Salt & Wind Travel

Tuscany Food: 14 Classic Dishes To Try

Tuscany is one of the most visited regions in Italy, yet many people visit and are surprised by authentic Tuscany food. It is easy to go to Italy thinking you will enjoy a large plate of pasta and meatballs or fettuccine alfredo, but these dishes are not even classic Italian food! To really get a taste of the region, dive into genuine Italian cuisine and experience all the diverse food you can’t easily find in the States. 

Tuscany Food
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What Is Tuscany Food Like?

Tuscan food is very much influenced by Tuscany’s location in central Italy, with many ingredients from the land (though there are some classic seafood dishes, too)! While you will find traditional Italian ingredients like tomatoes, basil, rosemary, garlic, and olive oil, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Traditional Tuscan food is often described as “cucina povera” or the poor kitchen because they use simple ingredients in limited quantities. Most traditional Tuscan recipes have five ingredients or less and are heavily based on Tuscan cooking pantry staples. We’re talking basic ingredients like beans, olive oil, unsalted Tuscan bread, sheep’s milk cheese, wild game, and various cured meats. 

Tuscan Food Ingredients

Don’t let the name fool you, though — just because the ingredients are simple doesn’t mean the dish is bland. Tuscany is known around Italy for its fantastic food, and part of that is based on the idea of quality over quantity. Something as simple as cannellini beans in extra virgin olive oil and garlic is somehow a 5-star delicacy when the main ingredients are fresh and delicious. 

Different areas of Tuscany have signature dishes that vary throughout the Tuscan countryside. These include pecorino di Pienza cheese from Pienzapici pasta from the Siena area, and Chianina beef, used for the famous Florentine steak known as bistecca Fiorentina. When traveling in Tuscany, you’ll quickly realize what each town, city, or area is known for, so don’t miss trying those dishes when you’re in the area. Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorites to look for on your trip to Italy.

14 Classic Tuscany Food Dishes

Follow my lead to taste the best of Tuscan cuisine. I lived in Tuscany for 12 years and married a true Tuscan, so you can trust me to know what’s legit. These are some of my (and his) absolute favorite typical Tuscan dishes that we eat non-stop. To make it easy on you, I’ve included some recipes and some of my favorite local spots, so read on for my best Tuscan food recommendations.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

This meal is not to be missed. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a grilled T-bone steak made with meat coming from Tuscany’s Val di Chiana. First, it will be presented to you raw (so you can evaluate the freshness, fat-to-muscle ratio, and, most importantly, size), and then they will flash grill it. Warning: I say flash grill for a reason: this steak is served rare.

If you don’t like your meat bloody, you likely won’t find an Italian willing to “ruin” the meat, cooking it more for you, but you can stick to eating the end pieces, which are slightly more cooked. A great bistecca is thick, juicy, and, most importantly, comes from the Chianina cow. Chianina beef is local to Tuscany and, therefore, fresher and more authentic to the traditional cuisine.

Another steak worth ordering is the Tagliata di Manzo, grilled, sliced steak, usually served over arugula. A favorite of mine for bistecca alla Fiorentina can be found at the beautiful and inviting Osteria dell’Enoteca

Cacciucco

Cacciucco is a seafood stew for fish lovers. This dish comes from the port city of Livorno and was created for fishermen to use the smaller fish that didn’t sell well at the market. It has a red wine base and often contains squid, octopus, small white fish, mussels, clams, and shrimp. It’s then topped with toasted bread rubbed with garlic and oil. The bread, being crunchy (and sometimes actually stale), is used to soak up the delicious, flavorful stew, not to waste even a single drop.

Biscotti di Prato

Cantucci

Also known as the “biscotti di Prato” or cookies from Prato, these crunch almond cookies are similar to the biscotti we know in the US. However, in Italy, they are just better. Made with just flour, eggs, sugar, and almonds, the cookies are “twice baked” – once as a cookie “loaf” and then again after slicing.

These cookies originated in Prato in the 14th century and have been made around Italy ever since. Prato is my husband’s hometown, so we take these cookies seriously and always have some for us or guests. They are often served after a meal with a small glass of vin santo — holy wine — a sweet golden wine. It’s customary to dip the cookies into the wine to soften them as you eat them. A classic shop for cantucci is at the Biscottificio Antonio Mattei. Here, you can see the production of the cookies as well as try different unique flavors and get a beautiful gift box to go if you’re on your way to a dinner party or to enjoy at home. 

