We're pleased to have partnered with our lovely friends at Pasta Evangelists to bring you this guide on a Tuscan Christmas. Read on as they share some of their favourite Tuscan delights and Italian Christmas highlights to welcome the festive season.
With its lush landscapes, hilltop havens and rust-coloured rooftops, Tuscany is a feast for the eyes. Such beauty has long drawn painters, sculptors and architects, and the region’s galleries and museums are filled with world-class art. But when it comes to food, Tuscany’s treasures are more farmhouse than fine art. Situated in the beating agricultural heart of Italy, the region is a paradise of fresh produce; Tuscany’s tomatoes are considered some of the best in the world, and Tuscan wine and olive oil is prized from Turin to Tokyo.
Aperitivo : Negroni
Endlessly stylish, the negroni has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in recent times - and with good reason. This short, stylish cocktail is sipped across the picturesque scapes of Italy, from its native North to the sun kissed heel of lo Stivale. However, this iconic vermillion cocktail is now adored worldwide, as a classic yet fierce Apertivo that showcases the understated elegance of a drink prepared with a few high-quality ingredients and minimal intervention, yet one that yields serious results.
- 25ml Campari
- 25ml Sweet Vermouth
- 25ml Gin
- Slice of Orange, to garnish
- Fill a rock glass with ice. Add a single shot (25ml) each of Campari, gin and sweet vermouth.
- Mix until combined and chilled. To finish, garnish with a slice of orange.
La Pasta: Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragù Recipe
Known as the unofficial mascot of Tuscany, wild boar, or “cinghiale” as it is known in the vernacular, has the dubious honour of being both a local emblem and a local delicacy. Eaten and revered in equal measure, the swine are cherished throughout the region, with the Tuscan capital of Florence boasting its own statue commemorating the beast. Known locally as "Il Porcellino", it’s said to be good luck to touch the nose of the bronze boar!
The animals forage in local woodlands – mainly concentrated around the coastal area of Maremma – occasionally causing mischief in vineyards and even gardens, but Tuscans adore the rich, gamey flavour they lend to local dishes. Our sumptuous ragu sees the wild boar slowly simmered in a traditional bath of red wine, juniper berries and tomato – a dish known locally as "cinghiale in umido" – until rich and intensely meaty. We pair our ragù with thick, luscious strands of pappardelle pasta, Tuscany’s most famous pasta shape which is perfectly designed to hold this indulgent sauce.
Although not hugely available from your local butcher (although some will surprise you!) You can easily find wild boar meat through many online butchers…trust us, it’s worth it.
Prep time: 6hrs+ (overnight is recommended)
Cook time: 4hrs 30mins
Calories per serving: 627 kcal
- 1 kilo wild boar meat (preferably shoulder meat), cubed.
- 750ml good quality red wine
- 500ml chicken stock
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 stick celery, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10g juniper berries
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 600g Fresh Pappardelle (for ingredients, see this simple recipe)
- Roughly dice the wild boar meat, and place in a large mixing bowl, before covering with red wine. Cover and allow to marinate for at least six hours (though overnight is best).
- Once the meat is ready, add a glug of olive oil to a dutch oven over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the diced onion, carrot and celery, and sweat the mixture until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, and continue to fry until fragrant.
- Separate the meat from the marinade, and add to the pot. Brown the meat, allowing it to fry for around five minutes.
- Add the tomato puree, and combine, before deglazing the pan with around half of the wine used for marinating. Once the alcohol has cooked off, add your chicken stock to the pan, as well as your aromatics - the bay leaves, thyme and juniper berries.
- Stir until well-mixed, before covering with a lid. Reduce the heat, and allow to simmer and thicken for around 4 hours. Stir occasionally to avoid any sticking.
In the meantime, prepare your pappardelle, following Chef Roberta’s simple recipe where you’ll find a step-by-step guide and video tutorial to create those luscious Tuscan strands.
- After four hours or so, check your ragu. The wild boar should have broken down to tender shreds, and the sauce should have reduced significantly. At this point, take out the larger sprigs of thyme and bay leaf, and remove the pot from the heat.
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil, before adding your pappardelle.. Cook for around 3-4 minutes, until al dente. Once cooked, remove the pici strands from the pot, ensuring to reserve a little of the starchy pasta water, to loosen the sauce.
- Transfer the pasta to the pot with the ragu, and toss to coat, adding as much pasta water as necessary to ensure the pasta is glossy and well dressed with the ragu.
- Serve the pasta, and finish with a generous scattering of Parmigiano Reggiano. Buon appetito!
Christmas in Firenze
Abound with citrus fruit and its warm rays of sunshine filtering through twisting branches of olive trees, Italy is a sight to behold in the summer months. The winter, however, brings beauty to il bel paese in a different way; white peaks of snow capped mountains dominate the landscape, while cosy villages are illuminated from afar by the light of their fireplaces. As the holiday spirit takes hold in December, Italy truly takes on a distinctive charm of its own. From its northernmost regions to its southernmost sea-ports, each city has its own way of ringing in the festive season and Tuscany’s capital, Florence, is no exception.
The Christmas tree outside the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence's famous Duomo) glistens in the dusk and folks gather to witness presepe, the tradition of Christmas nativity scene displays. A life sized scena della Natività (nativity scene) appears in the Piazza del Duomo every year, made in terracotta by an artisan in Impruneta. The Cardinal of Florence prepares his sermon for the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and a maze of markets takes over Piazza Santissima Annunziata, where merry holiday-makers sip steaming cups of Vin Brulé.
Panforte, the Tuscan version of the Italian holiday treat panettone, is high on the must-try list of festive foods when visiting this beautiful city. Also stay on the alert for local specialities like hand-crafted tortellini, spicy pork sausage, and mostarda. A seasonal dessert, mostarda consists of candied fruit in mustard-flavored syrups, with cheeses and wines. A surprising delicacy definitely worth trying.
A Festive Treat from Pasta Evangelists
We hope you enjoyed taking a closer look at the regional festive delights the Toscana region has to offer. In the spirit of festivity, Pasta Evangelists would love to offer Sophie Allport customers an exclusive 25% off your first two fresh pasta orders, an exclusive offer which includes an indulgent tiarmisù in the first order. Use code SOPHIE25 at checkout or simply click the link to add the offer directly to your basket. Buon appetito!