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Italy inspired recipes from our friends

We know that trying the local food is one of the highlights of a holiday in Tuscany. So we asked some of our guests, bloggers and friends – food enthusiasts who love cooking authentic Italian dishes – to share their favourite recipes with you.

Ox cheeks and pici pasta, wild boar ragu, and grape bread are among some of the delicious recipes they offered us. Try them at your villa in Tuscany, and treat friends and family to these flavours you’ve been enjoying on your return home, too.

Italy-inspired recipes from our friends

Tuscan ox cheeks and pici pasta

Serves 4 people
Cooking time: 3 hours

2 ox cheeks, 1.5kg approximately
325ml of red chianti 
1 bay leaf
peppercorns, a few
1 garlic clove, bashed, for the marinade
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
300ml of beef stock 
2 tbsp tomato purée
salt pepper

For the Pasta
3 cups 00 pasta flour
4 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil

1. The day before, put the ox cheeks in a bowl and add the wine, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf, cover and leave to marinade overnight in the fridge.
2. On the day, fry the onion until golden then add the carrot, celery and sliced garlic and gently fry.
3. Remove the mix from the frying pan and pour into a casserole dish.
4. Remove the ox cheeks from the marinade, saving the liquid, season the meat then place in the pan and brown on both sides. Pour the marinade over the ox cheeks to deglaze the pan.
5. Add the contents of the pan to the casserole dish, place the lid on and bake in the oven for 3 hours.
6. Half way through cooking turn over the ox cheeks so that the sauce helps to cook them.
7. After three hours, the meat should fall apart. If not, cook for another 20 minutes to 1 hour. 
8. When done, pull the meat apart into small pieces so that it mixes with the sauce.
While the meat is cooking make the pasta
9. Place the flour in a mound on the worktop and make a hole in the centre. Crack the eggs into the hole and add the oil. Using a fork start stirring the eggs into the flour, pulling in flour from the edge as you go. Then mix with your hands and knead into a ball.
10. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. To make pici pasta, either roll the dough out and cut strips then roll into spaghetti-like strands, or break off small chunks and roll out between your hands and then on the worktop.
11. Add the pasta to boiling water and cook for 6 minutes, then strain and toss in the meat sauce.
12. Serve with grated hard Italian cheese and some fresh basil.
Recipe created by: Aimee Twigger

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Bruschetta with tomato salsa and basil

Serves 4 people
Cooking time: 10 minutes

500g tomatoes 
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion 
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and fresh ground black pepper

A loaf of ciabatta bread
1 garlic clove
olive oil

1. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Remove after 30 seconds and peel.
2. Cut the peeled tomatoes into quarters and scoop out the seeds.
3. Finely chop the red onion.
4. Add all the topping ingredients to the bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss the mixture. It's now ready to serve.
5. It's now ready to serve.
6. Preheat a grill pan over a medium-high heat.
7. Cut the Ciabatta into 1in slices.
8. Place the bread on the grill pan cut side down and grill on both sides until golden and crisp.
9. Remove from the pan and drizzle with olive oil, and whilst still warm, rub garlic cloves over the grilled bread. Add toppings and serve.

Recipe created by: Tanya Hindes

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Ribollita with Poached Eggs

Serves: 6 people
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Expertise level: 1 out of 3


For the Ribollita:
200g cavolo nero, finely chopped 
2 medium carrots, diced
1 small fennel, finely sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped
400g can cannellini beans 
1 onion, finely sliced 
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary branch
400g can chopped tomatoes 
1 tbsp tomato paste
1.25 l vegetable stock 
salt and pepper
chilli powder or espelette pepper to taste 
olive oil

For the poached eggs:
slices of sourdough bread
6 organic eggs 

1. Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan.
2. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, fennel, bay leaf and rosemary branch. Fry gently until the onion is soft and golden.
3. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to boil.
4. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 25 mins (the vegetables should be soft but still have a bite).
5. Add the cavolo nero to the pan and cook for a few minutes until wilted.
6. Rinse and drain the cannellini beans. Add to pan and bring everything back to the boil.
7. Leave to simmer on low heat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, chilli or espelette pepper.
8. Poach the eggs when the soup is ready.
9. Heat some water in a small saucepan. Add some vinegar to the water. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
10. Crack the first egg and place in a ramekin.
11. Whisk the water to create a gentle whirlpool.

