A good excuse for opening a great bottle of wine is known in Italian as ‘cena’ – that is, dinner.
Italians usually drink at least a glass of wine with each meal*.
The wine may be bought from the local supermarket, from one of the small wine stores known as an ‘Enoteca’ or, most commonly, either bought directly from a nearby wine producing estate who has open-cellar ever so often, or from friends and family who make their own wine in vineyards that trail across lands that have been passed down from generation to generation.
There are also many great recipes that have developed throughout the generations to perfectly match the local produce available, including the wines.
Hearing that great pop of a bottle of Tuscan wine uncorked, the strength of the signature earthy aromas hinting at the age of the wine, the glug-glug of the precious liquid being poured into a glass, and the first sip of a great Italian wine, these are the simple pleasures that Italians take time out for each day.
As to the traditional Italian meals that the wines are enjoyed with, many of these recipes are perfectly paired with the wines by the fact that they have a glass or more of wine in them themselves. The flavours are thus perfectly fused, a blissful taste union that combines the food and drink, produce and tradition, history and present, the in-season with the seasoned, necessity and pleasure in a perfect marriage.
From around October onwards, one great Italian recipe that combines the great local produce with delicious Italian is ‘Patate novelle al vino rosso’ – new (‘baby’) potatoes in red wine.
They make a great side dish to a simply prepared meat dish, such as Bistecca alla Fiorentina, especially following a serving of delicious Ribollita vegetable soup for a hearty, nutritious and warming meal.
A very simple meat dish recipe that goes perfectly well with this delicious and easy potato recipe is to take some very thin beef or veal fillets, coat in flour and cook in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. After just a minute or so of cooking on each side, they will be ready to serve with a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper.
The best way to prepare this delicious traditional Italian potato recipe is by making your stock first. Depending on the actual recipe you are making, stock can be vegetable, chicken, beef or seafood.
Vegetable stock recipe begins by firstly taking an onion, halving it and ‘burning’ it a little in an un-oiled pan (non-stick is recommended!), then adding it into a litre of cold water together with 2 sticks of celery, a carrot, some whole black pepper corns, a tomato, a splash of olive oil, 2 bay leaves, a good handful of rock salt and fresh parsley. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for around 30 minutes or more. Once nice and tasty, strain out the vegetables and you have delicious and nutritious broth.
Now for the traditional Italian potatoes with red wine recipe…
150 ml vegetable stock
60 g unsalted butter
700 g new (‘baby’) potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 fresh sage leaves
250 ml red wine
Wash the potatoes. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the potatoes for a few minutes until they are soft in the middle (test with a skewer). If you have some larger and some smaller-size potatoes, cut the bigger babies into smaller pieces so they are more or less all the same size.
In a large pan, melt the butter and then add in the shallots, stir well and the pour in half of the red wine. Once evaporated a tad, add in the potatoes and sage. Stir everything up a little and let brown. Now, pour in the stock, followed by the rest of the wine (make sure you did not drink it all in the meantime!). Let simmer for a while, making sure the potatoes do not become crumbly. Add salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste then serve.
If you don’t have new potatoes at hand, you can use more grown up ones, just cut into chunky pieces.
To learn about food and have fun learning discovering tasty ways to use seasonal Italian ingredients to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence.
If you would like to immerse yourself in the Tuscan culture, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni too, as well as stopping for lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence – Best of Tuscany small-group tour.
Join us to have fun on an exhilarating bike ride from Florence to the Tuscan countryside, whizzing up and down the rolling Tuscan hills that form the stunning Tuscany countryside as you tour to a great Tuscan villa wine estate to visit their wine cellar for a Tuscan wine tasting, and dine at an award-winning Tuscan restaurant. During the warmer months, you may want to add a splash of extra fun to your Tuscany bike tour with our unique Tuscany Bike Ride with a Villa Swim. Should you wish to skip the Tuscan bike riding altogether and head straight pool-side, we have our Wine Tour and Villa Swim with lunch or simply enjoy a Villa Swim and Lunch in Tuscany.
Visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Explore historic wine estates before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.
Stroll through the Tuscan countryside, join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.
If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to Rome, Venice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.
To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.
* and then they put the bottle away at the end of the meal, as drinking without food it not common practice at all in Italy.