Most festivals and special occasions in Italy are marked by the preparation of specialty dishes enjoyed at wonderfully set tables around which all the family gather.
Preparations can take days, and in the lead up to special feast days walking around Florence, or anywhere in Tuscany for that matter, you can overhear many locals discussing just what they are preparing food wise and exchanging cooking tips.
Easter is no exception.
In Tuscany, it is traditional to prepare a delicious lamb recipe for Easter Sunday.
So it was that when shopping in Florence for our spectacular Easter lunch, our first stop was the butchers to buy the traditional Easter meat.
Most of the time in Italy, the butcher will ask you how many people you are serving and how you are planning to prepare the meat. He or she then proceeds to the cut and prepare it accordingly, often throwing in some cooking tips and possibly even a bunch of fresh herbs!
It is not uncommon for other customers in the store to engage in a lively discussion involving exchanging of cooking tips, suggestions, side-dish ideas and the like. It is in this way that you can learn some of the best traditional Tuscan cooking tips around!
We left the butcher with lamb and a few stems of fragrant rosemary. In the end we decided to cook our lamb by cutting it into pieces then in a large pot, pour in some extra virgin olive oil with a few cloves of garlic thrown in. Over low heat, cook the lamb until seared on all sides, then add in a good splash of quality red wine. Cover and let it cook until done all the way through, turning the lamb pieces occasionally to ensure they do not stick. Some people like to add in a few anchovy fillets to really heighten the flavour (this is particularly done in Rome).
Next we headed to our local fruit and vegetable store. It is a tiny little family-run place with a great range of fresh seasonal Tuscan produce, whose owners are only too happy to provide advice from cooking techniques to best side dishes to make.
When we mentioned we were cooking lamb, we were told that the only suitable side dish to accompany it would be potatoes. The store owner was quite enthusiastic about sharing the best way to prepare the various forms of potato on hand.
We couldn’t resist going with the tiny new potatoes presently amongst the wares at the stores. We were told just how to prepare them – cooked in a pan with a good dash of extra virgin olive oil and left to cook for a good 20 minutes or until soft inside and golden on the outside. If you aren’t planning on kissing anyone not present at the dinner, or you want to keep away vampires (or the common cold), you can also add in some whole garlic cloves here too.
(The asparagus look so good at this time of year that we grabbed some of those too!)
In most Tuscan kitchens you will also often find a mix of finely chopped up rosemary (rosmarino – or in Tuscan slang, ramerino), sage (salvia), salt (sale) and pepper (pepe) that can be sprinkled on pretty much anything to make it super delicious! And potatoes are no exception.
Whilst there we also picked us some carciofi – artichokes – which we will use to make a delicious artichoke lasagne as a starter dish before our lamb. Now there is just to plan what we’ll be having for dessert!
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 and Cooking Classes in a Tuscan Villa.
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.
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.