese = Smooth dog fish
  • Frittura di pesce = Fried fishes
  • Razza appetitosa = Appetizing ray
  • Seppie in zimino = Cuttlefish in “zimino”
  • Pesci/gamberi arrosto = Roasted fishes and prawns
  • Triglie alla livornese = Mullets Livornese way

Contorni = Side dishes - Vegetables (see all the recipes)

  • Asparagi lessi = Boiled asparagus
  • Asparagi alla fiorentina = Asparagus florentine way
  • Carciofi nel tegame = Artichokes in pan
  • Carciofi ripieni = Artichokes filled with bread and… (see the recipe)
  • Cardi fritti = Fried cardoons (see the recipe)
  • Fagioli all’uccelletto = Beans in tomato sauce (see the recipe)
  • Fiori di zucca fritti = Fried zucchini flowers (see the recipe)
  • Carciofi fritti = Fried artichokes (see the recipe)
  • Insalata mista = Mix salade
  • Verdure grigliate = Grilled vegetables (see the recipe)
  • Zucchini nel tegame = Zucchini in pan
  • Melanzane in forno = Baked eggplants (see the recipe)
  • Melanzane alla parmigiana = Parmigiana eggplants (see the recipe)
  • Spinaci alla fiorentina = Florentine spinaches (see the recipe)
  • Piselli alla fiorentina = Peas fiorentine way
  • Pomodori in forno = Baked tomatoes (see the recipe)
  • Rape saltate = Turnips in pan
  • Tuttoinsieme = Alltogether (see the recipe)

Uova = Eggs (see all the recipes)

  • Frittate = Omelettes (see the recipe)
  • Frittata di carciofi = Artichokes omelette
  • Frittata di spinaci = Spinaci omelette
  • Fritata trippata = Triped omelette (see the recipe)
  • Uova al pomodoro = Eggs and tomatoes
  • Frittata di avanzi = Leftovers omelette

Formaggi = Cheeses

In Florence you can find many kind of cheese, but typical of the Florentine area are Marzolino and Pecorino
Marzolino is a kind of fresh pecorino (made by sheep milk) the name says that it is a spring product (marzo = March): In Florence we eat Marzolino cheese with uncooked green broad beans and a little salt.
Pecorino is made with sheep milk and you can find a lot of kinds: soft, dry, extra dry and so on.
A special way to taste is this:
Place a slide of pecorino cheese in a plate and cover it with a little spoon of fruit pickles or a little spoon of honey with truffle inside. This sophisticate combination will conquer your guests. Of course you will serve it with a good bread like Tuscan bread or similar.

Dolci e biscotti = Cakes and biscuits (see all the recipes)

Dolci al cucchiaio = Soft cakes

  • Tiramisù (see the recipe)
  • Pannacotta
  • Torta di mele = Apple cake
  • Budino di riso = Rice pudding
  • Budino di semolino = Semolina pudding
  • Castagnaccio = Chestnut cake (see the recipe)
  • Schiacciata con l’uva = Flat savoury cake with grapes (see the recipe)
  • Schiacciata alla fiorentina = Flat savoury cake (see the recipe)
  • Zuccotto = Florentien zuccotto (see the recipe)

Dolci e pasticcini = Fancy cakes and florentine biscuits

Caffè = Coffee

Each country has its own way to prepare and drink coffee. In Florence many families have an electric espresso machine, but the most of them use a moka machine to prepare coffee every time they like to drink one. If you go and visit an Italian family the first thing your host say is “welcome…”, the second is “I go and prepare a coffee”. And usually this coffee is prepared by a moka machine and served in little cups (half filled not full) A good coffee must be a CCC coffee: caldo (hot), carico (strong) and corto (short). Must be prepared immediately before you drink it and never, I say never heated up.

Into the machine you have to put the right quantity of water ( just under the screw line) and the right quantity of coffee: the filter cup must be well filled and form a little mountain.
The best coffee is made in a little machine, do not use big machines like a 6 or more cups, but use two machines for 3 or 4 cups. The machines must not be washed into the dish washer and never with soap, but only with hot water. They must be used frequently.
When you buy a new coffee machine, you have to do some simple things to have a good coffee: first put some water and lemon juice or vinegar and boil it into the machine just like to prepare a coffee. Than prepare two coffees and throw them away to give a flavour to the machine. The third coffee you prepare will be good. Also when the machine has not been used for much time or when it is dirty, boil some water with vinegar and the machine will be new again.

Whatever Mr Bialetti can think, the coffee machines are not all equal, my opinion is that each machine has a different character, my coffee machine has my own imprinting which comes from the make of coffee I use, from the way I fill it and the way I use it; I recognize the sound of the ready coffee and I know the taste of coffee before drinking it.

 

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