Last May I was back in Siena thanks to #MySienaExperience organized by the Sienese company MyTour specialized in guided tours in Tuscany. Thanks to them I had the chance to eat some specialties from Siena and surroundings. Here 3 unmissable food you must try when in Siena!
Pici, the pasta with no eggs
Pici are a typical kind of pasta from the surroundings of Siena, more precisely from Celle sul Rigo in Valdorcia. The name Pici, or Pinci in Montalcino, has mysterious origins: some say it comes from the verb “appicciare“, i.e. to be sticky, some others say it has Etruscan origins.
Name apart, pici pasta are thick spaghetti made with flour and water only. Eggs are not generally included in the traditional recipe, but it depends also on family’s tradition and it’s generally one egg every one kilo of flour. These spaghetti are stretched by hand, so they result quite thick and rough, perfect to be served with sauces.
The most typical recipe are Pici cacio e pepe and/or Pici all’aglione. The first recipe is made with just seasoned pecorino cheese and black pepper, while the second it’s a tomato sauce with lots of garlic. I recommend to check out the recipe of Jul’s Kitchen here.
Black & White Truffles, the diamonds of Crete Senesi
Truffle is called the diamond of the kitchen and is a species of genus Tuber, found only in few areas around Italy. The Crete Senesi region is one of the few Tuscan areas, where you could go truffle hunting.
The best eating months are October and November, when truffles are found between the roots of hazel, oak and poplar and sold at fairs and markets. This period is the best for the most precious truffles, both the white and the black. But you could go truffle hunting also from January to April to look for the Marzuolo truffle. Truffle hunters have special trained dogs and keep their hunting places secret, because these delicacies are pretty expensive.
The best way to taste truffles is on top of one large and fresh fried egg, or with handmade tagliatelle.
From Autumn to Spring you can take an old steam train to the Crete Senesi, called Treno Natura, and visit the main towns and local fairs, as well as taste truffles and other specialties.
Panforte to spice up your Sienese holidays
Panforte is a typical Christmas cake. Its recipe comes from the Middle Ages, when it was named Panpepato because of the main ingredients, i.e. spices and pepper. It used to be the cake used by noble families, aristocrats and clergy to celebrate important occasions such as Christmas.
The original recipe includes 17 different ingredients, from honey to almonds and spices. The ingredients are 17 since the beginning of 18th century and symbolize the actual number of the contrade of the Palio. In 1879 a new recipe of panforte was invented: Panforte Margherita. It was made in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy, when she visited Siena in 1879. This more delicate version of panforte is the one you find in pastry shops nowadays. Here the recipe.
Of course Siena can offer much more than these 3 specialties. For example you should try also Ricciarelli and Cavallucci, other special biscuits made in Siena, as well as prosciutto and other cold cuts made with Cinta Senese pigs. If you’re coming during the Palio of Siena read my tips!
Here you find a short list of restaurants and cafès where to try these must-eat food in Siena and surroundings:
- Nannini Pasticceria – to taste the best sweets and cakes in the center of Siena stop by this historical cafè and pastry shop;
- Sapori & Dintorni Conad – to taste pastry and bakery products, this handy shop is located right in Piazza del Campo;
- La Mencia – typical restaurant in the center of Asciano where to try truffle specialties;
- Sira e Remino – for the best pici cacio e pepe I’ve ever tried, this small restaurant in San Gusmè.