When we were planning out our trip to Florence, Italy (hard to believe that we are getting closer to it having been a year since we were there), we talked about several things we wanted to experience. History and architecture were the top two items we talked about the most, followed by wine and then food.
We knew we’d be in for a treat when it came to the food, but we didn’t think we’d be overwhelmed with the flavors that come from very simple and very basic ingredients. It truly is amazing at how simple ingredients of tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper can transform a dish into a gastronomical master piece.
We were used to eating pasta in the States and feeling so full and bloated afterwards, yet we were amazed at how light the pasta was, regardless of where we ate it – Florence, Cinque Terra, or San Gimignano – it filled you up however, not the point where you felt miserable after eating it. You won’t find spaghetti and meatballs on the menu in the Tuscan region, however. As we learned, meatballs are considered to be part of the meat course, served after pasta. You will find a beautifully rich and flavorful ragu sauce lightly coating your fresh, al dente pasta. The ragu sauce does contain meat in it, however it is generally minced (double ground) beef or may be a combination of minced beef and pork. If you wish to learn how to make this amazing sauce, we recommend you take a cooking class while you are there. Chances are, it will be the only tomato sauce you make and serve with your pasta. You’ll also find that it makes a beautiful sauce for lasagna as well!
Soup is one of the courses that is served during a formal Italian meal. We also discovered that it is a dish that is served either during the lunch period or as a stand alone option at dinner. Just like the pizza and the pasta, it is a treat for your taste buds and again, made from scratch and made from simple ingredients. The weather was not the best while we were Florence; chilly and rainy, it lent itself perfectly for popping in during the lunch break and ordering a nice hot bowl of soup. Minestrone on the menu is commonplace, however, how it is made and the ingredients in it are not and vary from restaurant to restaurant, chef to chef.
Bryan and Willie ordered, perhaps, one of the best soups we ever tasted. Papa al
Pomodoro (Bread and Tomato Soup) is exactly what the name infers, soup, made with bread and tomatoes. Simple enough right? But the flavors in it were incredible and the consistency so thick and filling. We picked up a recipe book that our waiter recommended and were amazed that it is simply cubed Italian bread, chopped tomatoes, garlic, and sage simmered in vegetable stock and the pureed in a food processor (or an immersion blender, if you have one).
If you aren’t a foodie when you arrive in the Tuscan region, we’re pretty sure you will be one when you leave! We highly recommend you take in a cooking class while you are there. You will be amazed at how simple it is to recreate the flavors of this incredible region when you get home.