Going Meat Free in Tuscany: Ceci, Cicerchia and Beans.

Tuscan cuisine is largely based on legumes, for this reason there is a wide selection of Tuscan legumes which characterise many of the most delicate and flavourful Italian dishes. We are talking about Cicerchia, a traditional and ancient legume that cultivation dates back to the Mesopotamian era, and it looks like a squashed chickpea of some sort. In Italy is still widely grown in Tuscany. Cicerchia contains proteins like other legumes, B group vitamins, salt minerals and polyphenols. These beans need to soaked overnight and they are perfect for soup preparation, as well as Ceci (chickpeas), used for soup and pasta, they are indeed very nutritious. Finally, there are also some types of beans (cannellini and borlotti), tender and fine, appreciated for the easy digestibility. Furthermore, do not forget that they can be a good substitute for meat.
We propose three simple and flavourful recipes. Emilia Delizia compiled this short guide about going meat free in Tuscany. Enjoy!

fagioli borlotti
Tuscan borlotti beans

Zuppa di Cicerchie

The soup of Cicerchie is a nourishing dish. It is based on Cicerchie with sautéed celery, onions, potatoes and tomatoes, seasoned with rosemary and sage.
To prepare the soup, first you have to leave the Cicerchie to soak for at least 24 hours, changing the water frequently. Once they are ready, chop the onions and the celery; then clean and cut a tomato and two potatoes. In a quite big pot, brown two slices of garlic in some oil; once they will be ready, take them out and add celery and onion. After ten minutes, add potatoes, tomatoes, Cicerchia and season with salt and pepper. Add some vegetable broth from time to time.

Finally, add a sprig of rosemary and sage and cook for an hour. Once it will be ready, take out the sprig and serve the soup while it is still hot.

Pasta e Ceci

It is a simple and rich dish, perfect to eat in cold days. It is simple because it comes from the poor Tuscan tradition and it is rich because it puts together carbohydrates and proteins.
Firstly leave the Ceci to soak for 12 hours with a pinch of bicarbonate. Then rinse the legumes and cook them with rosemary. In the meanwhile, prepare a tomato sauce, with some garlic and rosemary.
Once Ceci are well cooked and soft blend them in a food processor, the result it should look like a liquid soup. Add the tomato sauce at cook it again until boiling; now you can add pasta (you can choose Ditalini or even broken Spaghetti) and keep cooking until is the pasta is ready.

Fagioli all’ uccelletto

It is a typical Tuscan dish from Florence. It is based on very simple ingredients and despite of its name, (uccelletto in Italian means little bird) you will not find meat in it.
Start cooking with the usual soaking and cooking of the beans: put them in a pot (made of terracotta if possible) and cook them in plenty of water, until they will be tender.
Once the beans are ready, brown them (again in a terracotta pot) with some oil, garlic and sage; add 200 gr of peeled tomatoes and cook it all until the sauce becomes dense.
Finally add the Beans, season with salt and pepper and keep cooking for an extra 15 minutes. Serve them as hot as possible.

How to be a vegetarian in Bologna and in Italy.

The BBC recently published an article on vegetarian eating in Bologna. The article is entitled “Where vegetarianism is an exotic illness” written by Dany Mitzman who lives in Bologna and is a a long term vegetarian. After reading her article, here at Emilia Delizia, we felt that we should write back an open letter to this author on our website for everyone to read.

Artichokes are an Italian speciality and can be eaten raw with a little olive oil salt and vinegar

First of all the article gives a stereotyped images of Italians as short-sighted and meat hungry people with no respect for vegetarians and animals. Is it so difficult to find vegetarian restaurants in Bologna the capital of the Mortadella pork sausage?

The short answer is do not expect to find vegetarian options on the menu of a TRADITIONAL TRATTORIA, as the words imply the cooking is based on the tradition. Back in the days people had to get by with what they had and pork fat was often the only option to get the calories that they need to sustain themselves. So these menus are not designed to be vegetarian friendly, and non-meat eater should not expect to find meatless dishes at a place proudly serving the traditional fare.

This does not exclude that in the tradition there are no vegetarian dishes, just to name a few you can have Tigelle (bread) with some local cheese or pinzimonio which is a selection of raw vegetables (crudity). Also you can have maltagliati e fagioli, they are the trimmings of tagliatelle making served with beans, just ask the waiter if they used pancetta to flavour the sauce.

Pinzimonio – a vegetarian dish available in Italy

Most restaurants in Italy will be more than happy to customise their dishes for you. Even if it is not on the menu you can ask to have pasta and tomato sauce. These days they are quite accustomed to being asked for variation due to diet restrictions of their clients. Such as gluten intolerances, food allergies vegan or vegetarian options are welcome as they want you as a customer. In fact Italian are fussy eaters and it is quite common to hear in restaurant a customer to ask for a customised pasta dish or pizza.

Did you know that Italy and the Mediterranean diet is vegan friendly?

If you are in Bologna and you are vegetarian or vegan, remember that you are in Italy home of the Mediterranean diet. You can easily find a pizzeria and order Pizza Marinara. This pizza is just the base, olive oil, and garlic. It is tasty, cheap, healthy, and filling and of course it is vegan friendly. Now many pizzeria also cater for gluten intolerant people and it is common to find Kamut pizza, or even totally gluten free varieties which are normally prepared in a separate kitchen.

Continuing we can also mention other dishes such as spaghetti aglio, olio and peperoncino. A simple spaghetti dish made by stir frying garlic, and chilli pepper in extra virgin olive oil. Especially dishes from the south tend to be made with wheat, vegetables, olive oil and not much more, above you just have some ideas, I am sure you can figure out more combination of vegetarian and vegan dishes in Italy.

Italy as the home of modern vegetarians.

With so many sausages, cured meats, salami and prosciutto is hard to believe that Italy is now home of 7 millions vegetarians. In fact according to a research by Eurispes now more and more Italian are giving up meat for vegetables making it the most vegetarian country in western Europe. If this trend continues there will be 30 millions vegetarians in 2050 in Italy.

It is also worth to mention an organisation called “UN PUNTO MACROBIOTICO” which has restaurants in many major cities including Bologna. The not-for-profit charity promotes healthy eating via veganism. I believe Dany Mitzman has been a little short-sighted to write an article where the Bolognese are picutured as hungry meat eaters. In our opinion she should do more research about the place where she is living her life at moment.