The recipes in Florentine cookery range from the original and traditional to more recent arrivals and innovations. Such a wide and occasionally unusual choice of dishes has not only provided some fascinating historical and social information, but the assortment and variety of flavours, colours, customs and costs suited to all pockets, also offers a style of cooking which is lively and flexible.
At the heart of Florentine cookery lie four fundamental ingredients: bread (plain, unsalted, well-baked with a crispy crust and light and airy inside); extra-virgin olive oil, without any doubt the best even for frying, grilled meat; Florentine steaks of beef, roasted or wine-braised game such as boar, deer and rabbit and lastly, wine itself.
Florentine restaurants serve all the Italian specialities, not just the ones typical of Florence and here is a brief guide to some of those Tuscan meals.
Florence and Tuscany are famous for their wonderful wines... in Florence it's possible to taste them in many wine bar and cellar.
Discover the famous Tuscan wines: visit our Wine in Florence section and if you want you can book a Wine tours or a Wine Tasting in Florence.
The best of Tuscan cheese enjoyed with a taste of Tuscan wines, like: Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Chianti colli Senesi DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino Tiezzi.
Affettati Misti - Cold Sliced Meats
This is one of the most traditional antipasti served in Florentine restaurants. The meats are arranged in a circle on a serving dish and decorated with crisp, tangy salad leaves. Often served with the thick slices of bread in a basket. The best wine to drink with these cold meats is a young and fairly light Chianti, such as that from the "Colli fiorentini".
Pinzimonio - Fresh vegetables with olive oil
Pinzimonio is an excellent appetizer and can be varied according to the season and the availablity of vegetables. The success of this simple and tasty dish depends on two fundamental elements: fresh, young ingredients and, above all, superb olive oil from the hills of Tuscany. The vegetables come with a small bowl containing the oil, salt and pepper into which you can dip the pieces of vegetables.
Crostini di fegato - Chicken liver crostini
Lightly toasted slices of bread spread with liver paste, which is made from chicken livers, capers, anchovy fillets, chopped sage leaves and butter. Originally this spread was called peverada and was made using saffron which was widely grown in the countryside around the city.
Tonno e fagioli - Tuna and bean salad
Beans cooked in salted water with garlic and sage, served with tuna fish and dressed with oil. This dish is suitable as a starter, a main course to follow a rather filling starter or pasta dish, or it may also be served as a handy, quick lunch. It is best served with crispy, wholemeal bread.
Fettunta - Toasted bread with olive oil
This dish is generally associated with the month of November, when the olives have been gathered and the oil is newly pressed. Obviously it is eaten all year round, but in other seasons in lacks that characteristic pungent flavour of the new oil. In the summer you can top the crostini with chopped tomatoes and in winter, fettunta is the basis of a traditional soup known as "Lombard soup".
Baccelli e pecorino - Young broad beans and pecorino cheese
A simple salad of beans and cubes of soft, young pecorino cheese dressed with oil, salt and pepper. This could be an excellent main course, especially if you have already eaten a substantial first course.
Lasagne al Forno - Lasagna
If you order lasagne in a restaurant in Tuscany you will be served something along these lines. Layers of fresh pasta, meat sauce, and béchamel with cheese with a sprinkling of Parmigiano on top, heated through in the oven (it should be lightly browned) and served with more grated Parmigiano on the side. The ingredients include fresh vegetables, wine, ham and beef, and make up for a lasagna like you've never tasted before.
Zuppa di cipolle - Onion soup
Slices of toasted, country bread are smothered with hot onion soup and grated or sliced Gruyère or Fontina and put in the oven until the cheese melts and becomes golden brown and crisp.
Ravioli nudi - Naked ravioli
Ravioli with a stuffing of spinach, ricotta, eggs, grated parmesan, flour and a pinch of nutmeg. The most suitable sauces for this dish are tomato, sage and butter or Florentine meat sauce. This variation of ravioli is known as gnudi (naked) in Florence, which is a dialectal corruption of the Renaissance term ignudi.
Pappa al pomodoro - Bread and tomato soup
The forerunner of this dish was called panunto or pancotto and it contained no vegetables at all. Indeed the original recipe was without tomatoes, as it dates from long before the discovery of America and their arrival in Europe. The ingredients were therefore simply bread, oil, garlic and salt and this tasty, mushy mixture was often used to wean babies. The soup should be served tepid, with olive oil drizzled on top.