Recipe by The Flexitarian

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Wild boar ragu with homemade pasta

Serves 2 people
Cooking time: 30 mins prep plus 3 hours 30 mins cooking time
Expertise Level: 2 out of 3


For the ragu:
400g diced wild boar (shoulder and/or leg meat) - if your local butcher doesn't do boar, you can order online
100g boar or pig's liver, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red onion, grated
1 large carrot, grated
2 sticks of celery, grated
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 bottle of Chianti red wine
splash of red wine vinegar
4 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
smoked salt
handful dark purple (black) olives

For the pasta:
100g '00' flour
pinch of table salt
1 large free-range egg

For the garnish:
2 pieces pancetta
jar of artichoke hearts
vegetable oil
plain flour
parsley, finely chopped
parmesan, grated

1. Heat a glug of olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan on a high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the diced wild boar in batches, thoroughly browning all sides. Remove from the pan and keep on a plate. Sear the liver then put on the plate with boar meat.
2. Mix the onion, carrot, celery and garlic with the tomato puree, then add to the pan you cooked the meat in and turn the heat down to medium. Cook the vegetables for 4-5 minutes, being careful not to let them burn.
3. Return the meat and liver to the saucepan with the vegetables, give it all a good stir, then add the red wine, vinegar, bay, rosemary, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Put a lid on the pan and turn the heat right down, gently simmering for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
4. While the ragu is cooking, make the pasta. Put the flour, salt and egg in a food processor and whizz for 30 seconds or until the dough forms a ball. You want a soft dough that isn't sticky, so if it's too sticky add a little more flour, or add water if it's not soft enough. (If you don't have a food processor you can do this all by hand - you must knead the dough for around 20 minutes to achieve the correct consistency).
5. Put the ball of dough on a very lightly floured surface and briefly knead until you have a smooth ball of dough. Leave the dough to rest at room temperature for an hour.
6. Once the dough has rested, roll it by hand or use a pasta machine. Taking a small of piece of dough, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. Keep moving the dough round so it doesn't stick and put a little flour on the rolling pin too.
7. To make tagliatelle cut the sheets of pasta into thin ribbons. Sprinkle the pasta with a little semolina (which will fall off and drop to the bottom of the pan when cooking) to stop the ribbons sticking to each other.
8. Now prep the garnish. Heat 2cm sunflower oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. Tear the leaves off the artichoke hearts, wipe off excess oil and dip each leaf in some plain flour. Once the oil is hot, drop the leaves into the oil and fry for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the pan and put on a plate. Heat another frying pan and once hot add the pancetta, frying until brown and crispy. Remove and keep to one side.
9. When the ragu is done, remove from the heat and stir with a fork to break up any pieces of meat that are still whole - they should fall apart with the gentlest touch of a fork. Add the olives to the ragu and put the lid back on while you cook the pasta.
10. Bring a large pan of water up to a rolling boil and add a good pinch of salt. Drop the pasta into the water and cook for around 4 minutes. Once cooked, lift the pasta out and put it straight into the saucepan of ragu. Give it a good stir and add a little of the pasta cooking water and a good glug of olive oil.
11. Twizzle the pasta around a large fork to make a nice bundle to plate up. Top with grated Parmesan, little pieces of pancetta, parsley and some fried artichoke leaves. Serve with a large glass of Chianti.
Recipe created by: Rosie Llewellyn

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Tomato and Bread Salad

Serves: 4-6 people
Cooking time: 15 minutes (plus drying time if needed)
Expertise level: 1 out of 3

600g mixed tomatoes
200g ciabatta bread, preferably stale
6 tbsp olive oil
5g fresh basil

1. Cut the ciabatta into pieces and put aside to dry out. If necessary, toast slightly in the oven.
2. Chop the tomatoes into pieces and put in a large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the bread and mix.
4. Stir in the olive oil. Add extra if necessary.
5. Shred the basil and stir in. Serve.

