High-quality beef, used for the traditional very thick Florentine steak or bistecca alla fiorentina, comes from the Chianina cattle breed of the Chiana valley and the Maremmana from the Maremma valley. Pork is also produced, and is famously prepared as àrista, a roast loin of pork with garlic and rosemary. Its name derives from the greek word aristos, meaning “the best”: according to the story, this dish got its name when it was served at a banquet in honor of Greek clergymen who visited Florence in 1430 for a Ecumenical Council, and they loved it so much that they couldn’t stop repeating “aristos”.
The region is also well-known for its rich game, especially wild boar (cinghiale), hare (lepre), fallow deer, roebuck and pheasant that are prepared on their own or often used to prepare rich, delicious sauces for dishes such as pappardelle, a type of home-made pasta cut into large, broad ribbons. And of course, wherever you go in Tuscany, you will always find the best prosciutto, often served as an antipasto.
Olive groves are also the region's pride, and while it is not generally possible to visit an oil press, olive oil can be purchased directly from the producers. Olives are pressed in November and December and the olio nuovo (new oil), which is very piquant for the first several months, is especially prized on bruschetta and ribollita. The sharp, slightly bitter flavour of Tuscan extravirgin oil, which has a very low acidity level, comes from the olives being hand-picked when they are just beginning to ripen.
Regional desserts include the traditional Sienese Christmas specialties panforte (a fruitcake prepared with honey, fruits and nuts), ricciarelli (biscuits made using an almond base with sugar, honey and egg white), and cavallucci (cookies made with almonds, candied fruits, coriander, flour, honey); as well as the tiramisù and panna cotta which have now spread throughout Italy. In autumn and winter another popular dessert is castagnaccio which made with chestnut flour, pine nuts, walnuts, raisins and rosemary.