Pasta e fagioli - Pasta with beans
Dried cannellini beans cooked in seasoned water for two hours
over a very low heat. Then cooked with lightly tossed pasta, a
pinch of chili pepper and tomatoes. A hearty meal for the cold
Ribollita - Vegetable and bread soup
This Tuscan bread soup is a classic comfort food; it's hard to think of any dish that's more intimately associated with Florence than ribollita, a classic cabbage-and-bean soup that gains body and substance from a healthy infusion of day-old Tuscan bread. The word ribollita literally translates as reboiled, and for a ribollita to be authentic it must contain black-leaf kale, a long-leafed winter cabbage whose leaves are a purplish green, and which has distinctive bitter overtones.
Brodo - Meat broth
Beef soup has always been considered an excellent tonic for building up one's strength and energy. Try supping it on a cold, winter's evening, garnished with chopped parsley, or with delicious taglierini made from fresh pasta.
Stracciatella - Egg soup
Beef stock with ground almonds, eggs, grated Parmesan and bread crumbs. Cooked for together and served very hot, garnished with freshly chopped parsley.
Pappardelle sulla lepre - Pappardelle with hare sauce
In Florence, the pappardelle (broad strips of freshly cooked pasta) are traditionally placed on top of the hare sauce and then gently mixed through and not vice versa, as this method.
Panzanella - Bread salad
The success of this extremely simple recipe depends on two things: the bread must be unsalted, country bread, a day or two old, and the rest of the ingredients must be top quality and fresh. There are several variations of this recipe, all of which add various vegetables. Choose the wine to accompany this dish with care as the vinegar will affect its flavour. In the past it was eaten with a weak, watery wine called vinello or acquerello, made by soaking the bunches of grapes left after the wine pressing in water and then squeezing them out. A light, young red wine is therefore best.
Trippa all fiorentina - Florentine-style tripe
Bartolomeo Sacchi took his recipe from Maestro Martino, "A main course of tripe...when cooked and served on the plates, sprinkle well with ground spices. Some also add grated cheese". Tripe is best served with boiled or puréed potatoes or, if preferred, with cannellini beans in oil.
Uova Frittellate o Affrittellate - Fried eggs
Fried eggs with pepper on top served with finely sliced bacon, mashed potatoes or spinach tossed with butter. It is most important to serve the right kind of bread with this dish - it should be as fresh as possible with a crispy crust, so the typical Florentine bread is perfect.
Stracotto - Braised beef
The name of this recipe actually means "overcooked",
but in fact it is a good description, as it is intended for the
tougher, tasty cuts of meat which require long, slow cooking.
Before the discovery of America and the importation of tomatoes, stracotto was cooked with agresto - a sauce made from crushed, tart grapes, boiled and flavoured with cloves, cinnamon and the juice of a squeezed onion.
Frittata di Carciofi (tortino) - Artichoke omlette (artichoke pie)
In Tuscany, this is considered to be a good, solid and inexpensive family meal. It can be served at lunch, either as a starter or as a main course. Other fillings, such as courgettes, onions or potatoes can be used but only artichoke omlette is served with lemon.
Lesso - Boiled meats
A simple cassarole of various cuts of beef, sometimes including half a calf's tongue, either fresh or corned (corned tongue is a Florentine speciality). It is also excellent when cold, with green sauce.
Bistecca - T-bone steak
It is one of the oddities of language that in English beef steak means a fillet without a bone, and this has become a common acceptance in many regions of Italy. In Florence, however, a fillet is called braciola, while a steak (bistecca) is a large entrecote, including the fillet. This recipe is exclusively for those who like their meat rare: a Florentine steak which is well cooked is not just a waste, it is a total heresy. The inside of the steak must be tender and succulent, while the outside must be crisp and have a well-grilled appearance. The steaks should be about five centimetres thick, tender and of the very best quality.
Arista - Roast loin of pork.
Pork served sliced, with a gravy made from sage, rosemary, and garlic, fried together lighty; drenched with wine. The name comes from the Latin arista (a spike, or spine, referring to the jagged bone in this cut of meat).
