The Flavours of Tuscan Food: A history so rich you can taste it

On November 15, Buonissimo treated Italian food experts to a journey through the rolling Tuscan hills with our “The Flavours of Tuscany: Buonissimo! Masterclass.” Hosted at Nella Cucina, a renowned culinary school in Toronto, the event immersed attendees in the world of Tuscan gastronomy, spotlighting the Tuscan quartet; Finocchiona PGI, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Toscano PGI, Prosciutto Toscano PDO and Pecorino Toscano PDO.

Leading the masterclass was the esteemed Chef Roberto Fracchioni, professor and distinguished food consultant. Chef Fracchioni unravelled the history of the four iconic Italian ingredients and their role in Tuscan cuisine. While discussing the ingredients, the Italian food connoisseur guided participants through a tasting experience, enriching both minds and palates. To end the masterclass, Chef Fracchioni led attendees through a guided cooking session, teaching the participants how to make a dish that harmoniously unites all four products.


L – R: Panzanella Salad, Finocchiona PGI and Prosciutto Toscano PDO, tasting plate of the Tuscan quartet with Taralli crackers

“The masterclass featured four quintessential Tuscan products, each representing the region’s rich culinary history. Finocchiona PGI, rooted in the Middle Ages, epitomizes Tuscan farmers’ meticulous techniques, using fennel seeds from the local countryside. Extra Virgin Olive Oil PGI reflects Tuscany’s olive cultivation evolution. Prosciutto Toscano PDO, also dating back to the Middle Ages, represents the tradition of winter pig slaughter and celebrates authenticity and flavour. Pecorino Toscano DOP merges centuries-old sheep farming traditions with modern craftsmanship, offering delicate and spirited cheese. Together, these products capture the essence of Tuscany’s extraordinary gastronomic heritage.”

 – Francesco Seghi, Consorzio di Tutela della Finocchiona IGP, on behalf of all four Consortia

Finocchiona PGI

Originating in the Middle Ages, Finocchiona PGI is a traditional cured sausage infused with the aromatic essence of fennel seed. Although Finocchiona PGI is not commonly found in Canada, it is a renowned Tuscan delicacy offering a delicate and balanced flavour palette. In the 15th century, farmers began flavouring processed pork with fennel seeds and flowers instead of pepper, a rare and expensive product at the time. Today, Finocchiona PGI honours Tuscany’s time-honoured techniques and flavours.

The unique characteristics of this distinguished product have been recognized by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), indicating superior quality and guaranteeing the local origin. Finocchiona PGI is best eaten as an appetizer, accompanied by PDO Tuscan Bread, but it is often the star of many creative recipes as well.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Toscano PGI

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a pride point of Tuscany, masterfully produced in the region for centuries. The olive tree appeared along the coast in prehistoric times and became a signature feature of the region during the late Middle Ages, due to farmers’ efforts to expand cultivation. Today, olive growing holds significant economic and social value to Italy, particularly the production of the famous Extra Virgin Olive Oil Toscano PGI.

This oil is known for its fruity flavour with notes of olive, artichoke, and almond, as well as its bitter and spicy taste. It has been protected by Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) since 1998, and all bottles have a serial number for complete traceability. Chef Fracchioni compares Extra Virgin Olive Oil Toscano PGI to wine, emphasizing the importance of investing in high-quality products.

Toscano PGI is the ideal cooking ally, thanks to its versatility. It is particularly suitable for roast meat, game, legumes, soups and crudites.

Prosciutto Toscano PDO

Prosciutto Toscano PDO is a raw and cured ham, strictly using pigs born and reared in the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Marche, Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany. The production technique for this meat is marked by historic craftsmanship, a long aging period of a minimum of 12 months, and aromatic herbs from the Tuscan territory.

The product originates from an ancient tradition, the winter pig slaughter. During this festive winter event, peasants gathered to slaughter the pigs that had been fattened throughout the year to be made into cured pork products. During the 15th century, the tradition developed into a more evolved production process with regulations enforcing specific breeding locations, slaughter, sale and production of dried meat, as well as licenses to export the products. 

Now, Consortia of Prosciutto Toscano PDO provides more freedom and flexibility to its producers than other regions do, allowing them to customize their products with different flavours and spices. This makes Prosciutto Toscano PDO a favourable product. Since the meat is strong in flavour, it is best eaten alone as a snack or paired with typical Tuscan bread, however it can often be found in sandwiches or on pizza. 

Pecorino Toscano PDO

Pecorino Toscano PDO is an age-old Italian cheese, creamy in texture and often accompanied by a mild peppery finish. It is milky and sweet in taste, with nut and caramel notes that develop with age. The main ingredient, sheep’s milk comes from sheep reared exclusively in Tuscany. 

The product has been protected by The Consortium of Pecorino Toscano PDO since 1985. This guarantees only cheese 100% compliant with production specifications, produced exclusively with sheep’s milk from pastures in the area of origin, can receive the Pecorino Toscano PDO title.

The history of the cheese is deeply intertwined with its origin’s geography, emphasizing the relationship between the environment, sheep, and shepherds. Sheep farming is one of the region’s oldest forms of human settlement. Its pastures are rich in herbs that give the milk and the resulting cheese unique qualities. Today, production methods combine craft techniques and innovation while respecting the standards of the designation. 

Pecorino Toscano PDO is produced in two forms: fresh and seasoned. The first has a delicate rind, soft to the touch and fragrant to the taste. While the second, typically aged from 24 days to 3 months, has a thicker rind and a more intense flavour, without being pungent. For this reason, Pecorino Toscano can be defined with an almost oxymoronic expression: delicate but with temperament. Fracchioni recommends enjoying fresh Pecorino as an  “everyday” cheese in salads or sandwiches and seasoned pecorino on an antipasto platter or in place of a Grana Padano cheese.

Panzanella: A Symphony of the Tuscan Quartet 

The panzanella salad is a popular Italian recipe harmoniously uniting the Tuscan quartet in a singular dish. This bread salad combines bread, tomatoes, fragrant basil, pickled shallots, Prosciutto Toscano PDO, Pecorino Toscano PDO, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Toscano PGI and Finocchiona PGI. The key to an exceptional panzanella salad is to add only a little spice, as the ingredients require a delicate balance.

“The Flavours of Tuscany: Buonissimo! Masterclass” was a wonderful celebration of Tuscan gastronomy, spotlighting the iconic Tuscan quartet. Guided by Chef Roberto Fracchioni, the immersive experience not only fostered appreciation for Tuscan delicacies and traditional processes, but also equipped participants with the knowledge to make informed purchasing decisions moving forwardL-R: Panzanella Salad, Finocchiona PGI and Prosciutto Toscano PDO, tasting plate of the Tuscan quartet with Taralli cracker


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