Dinner in Tuscany

Well....I may have exaggerated a bit in the title. While I would have loved to have dinner in Tuscany, it just isn't in the budget right now. So, a group of us decided to do the next best thing, create a Tuscan dinner, and use only wines from the Tuscany region. All the menu items had to be authentic. (You may recall our Spanish dinner from a few months back.)

The process of putting this meal together started a couple months in advance. The host couple, worked up some suggested menu items, and assigned each of the other couples one of the dinner courses. All the recipes came from the Tuscany Region of Italy, and were as authentic as we could find. As the Sommelier in the group, it was also my job to pair the wines for the meal. I reviewed each recipe, and determined which wines might work best with each course. Some of the wines were harder to find than others. The Pomino was one of the challenging wines, but I found it online, and placed my order well in advance. What follows is a recap of the Tuscany dinner and wine evening.

When we arrived at our friends house, the outdoor table was decorated with olive branches, and a canopy of lights were strung above our heads. The official colors of Italy were well integrated into the table settings. The summer evening was perfect for a Tuscan dinner. Italian music was playing in the background, and their menu "pig" board gave us the menu for the evening. We were about to experience a 4-course dinner with a progression of wines to match. During the entire meal, we had homemade cheese bread sticks and focaccia.

The first course (or antipasti) of the evening was Involtini di Breasaola, Ricotta e Rucola, translated to sliced cured beef with ricotta cheese and arugula. To this I paired a dry sparkling rose: Secco Italian Bubbles. There was a slight lemon zest flavor to the cheese filling, and faint sweetness from the addition of Marscapone. Breasaola is a cured beef that is similar in texture to Proscuitto, but without the same saltiness. The pairing with the Secco worked beautifully. The Secco was made from the Raboso Piave grape, and a bit of Pinot Noir. Only the slightest bit of sweetness, nice acidity, and some cleansing bubbles for the cheese.

Our second course, and my assigned recipe for the evening, was Lasagne con Funghi, or Mushroom Lasagne. I paired this with a Frescobaldi Pomino Bianco Riserva 2008. Now, since this was the course I was in charge of, it was a good thing I had a couple months to plan. One of the ingredients is Nepitella (an herb I was not familiar with). I ordered some plants (from outside the country) had them shipped, and planted them with the sole purpose of using them in my mushroom mixture. The taste of nepitella is something between mint and oregano in flavor. To keep everything authentic, I made my own lasagne noodles (what a pain, but definitely worth it for the more delicate texture versus dry store bought noodles). I also rediscovered the costs of crimini and porcini mushrooms, but there is no substitute for the wild mushroom flavors and aromas. The pairings of Pomino Bianco was great. This is a Chardonnay, that has seen oak, and some MLF, offering up some mushroomy aromas of its' own. It really worked well with the lasagne. I will definitely do this one again!

Green Vegetable Tart

Our third course was Arista e Torta di Erbe Pontremolese, translated as Roasted Pork Loin and Green Vegetable Tart. To this we paired Fattoria Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (opened up and decanted about two hours in advance). The Roasted pork loin was a special cut, that our local butcher prepared for the dinner. The roast was covered in a paste of garlic and rosemary, then roasted in the oven, with a sprig of rosemary attached. Pan-roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes were also added. The Vegetable Tart was made with Swiss chard, endive, leeks, ricotta and Parmesan Cheese. All this made for a spectacular presentation of the main course. The decanted Chianti mellowed a bit, and worked wonderfully with all the mix of flavors presented on the plate before us. This wine was picked as the top Chianti in the Wine Spectators top 100 list from 2010. What a great value.

We ended the evening in traditional Tuscany style...with Cantucci, roasted figs with honey, and Villa Vetrice Vin Santo 1990. The Cantucci are basically almond biscotti. Ours were homemade, and the perfect size for dipping into our aged Vin Santo wine. The oxidised/carmelized, sweet flavors of the Vin Santo worked nicely with the figs and the cantucci. If I did it over again, I might go with a bit younger Vin Santo, as this one was pretty oxidized...but still nice.

So, we didn't visit Tuscany, but our dinner, got us as close to it as we could, while still staying in California. Hopefully this will inspire you to try your own themed dinner experience. If you would like recipes, or pairing advice, just add your comments below.


  1. Seems like you guys had an amazing "food experience"! I can't tell you how delicious the food in all of these pictures look. I just got done looking at Tuscany villa rentals and found a great place to stay. I am surprising my wife with the trip and this seems like a great idea! I may have to bring Tuscany to New Hampshire for the night when I surprise her!

    1. It was a great meal. About every four months or so, we pick a wine region of the world, research the food, and create an authentic meal, paired with the regional wines. check out the Spanish dinner blog too. Good fun and good friends!