Siena was born as a Roman military colony. The Romans settled here after the Etruscans, from whom they inherited the passion for good food. In those days in Siena it was habitual preparing salted meat (lean pork to which a lot of pepper and garlic was added, then seasoned next to large braziers), that was the ancestor of the dry sausages (pork and wild boar), a typical product of Siena. After 1200 AD, Siena experienced a great splendor thanks to its banking activities. The roasted meats were enriched with many herbs (rosemary, bay leaf, thyme) and spices (pepper, cloves, nutmeg), to be perfectly preserved.

Other very common dishes in Siena were also the hare meat cooked together with the chocolate, the crane and game. In Siena, just like in Florence, the people had a simple diet, that consisted mainly of foods made of bread and vegetables: soup, crostini, bruschetta. There was then a very common soup called the “Ginestrata”, famous thanks to its strong nourishing and tonic properties, because it was made with egg yolks, chicken broth, cinnamon, Vin Santo, coriander, nutmeg and cloves; this soup was traditionally offered also from the groom’s mother to the daughter-in-law the first time she was entering the house.

The varied cuisine of Siena has always been primarily a meat cuisine, like game (hares, cranes, thrushes, partridges), courtyard animals and farm animals (pigs, cows, goats, capons, pigeons, ducks, chickens). The meats were cooked on the coals, steamed or fried and often flavored with various fruit-based sauces such as “mortella” (made from myrtle), “sapa” (made from cooked grape must) and flavor of “giusciole” (made from cherries).

In addition to soups and meat, in Siena also many desserts were often prepared; the best known is the “Panforte”, born as a peasant cake, made from flour and cooked fruits and so named for the slightly acid taste that it assumed during the seasoning. It became over the centuries more and more sophisticated and valuable with the addition of candied fruit and spices. Other common sweets of Siena are the renowned “Melatelli” (apple fritters), the “Ficattola” (bread with figs), “Ricciarelli” (marzipan cookies with almonds, candied fruit and vanilla covered with powdered sugar), gingerbread (a cake shaped like a nugget, baked in the oven and enriched with almonds, pine nuts, nutmeg, nuts, pepper, cinnamon, candied orange and cedar, raisin,liquor, honey and cooked must; with the whole mixture blended either with cocoa or coffee), the “Cavallucci” (biscuits with honey, candied fruits, nuts and spices) and the ancient and nourishing “Medici’s cake”, a filling that once was contained between two sheets of dough and made with mustard, fennel seeds, spinach, honey, baked apples, chopped almonds and sapa.

Today the filling of “Medici’s cake” is contained between two sheets of puff pastry and made with: Tuscan mustard, sugar, spinach, lemon zest, sugar, raisin, chopped nuts, candied orange, amaretto di Saronno-liqueur, egg yolks, flour, pine nuts, and nutmeg.

CREDITS PHOTO: Toscana Promozione,