First course

First course- Il primo:

The “primo” (first course) is carbohydrate-based. In most parts of Italy it is normally pasta or rice. In Tuscany it is most likely to be a bread based salad or soup. Old bread is never thrown away, but instead mixed with either tomatoes, garlic, cabbage and fagioli (white beans).

These form dishes like panzanella (stale bread soaked in water, squeezed out, mixed with raw onion, fresh tomato, basil and dressed with oil, salt and pepper), and (rich bean and cabbage soup with bread, made using the local cavolo nero or black cabbage, then topped with olive oil, sometimes with an egg broken in to it). Ribollita derives its curious name from the fact that the peasant women would usually cook the soup in large quantities that would be boiled repeatedly (ribollita), and then eaten for several days. As with many leftovers, “ribollita” always tastes better the day after! Other delicious soups include pappa al pomodoro (an exquisite porridge-like soup with onion, garlic, tomatoes, basil and chilli pepper).

The ultimate winter ritual is bruschetta of fettunta (toasted bread with garlic and soaked in freshly pressed olive oil). The one that stands out, and must be tasted is made with red cabbage and beans and then seasoned with pepe macinato (ground pepper) and Frantoio oil

Fresh pasta in Tuscany usually takes the form of tagliatelle (flat egg-based ribbons), pappardelle (wide flat ribbons), ravioli (envelopes containing spinach and ricotta), and tordelli (stuffed with chard, meat and ricotta). In the southern parts of Tuscany, you find pici (flour and water extruded into fattish strings) and in the Mugello tortelli (stuffed with potato and bacon). Ravioli are best eaten with burro e salvia (butter and sage) or a sprinkling of parmesan or pecorino. Flat ribbon-like pastas go well with gamey sauces like lepre (hare), and cinghiale (boar), and anatra (duck), as well as ragù (made with tomato and minced beef).

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