Italian food is comprised of many regional styles of cooking. Tuscany has been called a hardscrabble area where the people live frugally. It has been noted that Tuscan cooking is often referred to as “cucina povera” or peasant cooking.
Tuscan cooking is very simple. There are no elaborate creations, complicated seasonings or fancy sauces.
The soil in Tuscany is relatively poor. The region is known for its olive oil and wine, because olive trees and grapevines will thrive in soil that is considered marginal for gardening or farming.
Within Tuscany, there are culinary divisions based on regional divisions. There are 10 provinces, each with their own type of cuisine.
Since the soil is poor, Tuscans often forage for wild foods that are major components in many Tuscan dishes. They collect wild greens, herbs, and mushrooms. Coastal areas make use of local fish and inland areas rely on game birds and wild animals like rabbits and boar.
Tuscan recipes will often contain onions and garlic, but not in the same dish. Butter is used sparingly in cooking.
Tuscans do not eat as much pasta as Italians eat in other parts of the country. Instead, they consume a lot of beans cooked in olive oil and garlic. They eat a lot of salads and raw or slightly steamed or sautéed vegetables.
This week’s Tuscan-inspired mushroom recipe is easy to prepare and makes a delicious side dish. It is a great way to use a handful of cherry tomatoes that are so plentiful right now.
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tablespoon tomato paste
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Basil, for garnish
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and tomatoes and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add heavy cream and Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until sauce thickens.
Garnish with basil before serving.