Authentic Tuscan Recipes from an Italian Chef

Giuseppina Pizzolato is a small woman with twinkling eyes and tendrils of curly hair escaping from a chef's hat. Her hands fly as she chops, kneads, stirs, and pinches, and especially when she talks, in quick, heavily-accented English, sometimes brandishing a knife as she makes a point. At the same time she directs a group of Americans in the preparation of an elaborate four-course meal, she's telling stories, stories about cooking with her family, stories about shopping at the market for fresh ingredients, stories about hunting for truffles with her dogs on the hillsides of Certaldo Alto.

Giuseppina's passion for food and the land from which food comes reflects the philosophy of the Slow Food movement. The movement, which originated in her homeland of Italy and has expanded world-wide, strives to preserve local culinary traditions and promote sustainable food. Giuseppina articulates that philosophy just a little bit differently: "The most important thing is to eat well," she says.

Chef Giuseppina stresses the importance of using only the freshest ingredients
Chef Giuseppina stresses the importance of using only the freshest ingredients | Source

Giuseppina knows all about eating well. She never attended culinary school. She learned to cook from her Sicilian-born mother and aunt, later honing her skills in restaurants throughout Tuscany. Today she runs a successful catering business in Certaldo, Italy, southeast of Florence, serves as a personal chef-for-hire, and offers cooking lessons to those wanting to learn the secrets to authentic Tuscan food. She highlights the importance of good, fresh ingredients and emphasizes that the best food is prepared with love and care. Here are four of her recipes for a delicious meal prepared in what she calls "the time-honored Italian tradition," as shared with one of her lucky classes.


Chef Giuseppina Pizzolato
Chef Giuseppina Pizzolato | Source

Bruschetta

Chef Giuseppina stresses two things about this recipe. First, the "h" in bruschetta is silent; the word is pronounced with a hard "ch" sound as in "school." Second, fresh produce is key. Choose vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes and fresh-picked basil.

Bruschetta topping
Bruschetta topping | Source

Ingredients:

6 red tomatoes

Bunch of fresh basil

6 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Loaf of Italian bread

Preparation:

Dice the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the basil. (To avoid bruising the tender leaves of the basil, Giuseppina applies the "one chop" method: gather a handful of basil leaves and slice through them in one direction only to create long ribbons of basil.) Mince the garlic. Mix all three ingredients together in a bowl. Add 2 "four-finger pinches" of salt (a pinch of salt using all four fingers and the thumb), several grinds of black pepper, and a generous pour of olive oil. (Giuseppina suggests pouring the olive oil into the bowl in the shape of a large letter "C" to get the right amount.)

Slice the bread "one finger-width" (use your index finger to judge the width) and toast in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes.

Top the toasted bread with the tomato mixture, making sure to get some liquid with the solids, and place on a serving platter. Drizzle more olive oil over top and serve.


The finished dish
The finished dish | Source

Ravioli with Truffles and Sage

When it came time to prepare the pasta dish, Giuseppina delighted her class by pulling out a giant black truffle the family dog had unearthed the day before. While most cooks will not have access to this pricey and elusive fungus, known as the diamond of the kitchen, add a few drops of truffle oil to the finished dish before serving to get a hint of earthy truffle flavor.

Chef Giuseppina demonstrates how to make pasta
Chef Giuseppina demonstrates how to make pasta | Source
Chef Giuseppina demonstrates the "four-finger pinch" as a student prepares the ravioli filling
Chef Giuseppina demonstrates the "four-finger pinch" as a student prepares the ravioli filling | Source
Making ravioli
Making ravioli | Source

To make the pasta:

Use very fine (00 grade) flour for best results. For every 2 servings of pasta, use 100 grams flour and 1 egg. On a clean surface, make a well in the flour and add the eggs. Beat the eggs with a fork and add a pinch of salt and one letter "C"-shaped pour of olive oil. Slowly incorporate the flour into the well until a sticky dough forms. Knead the dough until it attains an elastic feel ("like Play-doh," Giuseppina says). Let rest for 10 minutes.

To make the filling:

Wash 1 pound of fresh spinach then cook the wet spinach in a dry pan until it is wilted. In a bowl, combine the wilted spinach with 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese, 3 "three-finger pinches" of salt (a pinch of salt using three fingers and the thumb), 1/2 whole nutmeg grated, a few grinds of black pepper, and 3 eggs. Mix with a fork and add 1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

To make the ravioli:

Roll the dough through a pasta machine three times, then fold over and roll through three more times. Carefully lay the pasta sheet out on a well-floured surface (to prevent sticking). Spoon the filling onto one long half of the sheet, being careful not to use too much filling (use about 1-1/2 teaspoons per ravioli). Fold the other side of the sheet over the filling so the two long edges of the sheet meet with the filling in the middle. Cut the pasta into individual pieces and seal by moistening the seams with a little water.

Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water for seven minutes. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain.

While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a pan over low heat. (Use one tablespoon of butter per serving.) Add fresh sage leaves to the melted butter and continue to cook over low heat until the leaves become slightly crispy. Before serving, toss the ravioli with the sage butter and top with freshly grated black truffle (if available) and Parmesan cheese.


The finished dish topped with shaved black truffle
The finished dish topped with shaved black truffle | Source

Pork Tenderloin in the Old Style

Pork tenderloin, one of the leanest, tenderest cuts of meat available, is cut from the loin of the pork near the spine. It's cylindrical in shape and measures about a foot long and three to six inches in diameter. Tenderloins often are packaged in pairs and injected with saltwater. For best results, ask the butcher for a fresh cut that has not been brined. Use fresh rosemary and garlic for the dry rub. Smashed red potatoes make a good side dish.

Port tenderloins with a dry rub of rosemary and garlic
Port tenderloins with a dry rub of rosemary and garlic | Source

Ingredients:

Fresh rosemary

Fresh garlic – 1 clove per three servings of pork

Salt and black pepper

Whole pork tenderloin

Olive oil

Red wine

Preparation:

Make a dry rub with chopped rosemary, minced garlic, salt and lots of black pepper. Massage the rub into the tenderloin. Let stand.

Cover the bottom of a large skillet in olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Drop a sprig of fresh rosemary into the skillet to test the temperature of the oil. If the rosemary sizzles and crackles, the oil is hot enough to cook the pork.

Cut the pork into medallions the width of a finger and add in a single layer to the hot oil in the pan (cook in batches if necessary). Cook the pork medallions on one side for two minutes, then turn and cook on the other side for two minutes. Add 1/4 cup good quality, dry red wine to the pan. (Giuseppina advises not to pour the wine directly on the meat, but off to the side.) Cook for another minute, then turn again and cook for a final minute on the other side. Remove to a serving platter and garnish with fresh rosemary.


The finished dish
The finished dish | Source

Tiramisu

This traditional Italian dessert makes a scrumptious ending to a Tuscan-style feast. Make it several hours or even a day ahead of time to let the flavors soak in.

The class makes tiramisu
The class makes tiramisu | Source
A student adds the cocoa powder to the finished dessert
A student adds the cocoa powder to the finished dessert | Source

Ingredients:

10 eggs, yolks and whites separated

2 pounds mascarpone cheese

1-1/2 cups sugar

A package of crisp ladyfinger cookies

Espresso or strong coffee

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Note: This recipe makes 10 servings, but Giuseppina offers an easy-to-remember 1:1:1 ratio for increasing or decreasing the recipe. Use 1 part mascarpone cheese (100 grams) to 1 egg to 1 "Italian tablespoon" (heaping tablespoon) of sugar.

Preparation:

Beat the eggs whites into stiff peaks. Add the yolks and beat to combine, then add the sugar. Beat in the mascarpone until just blended (don't beat too long, Giuseppina warns). Set aside.

Dip the bottom half of the cookies in espresso then place in a baking dish, using enough cookies to cover the bottom of the dish in one layer. Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the cookies. Sift unsweetened cocoa powder over the top. Chill for at least 2 hours prior to serving.


More by this Author


Comments 35 comments

giocatore profile image

giocatore 4 years ago

Very nice, and looking at the photos isn't helping me on my diet! Cheers.


Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

So it's almost 10 p.m. here in Sacramento, and all of a sudden, I want to have the bruschetta and ravioli pictured. You have no mercy, Deborah, but thanks for this Hub. Wonderfully written and photographed. Voted up and everything else. Bookmarked for the daylight hours!


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

OMG I am now so hungry. You have touched my Italian heart (and stomach), thanks Deborah. You must have loved being a part of that class, voted up and awesome. Also bookmarking for the recipes.


DonnaCosmato profile image

DonnaCosmato 4 years ago from USA

Excellent hub and backstory on the chef, and like the others, I'm ravenously hungry now! Voted up.


rjsadowski profile image

rjsadowski 4 years ago

I love authentic recipes. All of these look very interesting so I am saving a copy for future reference.


