Una Famiglia, Due Tenute
Maremman cuisine is profoundly different than that of Tuscany and the rest of central Italy. Here are some of the most traditional and unique recipes of the area that mix sea and land influences for a native “surf and turf” influence.
Maremman cuisine is as rustic and simple as it is appetizing, and many aspects of it are completely different than the food from the rest of Tuscany or the nearby Lazio region. Since the time of the ancient Etruscans, it’s been said that people love Maremma for its colors, flavors, and aromas and because of the diversity that comes from its land: olive oil, chestnuts, wine, honey, game, cheeses, and fruits. Add the native mix of hospitality and directness that its inhabitants show—which may strike tourists as “abrupt politeness”—and you’ll have a true taste of Maremma.
Many specialties are based on game, particularly on wild boar. But there are other dishes that are highly appreciated by many, like the thin, cheesy frittata called ciaffagnone, the meaty stew scottiglia (made with a mix of different quality cuts), acquacotta, panione, and Lombardy soup (all three minestrones), chiusoni (thick, handmade spaghetti), the famous bruschetta (in Maremma, called panunto), which has spread to other zones, mutton or veal, Maremman snails, anchovy pie, or the “mice” of Castell’Azzara.
The ciaffagnone is an ancestor of modern-day crepes. Legend has it that they were first made in the 1400s in Manciano (GR) and San Casciano dei Bagni (SI), and that Catherine de’ Medici, dissatisfied with the cooking in her French court, brought this dish over the Alps. The main difference between the ciaffagnone and crepes is that crepes are made with butter and milk, whereas ciaffagnone are only made with egg, flour, water, and salt. There are two ways to prepare this dish: the San Casciano recipe makes the ciaffagnone quite tall and fluffy, whereas the ones made in Manciano are so thin that for every egg in the batter, you can make ten “crepes.” Up until a few years ago, the ciaffagnoni were typically served during Carnevale; but this tradition has waned with the passing of time. In Maremma, one of the few occasions when you can taste this specialty is during the “Winery Festival” in Manciano during the second weekend of September.
The origins of the scottiglia are not very clear. Some point to medieval origins, while other trails lead back to the Etruscan era! But there’s no doubt that this is a “piatto povero,” or a humble dish enjoyed by the lower classes, created by farmers who thriftily saved every last cut of meat, even the lower quality ones (the high quality cuts went to the rich). With these leftovers, they made a delicious dish that is considered quite unique today. Apparently, there is not one recipe for the scottiglia, because it utilizes whatever meat scraps you have on hand. Its name, which comes from the Italian word “scottata,” or “scorched,” was given to it because of its preparation: the meat is put in an iron pan and cooked directly in the flames with hardly any cooking oil, scorching the meat.