Bistecchine di maiale - Pork chops
In traditional Florentine cookery, pork is one of the most frequently-used
meats and consequently many recipes exist for both fresh and cured
pork. In the countryside, on farms and villages, the killing and
dressing of the pig, which usually took place in late autumn,
in November or December, was always an important event in the
Salsicce - Italian pork sausage
Sausages are fried in their own fat until they become golden brown
all over. Sellers of dressed and cured pork (including salsicce),
dried fish and cheeses are known as pizzicagnoli in Florence and
their shop windows are extremely enticing, filled with delicious,
Fegatelli - Liver skewers
Steel skewers with pieces of liver alternating with a bay leaf and a cube of bread. Roasted on a spit over a wood fire or in the oven and cooked until the liver is tender.
Pollo alla fiorentina - Florentine chicken
A heavenly concoction of chicken breasts with bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, spinach, onion, celery, cream cheese, paprika and garlic powder.
Casseruola alla fiorentina - Florentine casserole
Pasta or noodles are covered with a sauce of spinach, cream of mushroom soup, garlic, tarragon and marjoram and pieces of sausage, which is in turn covered with an egg and ricotta mix. Best served slightly cool and perfect for spring days.
Baccala' - Dried cod
Cod is fished in the Artic or Antartic and is known either as baccala' or stoccafisso. Baccala' is preserved by salting and has four days to remove the excess salt, while stoccafisso is dried in the open air and has to be soaked for fifteen days then pounded and flaked.
Calamari in zimino - Stewed squid
This is one of the most characteristic Florentine fish dishes, fresh squid stewed in vegetables, tomatoes and a pinch of salt.
Fagioli o ceci all'olio - Beans or chick-peas in oil
Chick-peas and beans are absolutely essential ingredients in Florentine cookery, but as a rule are not served if there are already vegetables (apart from salad) in any of the other courses. A simple dish which needs plenty of good olive oil, if possible, newly-pressed.
Fagioli all'uccelletto - Beans in tomato sauce
The same recipe as before but with puréed tomatoes. These beans are delicious with boiled meats and sausages.
Piselli novelli in casseruola - Casseroled new peas
This is a speciality in springtime when tiny, tender, sweet new peas are available. They are ideal not only with stuffed rabbit but also with roast pork, peppery stew and braised beef. The dish is simply new peas with bacon and seasoning.
Fritto misto - Mixed fried vegetables
Aubergines, onions, asparagus, cauliflower, courgette flowers
and mushrooms, fried in a batter and served hot.
Cavolfiore stufato - Stewed cauliflower
Cauliflower is usually parboiled in order to reduce the smell which many find too strong. It is stewed with puréed tomatoes and of course plenty of garlic and olive oil.
An experienced guide will take you to eat and drink in some favorite Florentines tasting bars. You will visit the Central Market of San Lorenzo, a wine shop and taste the best ice cream in town!
Schiacciata alla fiorentina - Florentine sponge cake
This light sponge is traditionally made during Carneval time, in February and sprinkled with plenty of icing sugar on top of the cake before sprinkling with icing sugar to make design. If you are very sweet-toothed, you can cut the cake in two and fill it with whipped cream, chocolate icing, chocolate cream or any other sweet filling or spread you like.
Schiacciata con l'uva - Sweet grape bread
Grapes sprinkled with sugar, sandwiched between two layers of dough and drizzled with warm oil with rosemary leaves in it.
Castagnaccio - Chestnut cake For many centuries chestnuts were part of the staple diet in mountainous and hilly areas and for the poorer classes in general as they provided an inexpensive form of nutrition. The original, Florentine version of castagnaccio is also known as migliaccio (black pudding) in some parts of Tuscany.
Bongo - Chocolate profiteroles
Originally profiteroles were fried rather than baked; the Florentine recipe was introduced to France where it was known as pâtes à chaud, "hot buns". Profiteroles are served in most restaurants in Florence.
Cenci - Sweet fritters
Cenci, like the Florentine schiacciata, are traditional Carneval time biscuits. They are found throughout all of northern and central Italy, and have different names according to the region.In Bologna, for example, They are called frappole (fringes) and in Milan, chiacchiere (chatters).
Frittelle - Fritters
In Florence these tasty little "sweets" are traditionally eaten on the 19th of March, Saint Joseph's feast day, and therefore also Father's Day. They are excellent with a good, sweet Vin Santo.