TUSCANY MARE TARTUFO - step by step instructions

A great many regions of Italy are intensely diverse; the food from one city barely even echoing that of its neighbour. Tuscany is a little different, and a common thread certainly runs through the food of its major cities – Florence, Sienna, Lucca & Pisa, amongst others – and through the countryside in between. Livorno, a sort of renaissance Milton Keynes, is a rare exception; its food, less bounded by tradition, features bold and punchy flavourings; though it is nevertheless distinctively Tuscan, and fits well within the greater cannon of the cuisine; earthy pulses, bright and crisp vegetables, and rich aromatic seafood, here strongly punctuated with garlic and chilli. This is a part of Italy that has beguiled the British for centuries, and no doubt will continue to do so for many more.  

Pici with butter, sage & black truffle
~
Caciucco
Livornese fish stew
 
Rocket, fennel & pecorino salad
~
Torta della nonna
Custard pie topped with pinenuts
 

For your meal you will need:

A large pan for boiling water

A frying pan for the pasta sauce

A generous sized pot for the caciucco

The detailed recipes for the dishes are below, but in essence:

  • Warm the caciucco base
  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil for the pici
  • Cook the pici, make the sauce, mix together & scoff
  • Add the fish & shellfish to the caciucco base and cook
  • Grill the bread for a fettunta
  • Dress the rocket & fennel salad
  • Eat both
  • Let the pie come up to room temperature, then eat this too

Pici with butter, sage & black truffle

The north of Italy, Piemonte in particular, celebrates white truffle in the autumn; the ethereal perfume flavouring dishes like tajarin, agnolotti or risotto. But come winter, and the frosts, and the white tubers recede for another year. In Tuscany, and Umbria, they celebrate a different truffle – the black tartufo nero. It is earthier and less aromatic than its white counterpart, but with a greater depth of flavour, and it peaks just as the white recedes; a ray of flavour in the depths of winter. If white truffles are a celestial pleasure, black ones are very much an earthly one. And don’t we all need some earthly pleasures about now…

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • Handmade pici
  • A bag of butter & sage leaves
  • A fat black truffle
  • A little parmesan

Directions:

  • Bring a large pan of well-salted water (10g/lt) to the boil
  • Roughly chop the sage, and place with the butter in a frying pan
  • Grate a little of the truffle finely, and reserve
  • Add the pici to the boiling water, and cook for 4-5 minutes
  • After the first minute or two, add a ladle of the pasta water to the butter, and place on a high heat
  • Bring this to a simmer, then cook to emulsify the butter and water
  • Add the grated truffle to this pan, then the pici, and cook together for a minute or two until the sauce is glassy and thick
  • Turn onto a plate, and scatter with the parmesan, then either shave or grate the remaining truffle (on a truffle slicer or mandolin or the small holes of a grater) finely on top

Caciucco

Livorno, on the Tuscan coast, began as a trading port founded by the Medici dukes, its purpose to replace the old silted up port at Pisa. It had none of the culture or tradition of the older cities such as Florence or Lucca. Its food, too, was unbridled by the rest of Tuscan tradition, and influenced by the international culture of the traders who thronged the port. Chilli, garlic & tomato thrived here, to be brought together in rich punchy dishes such as Caciucco; practically every town and city on the med has its own version of fish stew, through France, Spain, Italy and beyond. This one is uniquely Livornese, and Livorno is indeed unique.

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • A base of cuttlefish stewed in red wine, sage, garlic, tomato & chilli
  • A mix of clams, mussels, monkfish & prawns
  • Some fine olive oil, a clove of garlic & a little chopped parsley
  • A couple of wedges of bread, to toast, for fettunta

Directions:

  • Place the caciucco base in a large saucepan or stewpot, preferably lidded.
  • Add 200ml water, and bring to a simmer
  • When simmering, add the mussels, clams & monkfish, cover with a lid and cook for two minutes.
  • Add the prawns and cook for a further two minutes
  • Meanwhile, grill the bread (or toast) then rub with the garlic clove, and drizzle with half the oil
  • Tuck the bread into shallow bowls, and ladle the stew over. Pour on the remaining oil, and scatter with the parsley

Rocket, fennel & pecorino salad

Tuscany is a land teeming with intensely flavoured vegetables, and few more so, or more Tuscan, than wild rocket and Florence fennel. Here we shave the fennel into delicate ribbons, matched with little slivers of sharp and salty pecorino romano, tossed through the rocket, the lot dressed with fine Tuscan oil and bitter lemon.

Your pack serves two as a side and contains:

  • Wild rocket
  • Shaved Florence fennel
  • Shaved pecorino romano
  • A pack of lemon dressing

Directions:

  • Place the salad ingredients in a bowl
  • Give the dressing a good shake to mix, then pour over
  • Dress lightly and delicately with your hands, then sit the lot on a chosen plate

Torta della nonna

The Tuscans don’t do much by way of desserts – most meals end with a little cheese, or one of the many biscotti esteemed in the region; cantucci, panforte, or Brutti ma buoni – the ‘ugly but good’ biscuits that could be the name of a whole host of Italian dishes, perhaps dipped into Vin Santo or warm Zabaione. Torta della Nonna is a notable exception; Nonna– Grandma – is, of course, held in the highest regard in Italy. The very word signifies comfort and care, an older and gentler way of doing things. This rich custard pie is a gentle and homely embrace of a dish – sponge like pastry encasing a rich filling of thick vanilla custard, the lot topped with delicate, aromatic pine nuts.

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • 2 fat wedges of torta della nonna

Directions:

  • Remove from the fridge a half hour or more before eating, to allow the slices to come to room temperature
  • Remove from the tub and place on plates
  • If desired, dust lightly with icing sugar
  • Eat.

ALLERGENS: all packs are prepared in a mixed kitchen, we cannot guarantee the absence of ANY allergen. All packs of this dish contain dairy, gluten, alliums, eggs, celery, and nuts.