Castagnaccio

Chestnuts are a staple in Tuscany, and they grow throughout the region, especially in the north in the Mugello area. So, it makes sense Tuscans would have found a way to preserve them and use them later. They do this by drying them (often using smoke) and grinding them into flour. This chestnut flour lasts about a year and can be used to make castagnaccio: a sort of “cake” made without traditional flour, milk, or eggs.

The traditional recipe calls for chestnut flour, water, oil, and sometimes raisins, nuts or pine nuts, and rosemary. It’s a simple peasant dish found in bakeries around Tuscany in the fall season. My husband’s family has a chestnut grove, so they collect, dry (in a vast smokehouse), and grind their own, making the best chestnut flour I’ve ever tasted. While I can’t share their family castagnaccio recipe, this one is similar and delicious. 

Cecina

Speaking of cakes that aren’t cakes, you must try the flavorful cecina, also known as torta di ceci. This gluten-free dish contains chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. It’s then baked and eaten as a snack or even a light lunch. The consistency is a bit like an omelet, but it’s vegan. I love it in the summer on the beach for a leisurely quick lunch. You can find it in pizza shops and bakeries, and it’s served year-round.

Lampredotto Sandwich

Crostini al Fegato

A classic appetizer, crostini are small pieces of bread served with various toppings. One of the most well-known in Tuscany is topped with “fegato” or chicken liver. The liver is spiced, well cooked, seasoned with anchovy paste, and served hot. It can seem unappealing if you’re not a fan of liver, but the spices and cooking methods help mellow the flavor of the liver. It’s worth a try at least once! You can find it in the appetizer section on an Italian menu (“antipasti“) by looking for “crostini” or “crostini toscani.

Fagioli all’uccelletto

Did you know Tuscan people are nicknamed “mangiafagioli” or bean eaters? Beans comprise a considerable part of their diet, and this dish is no exception. This bean dish is the Italian equivalent of baked beans in the US. It’s a side dish with red meat and chicken and is the ultimate comfort food. Made with cannellini beans, sage, tomato sauce, and olive oil, it’s simple and vegan, and just right on a cold day. You can find it in the “contorni” section of a menu, especially in places that serve grilled meats, or you can make it at home using this recipe. 

Lampredotto 

It’s an innocent-sounding name, but this dish is the fourth stomach of a cow. OK, I know, you might be thinking, “Ummm, I am NOT eating cow stomach!” But hear me out! This dish is boiled, seasoned, oh-so-tender, and served on a bun. It’s the original street food of Florence, served from carts or stands scattered throughout the city. If you can get past the fact it’s stomach, I promise you are in for a real treat. Don’t miss the salsa verde or green herby sauce they add on top. My favorite is in the Sant’ Ambrogio neighborhood of Florence at Sergio Pollini Lampredotto.

Bowl of classic Panzanella bread salad with serving spoon

Pappa al Pomodoro

Italians love to reuse stale bread, and this is another example of bread getting a second life. Pappa al Pomodoro originated in Siena sometime after tomatoes became widely eaten in Italy. Pappa in Italian means “mush” or “baby food,” this dish has a very oatmeal-like consistency. It is made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, and plenty of olive oil. The tomato is cooked into a pulp, skins removed, and then mixed with the stale bread until it forms a mush. It is usually served warm and is best around September when the tomatoes are at their most flavorful. Try your hand at making this Pappa al Pomodoro pasta for an elegant twist!

Panzanella 

Panzanella is another vegetarian dish, but this time, it is adapted for the summer. It is a salad made from stale bread, soaked in water and vinegar, then mixed with veggies like tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, basil, and sometimes, capers. The origins of this dish date back to at least the 1300s and was popular among peasants who didn’t want to waste day-old bread. Nothing says summer in Tuscany like a heaping bowl of fresh, cold Panzanella with a crisp glass of local white wine. 

Peposo

This dish is a stew made with beef and reduced red wine. The sauce almost resembles tomato sauce, but when peposo was invented, tomatoes were still thought to be poisonous (fun fact: tomatoes didn’t become a dietary staple in Italy until the 1500s).