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for all the great comments. Sorry to have made everyone hungry! The cooking class was a highlight of my trip to Italy. We've recreated the meal at home a few times since then. It's really fun to get your dinner guests involved in rolling out sheets of pasta to make ravioli. (As you can probably tell from some of my other hubs, I'm a big fan of interactive dinner parties.)


jenubouka 4 years ago

A natural or self taught chef, to me, is a true chef for it comes from the heart. Wonderful recipes and great story!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Agreed. I love it when the self-taught chefs end up winning the T.V. cooking competitions, like "Chopped" and "Top Chef."


tailgatingguru profile image

tailgatingguru 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

YUM!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Yum is right, tailgatingguru. Just wait until you try one of these recipes! Thanks for reading and commenting.


Giuseppina 4 years ago

Grazie Deborah, I am very happy you still enjoy my recipes, the cooking and eating with friends!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for stopping by, Giuseppina! We were just out to visit Kendric and Mara and recreated the meal with them and another couple from the trip (Dawn and Mike) on Valentine's Day. Once again it was fabulous. (Although we missed your truffle!) Thanks for sharing your recipes and giving us such a memorable experience.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Love these recipes, especially the pork tenderloin old style. Voting this Up and Useful.


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Aurelio! You should give it a try sometime. Very easy.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Superb! Authentic! Bravo to you on another hub masterpiece. I need to go work out now just from reading it and viewing the photos! Delish!!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Linda. And it all tastes even better than it looks!


Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 4 years ago from Oakland, CA

Beautiful pictures and yummy-sounding recipes. A seriously mouth-watering Hub.


ChefDeHome profile image

ChefDeHome 4 years ago

Delicious sounding recipes and yumm looking pictures. Bruschetta topping looks mouthwatering good.


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Maddie and ChefDeHome. If you think the pictures look yummy, just wait until you try the recipes! I appreciate your comments. Thanks for stopping by.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

Thank you for sharing these delicious recipes! I loved your intro and felt like I was in the kitchen with Giuseppina Pizzolato. Voted up and awesome!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, vespawoolf. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I appreciate the comment.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Voted awesome and up. This is good info for a wonderful Southern Italian meal, from one cook to another! There is also nothing like a good meal with an Italian family. They will NEVER let one leave hungry and very warm when you are in the home.


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, aviannovice. It seems the conversation and companionship is as important to an Italian meal as the food.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Wow Deb, this hub is great, loed the photos and the story about Giuseppina is amazing - what a thrill to learn about Italian cooking the real way like this. I love Bruschetta and this bruschetta looks so delicious. I love that about Italian food - everything is so fresh and you can taste the difference from normal store bought stuff. I love Tiramisu as well - my tummy is growling now.

Voted up and shared.


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Jools. The best part of the meal was the giant truffle she pulled out and grated on to the pasta. Wow! That truffle would have sold for big bucks here in the States, but she found it with her dogs the day before. Amazing! We've recreated the meal several times back home (most recently on Valentine's Day with some of the friends with whom we took the class), but it just isn't quite the same without that fresh truffle.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois

The bruschetta (thanks for the pronunciation lesson) recipe looks easy and delicious. I remember watching my aunt (from Turin) years ago make ravioli. Voted up and if there were a "delicious" button I'd hit that one too!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Danette! Yes, Giuseppina set us all straight on the correct pronunciation. Now I can't go back to saying it the other way even though everyone else I know does. I just have to sound like some sort of food snob. : )


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

What a fabulous experience to have been able to take cooking classes in Tuscany and then repeat these delicious sounding (and looking) recipes back home with friends and family. What fun! These all look and sound delicious! Wish we were your dinner guests! :)) UUI votes and sharing!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Peggy. I was so fortunate to have the experience. And you can come to dinner any time. :)


Glass-Jewelry profile image

Glass-Jewelry 3 years ago from Presezzo, Italy

Tuscany is one of the Italian regions where the food is better. The quality of the restaurants is of the highest level. When you go out for lunch or dinner is very difficult to be disappointed or worse dissatisfied with the cuisine of the Tuscan restaurants. This is not true in other Italian regions where the cuisine is not as good.

I am very pleased that you mentioned a Tuscan chef!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Glass-Jewelry. I agree with your assessment of Tuscan food. I never had a bad meal while I was there. And I ended up taking photos of most of my meals before I even took a bite!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

This is an area that I would love to visit--and eat my way through--The ravioli looked wonderful!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Not only are the recipes scrumptious but your presentation is professional yet personal and enticing! Ravioli and

Pork for everyone.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


point2make profile image

point2make 3 years ago

Great recipes and great food. I would love to take that class!. I enjoyed your hub..well done.


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for your comments, Audrey, tillsontitan and point2make. Sorry my response has been so delayed. I just heard today that my friends who got married in Tuscany and lined up the class for the wedding party will be celebrating their anniversary this year by recreating that wonderful meal! I live too far away to attend, but may have to recreate it myself in honor of them!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working