As the oldest importer of Italian specialty goods in North America, we at Pastene are a little biased about the virtues of Italy and like all of you, we are longing for the day when we can travel internationally again, especially to “the old country”. In lieu of an actual trip to Italy, we thought we’d take you on a virtual tour and share some of the things that make Italy unique from a cultural, historical and of course, culinary standpoint. In this new blog series, you’ll get to know some of the more well-known regions of Italy, regions in which our products come from and are inspired by. We’ll explore the foods and dishes that make each region special — and most importantly — you’ll learn about the locally-inspired recipes that you can make at home.
Like the United States, each region of Italy has its unique cuisines from coast to coast. However, what unites all “Italian foods” are fresh, local ingredients and simple recipes that are as delicious as they are diverse.
Did you know?
- Tuscany is a foodie’s paradise due to its keen focus on fresh local ingredients. It’s also home to iconic cities like Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, and San Gimignano.
- Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is the birthplace of the Renaissance period — where many famous and historical figures of art and science like the Medici family, Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo flourished, forever changing the world.
- Tuscany is a major cultural center and an art lover’s dream due to its magnificent museums, art galleries, and sculptures.
- Tuscany’s Chianti district is world-famous for — you guessed it — making Chianti wine. Chianti is a mountainous area of Tuscany in the provinces of Florence.
- Tuscany is also one of Italy’s major agricultural regions, home to beautiful landscapes of snow-peaked mountains and rolling hills of coastal vineyards that produce grapes for wine and some of the most refined olive and sunflower oils in the world.
Most Tuscan dishes are based on what’s fresh and in season at the local market. And though these meals are simple to prepare with minimal ingredients, traditional Tuscan foods are rich in flavor and very hearty.
An essential concept in Tuscan cuisine is based on the Italian idea of cucina povera or “poor cooking” — inexpensive and rustic comfort foods that can feed the whole family.
In a quirky tradition dating back to the 16th century, most meals are served with plain, white, unsalted bread. The bread is unsalted because back in the day a tax was put on salt, leaving most Tuscans with this flavorless — but useful — bread to soak up flavorful sauces. This bread is a staple of the Tuscan lifestyle, and you’ll see it with almost every salad and soup, including traditional Tuscan Panzanella and Ribollita.
Another popular and easy-to-make dish from the Tuscany region is Spaghettini Verdi. Made with a combination of extra-thin spaghettini pasta, butter, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, it’s a light alternative to some more decadent dishes.
Have you tried Tuscan cuisine? If so, share what you loved most, and don’t forget to show us your Tuscan-inspired creations by tagging @pasteneusa or using #MyPastene on Instagram!