The farmers and fishermen of southern Tuscany may not have been well-to-do, but they knew how to make the most of the ingredients they had to hand. The dishes they invented are still some of this region's favorites.
Previously, the Maremma was a poor area, as the name of this soup ‘Cooked water’ might imply. Rest assured, there are other ingredients - according to legend, those that could be carried dry and, with a bit of water, become a meal to share. In fact, this hearty 1stcourse is likely one you can replicate at home.
Acquacotta turns simple ingredients into a hearty soup.
- Pour 5 T. olive oil into a large saucepan and add 2 sliced onions, 2 C. peas and 1 ¼ C. broad beans, 1 sliced carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1 crumbled chili pepper and a dash of salt.
- Sauté until tender & lightly browned.
- Add 300 g. shredded spinach and 300 gr. skinned and chopped tomatoes and simmer 15 min.
- Pour in 1.5 l. boiling water and let simmer for 40 min, adjusting salt if necessary.
- Whisk 4 eggs with salt, fresh ground black pepper and ½ C. freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese.
- Toast 4 slices of 2-day-old white bread and rub both sides with garlic.
- Place a slice in each soup bowl and pour a ¼ if egg mixture over each serving.
- Give the soup a final stir, ladle it into the bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of pepper.
A great variety of seafood finds its way onto a southern Tuscan table.
Do not miss the chance to try the seafood along the Southern coast – perhaps:
- Alicior acciughe(anchovies)
- Cacciucco(fish stew)
- Zuppa di cozze(mussels with tomato sauce over bread),
- Spaghetti allo scoglio(scoglio refers to ‘shoreline rocks’ and this will be a pasta with vongole(clams), mussels and shrimp)
- Penne all’astice (short pasta with lobster)
- Frittura di mare(freshly fried shrimp and calamari(squid)
- Scampior Gamberi(prawns)
- Branzino(sea bass)
- Orata(sea bream)
- Pesce spade(swordfish)
- Dentice(red snapper)
Pecorino is sold fresh or seasoned and often with additives such as nuts, truffles or hot peppers.
Pecorino and its accompaniments - In southern Tuscany you are in the land of Pecorino, the flavorsome sheep cheese revered by every Tuscan. These drum-shaped cheeses come in a variety of flavours determined by their age: stagionato(aged) is hard and crumbly and has a buttery/nutty flavor, while semi-stagionato(young) and fresco(fresh) have a softer texture and mild creamy flavours.
In Pienza, where Pecorino is king, you will find flavours influenced by what has been placed in or around the cheese, eg. peppercorns, red chili, walnuts, vine leaves. While versatile in cooking, it is also simply sliced as an appetizer accompanied by such as: strong (acacia or chestnut) honey, fig or pear marmalade, mostarda (cooked fruit marinated in spicy, mustard oil-flavored syrup).
The Maremma version of ravioli are larger than their neighbors and usually doused with sage.
While most visitors are familiar with the small pillow pastas typically filled with spinach and ricotta they find in their market, in the rustic Maremma region of southern Tuscany the cooks are generous. Expect a few large fresh pasta squares that will fill your plate and your stomach. Like their more petite cousins, they may come dressed with butter and sage and a grating of Parmesan cheese, but it is more common to find them lathered with tomato sauce or a hearty beef or wild boar ragù. The real deal.
This humble dish was carried by Caterina de’ Medici from her native land to the French court to become their beloved crêpes. Now practically an endangered species in Italy, they are still to be found in the Maremma around Manciano, where, especially in the during their September Festa delle Cantine, the townswomen bring out their iron fry pans and prepare thin fragrant circles that are then folded into a triangle, sprinkled with grated Pecorino cheese or powdered sugar and only eaten by hand.