Tuscany has always been a very popular tourist destination for people from all over the world. For Americans, since the publication of Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun” (and the eponymous movie plus her other subsequent books on Tuscany), the fascination with this region of Italy has reached amazing heights.
I am not knocking this trend – the desire to share the Tuscan lifestyle is the reason I began writing this column. I am from Tuscany and passionate about all it has to offer :Art, architecture, food, wine, history, vineyards, sunflowers and natural beauty. Tuscans are very proud of their heritage and live a great life. But who knew that all the traditional foods I grew up with (such as bruschette, crostini, rustic bread soups, home-made salumi and sautéed beans) would end up being featured in the trendiest of U.S. restaurants?
I challenge you to come up with some low cost, healthy and delicious recipes using leftovers and inexpensive ingredients – just like the Italians do. As you may know, Italians throw nothing away and utilize every part of the animals they consume (think of head cheese or pickled pigs feet)! This is true now more than ever.
Some of my favorite meals as a child resulted from my father or mother using kitchen leftovers. Most people know about the delicious Tuscan soups (like ribollita or pancotto) made utilizing breads – usually stale breads. Have you heard of polpette (meatballs made from leftovers – sometimes coated and fried) or fresh pasta ravioli with stuffing made from leftover fish or meat? Have you heard of soups or pasta sauces made with fish bones and fish heads or those flavored with parmesan crust?