Tastes of Country Tradition
The Maremma is a kaleidoscope of culinary offerings and while this might come as a surprise, most of them have absolutely nothing to do with the dishes and tastes you’ll sample in Florence or Siena.
This is, of course, connected to the origins of the area. Like much of Italy, the best dishes are peasant dishes. The Maremma is a land of farmers, of hard labour and transhumance. Of days of hunger and dishes scraped together from whatever was grown in the garden or scavenged from the woods. That said, the dishes aren’t tasteless, bland or depressing in the slightest. Instead they are rich testimonies of the creativity of the Tuscans and the simple bontà (goodness) of seasonal ingredients and patient cooking.
Since you can’t possibly sample all of the Maremma’s dishes, I’ve put together a collection of the best and most beloved.
If the Maremma were a country, this would be its national dish. Acquacotta is the cousin of the more famous Ribollita or Tuscan vegetable soup. It literally means “cooked water” and the most traditional versions include very little beyond that.
The dish was prepared by the farmers in the fields with whatever they had on hand.
For modern dinners, it’s a moorish soup that can contain any variation of ingredients, but is usually packed with silver beet, tomatoes, celery and carrots.
The broth is poured over toasted slices of bread and served with a freshly poached egg. It’s heaven in a bowl.
The rest of Italy can keep their ravioli because we have tortelli. Tortelli are basically supersized ravioli and like acquacotta, they’re prepared in different ways depending on where you are and who is cooking them.
The basic version is homemade pasta stuffed with a mixture of ricotta and spinach and topped with a meat sauce. The more adventurous serve them with butter and sage, while the super adventurous put a few tablespoons of sugar in the filling and serve it with a meat sauce. The latter sounds absolutely abhorrent, but it’s actually a very traditional recipe. A Maremman sweet and sour, if you will that’s very hard to find outside of local households.
The Maremmans are hunters and they love wild boar or, if the locals are to believed, wild pigs since true wild boars are almost impossible to come by these days.
Wild boar dishes dot menus throughout the year, but for a true taste of this delicacy you really need to order it either in autumn or winter when the hunting season is open. In this period, it’s prepared in a million ways. The most traditional being a meat sauce and served with tagliatelle pasta. Otherwise you can eat it in a stufato or unctuous stew. The flavour is more gamey than pork and leaner.
It’s not all meat dishes and pasta in the Maremma. Much of the region borders the sea and the locals love their seafood. The ultimate seafood dish and the one you’ll have easiest time finding is caldaro. It’s a seafood soup, but there is nothing humble about it.
Depending on the catch of the day, it can contain everything from slipper lobsters to prawns, octopus to an array of white flesh fish. Each ingredient is cooked separately and then bubbles happily in a broth flavoured with tomatoes and herbs. It’s so good, you could eat it in summer.
Ciaffagnone are essentially crepes. In fact only the locals who call this dish theirs can tell the difference between ciaffagnone and crepes. It’s something about using water instead of milk and leaving it overnight to prove, I think?
They are very difficult to find in restaurants, but when you do, they are a true treat.
Thin, light and delicious savoury or sweet. The purists enjoy them with pecorino cheese. The sweet tooths, icing sugar.