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.