Sienese cuisine expresses the habits and characteristics of the people. It is austere and down to earth, it matches intense and delicate flavors and reminds us of the harmony and colors of the countryside: simple and fundamental, tasty and nourishing, an ingenious use of ingredients and always inspired by a sense of not needing to exaggerate. After the Etruscan and Roman influences, the Medieval period enriched the cuisine with precious spices and have found their maximum expression in Siena’s Panforte, Ricciarelli and other sweets.
Intense flavors from aromatic herbs such as dragoncello and the care with which the food is cooked gives the Sienese cuisine its appreciated intenseness.
High quality ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil (an essential Tuscan ingredient) and the Chianina (a valuable type of beef whose grilled steak is highly enjoyed), have always distinguished the Sienese cuisine.
The highly valued animals/meats from the ‘Cinta Senese’ (Sienese territory), in the hills of Chianti and in the Montagnola (hills west of Siena), can be seen in the Civic Museum fresco painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti ‘Buon Governo’ 1335-1340 (Good Government). The fresco is considered to be an important and faithful witness to the administrative life of Siena.
There are ancient roots in the food culture. The Sienese were the ones who brought ‘cured’ meats on the ship of Frederic II, lean meat that has been treated with lots of pepper and garlic and then smoked.
Some of Caterina de’ Medici’s chefs were from Siena. They went with her to cook at the French court when she married King Henry d’Orlean.
Simple and tasty, Sienese cuisine is based on genuine earth grown products and cooked with respect for antique traditions. There are many remarkable dishes: the ‘ribollita’, a delicious bean soup topped with extra virgin olive oil and the ‘panzanella’, a dish made with wetted dry bread mixed together with basil, onion (tomatoes) and olive oil, vinegar and salt. Memorable dishes with meat, real delicacies, are ‘papparedelle alla lepre’ (a particular type of pasta with rabbit sauce) and Chianina steaks grilled on an open fire.
Other traditional and triumphant dishes are the ‘frittata con gli zoccoli’, an omelet with bread crumbs and bacon pieces, and the renown ‘pici’, hand made thick spaghetti and topped with tomato sauces or with a wild meat ragout sauce.
The ‘apple of the eye’ of Siena’s gastronomy are her sweets, well-known and of ancient tradition: Panforte – peppered bread, a mixture choice almonds, walnuts, dried figs, dried fruit, sugar and rich spice; and the delicious Ricciarelli, Cantucci and delicious Cavallucci. I Ricchiarelli: it is said that Ricciardetto della Gerardesca from Siena returned from the Crusades and brought back with him these sweets from the foreign lands. He remembered seeing these sweets being enriched like other sweets of a Sultan.
It’s a dough made with “marzipan”, red in color, mixed with candied fruit and vanilla, made into little oval cookie shapes and cooked in the oven. And now, Siena’s quality wines are not to be forgotten: Chianti, Brunello, Vinsanto, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Bianco Valdarbia! Siena is considered the capital of Italian wines: 5 DOCG and 12 DOC wines.
Siena’s trattorias, enotecas and restaurants are ideal locations where one can taste all these traditional recipes that make up an important part of the Sienese culture. Dishes full of flavor and tastes that help you appreciate Sienese art, nature and surrounding territories.
One can’t leave Siena without having tasted some classical dishes such as ‘crostini di milza’ (toasted bread slices with meat spread), ‘la zuppa di fragioli’ (bean soup), ‘pappardelle con la lepre’ (flat noodles with rabbit sauce), chicken or pigeon roast, the Chianina meat.
While walking along the streets and alleyways of Siena, one is tempted at every corner. At the local pastry shops and ovens you can buy freshly baked goods whose recipes have been handed down for generations such as Pan coi Santi and the Easter Schiacciata.