Dinner at Canto del Maggio
Photo ©Italian Eye
A complete Valentine's dinner menu coming from Tuscany
Easy Tuscan menu to make for St. Valentine’s day

This menu is all about simplicity, flavor and heart (and by heart). We thought it would be nice to impress your loved one with a complete Valentine's dinner menu coming from Tuscany, listen to some music while you're cooking! 

Antipasto dal cuore – starter from the heart
 - Credit: Bruno Cordioli

In the area of Carrara where Michelangelo used to extract pure marble, the small village of Colonnata, hosts another treasure that to us foodies is even more important than the Pieta.... the soft and delicious Lardo di Colonnata. This fine cold-cut is made from pork lard cured with pepper, salt, sage and rosemary in local marble quarries and caves and you can use it in countless recipes. 

You can simply prepare Lardo di Colonnata bruschette or combine the lard with sweet prunes-plums. You will need 8 dried prunes-plums and 8 very thin slices of Lardo di Colonnata. Use the slices of lard to wrap the dried prunes. Place the slice of lard on a cutter and put a prune on the lower side of the slice and simply roll as if to form a spiral. The outer part of the roll will naturally melt as the lard at room temperature will become very soft, place the prunes straight on your serving plate. These amuse bouche will look like little white roses, the lard will become transluscent and you will be able to see the deep color of the prune coming through. 

DIY - Pici: Tuscan handmade spaghetti
 - Credit: Dana McMahan

If you‘ve been to Tuscany, Siena or the Maremma you must have heard of, or eaten Pici handmade spaghetti.

"They are are like laces of flour and water connecting Val d’Orcia’s hamlets of Pienza, Montepulciano, Monticchiello, Montalcino, the borders of Umbria along the Val di Chiana and climbing the slopes of the Amiata, where they are shorter and thinner".

In some villages they're called "Lunghetti" and can reach about 2 or 3 metres in length. It was a farmer’s dish, whose pantry often only contained wheat flour, olive oil and salt.

Check out here  Patrizia Malomo's recipe. For the sauce, there are several options, including ragù, “cacio e pepe” (cheese and pepper), “aglione” (tomato sauce) or a bread crumb sauce. Match your pici according to your taste!

Florentine Arista - Roast Pork Shine

Arista is a traditional dish of Florentine cooking. It consists on a loin of pork flavored with garlic and rosemary and then baked. You only need to mix rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper and rub the pork loin with this mixture. Put the pork loin into a baking pan with some extra virgin olive oil and place in the oven and cook for about 45 min turning the meat every so often.

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a delicious traditional carnival treat from Florence. The word “schiacciata” means squished, or flattened, and most of the year if you ask for it in a bakery, you get a flat, salty bread with oil on top, great for eating just like that, or for opening up and making a sandwich. In the fall, there’s “schiacciata all’uva” which is a not-too-sweet cake made with the red grapes that are in season then, pits and all. And during carnevale, the term refers to a sweet sponge cake with a hint of orange flavour. You’d think they’d stop naming everything “squashed” and come up with a variety of titles, but so be it. Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is topped with icing sugar with a cut-out shape of the giglio, the lily of Florence. It’s lovely plain, but is often served cut open and filled with whipped cream for a true “caloric bomb”. You will need: 250g flour, 150g sugar, 2 eggs, 1 expresso-cup full of olive oil*, 2 expresso-cups full of milk, 1 blood orange, juiced and zested**.  Add after mixing: 1 baggie “lievito vanigliato”, about 2 tsp baking powder with vanilla flavouring.

Mix all ingredients except for the baking powder together in a bowl with a mixmaster on high for 3-5 minutes. Then add baking powder, mix in. Pour into rectangular silicon baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 200 degrees celcius. Cool on rack. Transfer to plate. Place lily cutout on top and sprinkle icing sugar. This cake is really easy to make. Like, if you have never successfully baked anything in your life, you can make this.

*the expresso cup is equivalent to about 1/3d of a cup. Don’t worry, it’s a very forgiving recipe, measures are approximate. **If you don’t have fresh oranges on hand you can use orange juice.