Recipe created by: Claire

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Tuscan Chianti Chicken Cacciatora

Serves 4 people
Cooking time: 20 minutes plus marinade for 1 hour or overnight; cooking time 1.5 hours
Expertise level: 1 out of 3 

4 large chicken thighs
pinch of salt
pinch of ground black pepper
1/2 bottle of Chianti
1 tbsp olive oil
100g diced pancetta
2 bay leaves
sprig of rosemary
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
a large handful of green Italian olives
400g tinned tomatoes
generous dash of balsamic vinegar
pinch of smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
50g grated mozzarella

1. Season the chicken and marinade in the wine for at least one hour or overnight if possible.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken, in batches if necessary, until browned.
3. Add the pancetta to the pan and fry until starting to brown.
4. Preheat oven to 180C.
5. Transfer the chicken and pancetta to an ovenproof dish with the wine marinade. Mix in the tomatoes, garlic, olives, bay leaf and rosemary.
Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of smoked paprika and the oregano and cover the pot with a lid.
6. Bake in the oven for 1.5 hours; for the last 10 minutes of cooking time add the grated mozzarella on top of the chicken.
7. Serve with green salad, fresh crusty bread and a glass of Chianti.
Recipe created by: Caroline Cowe

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Tuscan slow-cooked pork

Serves 6 people
Cooking time: 6-8hrs in a slow cooker
Expertise level: 1 out of 3

250g dried cannellini beans
400g pork belly 
2 large onions, chopped in large chunks
3 carrots, chopped in large chunks
4 tomatoes, chopped into quarters
2 courgettes, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tsp sage
freshly ground salt and pepper
1 tin tomatoes
1 glass white Chianti wine

1. Soak the beans in cold water overnight.
2. Drain and rinse the beans and put them in the bottom of the slow cooker.
3. Put the onions and carrots around the sides of the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes and courgettes.
4. Mix the garlic and sage. Spread this paste over the pork belly and transfer to the slow cooker.
5. Pour in the glass of Chianti and season with salt and pepper.
6. Cook on the high setting for 5 hours or the low setting for 8 hours.
7. A couple of hours before serving, add a tin of tomatoes. You can add extra water (or wine) if necessary but the slow cooker always keeps all the steam and moisture in so you don't usually need to add much liquid.
8. Once the pork has cooked through and started falling apart, stir the contents of the slow cooker every half hour or so to mix everything up, help the flavours mingle and make sure everything is covered in the rich tomato sauce.
9. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread.
Recipe created by: Cheryl Pasquier

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Grape Bread (Schiacciata)

Serves: 6 people
Cooking time: 90 minutes
Calories: 300 per serving
Expertise level: 2 out of 3

500g strong white bread flour (Italian 00 “Pizza” flour would be a nice touch)
350 ml lukewarm water
14g dried yeast
800g of black grapes – the sweetest, juiciest ones you can find
50g sugar
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs of rosemary

1. Start by making some rosemary-flavoured oil. Put the olive oil and 3 sprigs of rosemary in a pot and place on a low heat.
2. At the first sign of a sizzle, remove the pot from the heat and pour the mixture into a cold bowl to cool.
3. Remove the grapes from the stalks and wash them. Pat dry with a paper towel and leave them aside to dry completely. Do not split them to remove the seeds as this will allow the juice to escape and make the bread soggy.
4. Mix the water and yeast in a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. 
5. Add the flour and mix until you have a sticky dough. Cover and leave aside for 20 minutes.
6. After 20 minutes, pour the cooled rosemary oil over the dough and knead for about a minute until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.
7. While the dough is rising: Preheat your oven to 240 C / Gas Mk 9. Line a large roasting tray with greaseproof paper.
8. When the dough has doubled in size, split it into two halves.
Place one half in your tray and pat it out to cover the tray with your fingertips. (Schiacciata means “flattened down”.) Spread half the grapes evenly across the flattened base – just like a pizza. Flatten out the other half of the dough on a lightly floured board and flip it on top of your “pizza”. Spread the rest of the grapes on top, then sprinkle over needles from the remaining rosemary sprig.
9. Bake at 240 C / Gas Mk 9 for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 220 C / Gas Mk 7 for a further 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is nicely coloured and the grapes are releasing their juices.
10. Allow to cool and serve drizzled with honey.
Recipe created by: Emma and Mark

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