Today, you will sometimes find peposo served with tomatoes, onions, and other vegetables, but the authentic, original recipe is without those additions. It’s best served hot with a glass of Chianti Classico. An interesting fact about this savory dish is that Brunelleschi, the architect of the famous dome of the cathedral in Florence, fed his workers peposo every day. It was hearty, full of vitamins, warming in the winter, and provided the fuel to continue building the now famous icon we will still admire today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Classic Tuscan dishes include Crostini Toscani, Panzanella, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Ribollita, and Pappa al Pomodoro. These dishes reflect the region's rich culinary tradition, emphasizing fresh, local ingredients and simple preparation methods.

Tuscan cuisine is known for its simplicity, relying on the quality of the ingredients rather than complicated recipes. It often features unsalted bread, high-quality olive oil, fresh vegetables, and local meats. The region's culinary tradition is deeply rooted in its agricultural heritage.

Yes, many Tuscan dishes are suitable for vegetarians. Dishes like Panzanella (bread salad), Pappa al Pomodoro (tomato and bread soup), and Ribollita (vegetable and bread soup) are all vegetarian-friendly and showcase the region's fresh produce.

Tuscan Grape Focaccia Recipe

Pici 

OK, I know I said to move away from the pasta, but this is one pasta dish worth trying while in Tuscany. Pici comes from the southern part of the region and is a kind of fat, handmade spaghetti. If you want to be even more authentic, try it with a sauce made from wild boar (ragù di cinghiale), as that is one of the most traditional ways to enjoy pici.

Fun fact: It’s called “pinci” in some regions of Tuscany (in and around Montalcino) and often made with a garlicky sauce called “aglione.” I love this dish with a glass of Brunello di Montalcino at Il Moro in Montalcino!

Ribollita 

Vegetarians rejoice—this dish is for you! Ribollita is a bread soup full of veggies, and carbs drizzled with a hearty dose of olive oil. A must-try for the winter months if you find yourself freezing in Tuscany; this will warm and keep you full for hours.

Schiacciata

Schiacciata means “crushed” in Italian, and there are two popular foods with this name. Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a dessert made around Carnival time that is rich in eggs and sometimes stuffed with cream. You will likely see it in the bakery presented as a large sheet cake, with the symbol of Florence, the Giglio, outlined on top in powdered sugar.

Another popular schiacciata is a flatbread that is coated in olive oil and salt and has been made in Tuscany since the 1500s! This is great bread for ordering a “panino” or sandwich. It’s thin, tender, oily, and delicious! And, during harvest time, you’ll encounter a version with grapes known as schiacciatta all’uva (pictured above).

{Torta Della Nonna} Tuscan Grandmother's Cake Recipe

Torta della Nonna

A famous dessert all over Italy, Torta della Nonna is a shortbread crust filled with custard or sweetened ricotta cheese and topped with almonds or pine nuts. It was first created in the mid-1900s, not by a nonna (or grandmother), but by a chef, Guido Samorini, who was criticized for his paltry selection of desserts on his menu. He set out to create a new dessert, and this cake was born! Now you can find it all over Italy, sometimes including variations such as chocolate. 

Aerial photo of Siena Italy rooftops

Classic Day Trips From Florence

Want to head out to try these classic Tuscan dishes for yourself? Look at these six classic day trips from Florence to dive into this beloved Italian region. Head to areas such as the small town of San Gimignano, the walled city of Lucca, and the Tuscan beaches like Viareggio and Forte Dei Marmi. You can eat these dishes in their hometowns and additional dishes we didn’t mention here, like the handmade pasta from Lucca called Tordelli Lucchesi.

Have Us Plan Your Italy Trip

Did you know we’re also a boutique travel agency specializing in Italian travel planning? If you’re looking to plan one of the best trips to Italy, our Italy trip planner services are here to help you plan your perfect itinerary.


Photo Credit: Bruschetta in Tuscany By Kayla Snell ; Bistecca by ellepistockAlmond Biscotti By Jeff Wasserman; Lampredotto Sandwich, Typical Florentine Street Food By Giorgio Magini; all other photos by Salt & Wind Travel

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