Tuscans are experts at doing very little to their ingredients to make a good meal—you rarely need more than a handful of things to bring out the best in your hero ingredient. Take, for example, a raw artichoke salad, which you'll find offered in many Tuscan trattorias in the winter and spring when young, fresh artichokes are in season—and so delicious that you need nothing more than salt, lemon and olive oil to season its raw slices.
Or take Florence's favorite dish, bistecca alla fiorentina, an oversized, two-fingers-thick steak, grilled bloody and seasoned simply with salt after grilling. Some add pepper, and at the most, extra virgin olive oil. I met a retired Florentine butcher once, who told me that a proper bistecca alla fiorentina doesn't even need salt. Less is more, especially—and this is key—when you have high-quality ingredients to begin with.
Arista, Tuscany's answer to roast pork, is often rubbed with a mixture of herbs (rosemary, sage, sometimes lemon zest) before being rolled up, seasoned with some olive oil and salt, and doused with a glass of wine before roasting. It's eaten just as simply—dressed with maybe a spoonful of the pan juices, but nothing else is needed.
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In a similar way, Tuscans prepare pork ribs for the grill with just a vague hint of rosemary (you use a rosemary sprig to brush olive oil onto the ribs as they're grilling) and garlic (which goes into a dressing to drizzle over the finished ribs). No heavy spices, no sauces. The key to getting the right flavor is to grill over charcoal, preferably.
If you want to boost your ribs' flavor and juiciness, a brine before grilling is a very good idea, and another nice way add some oomph to a beautiful piece of meat before preparing it simply.
Rosticciana (pronounced "rosti-chyana"), or ribs, are usually served as part of a larger platter of "grigliata mista," literally "mixed grill"—grilled chicken, stout, fennel-studded Tuscan sausages, some tagliata (rare grilled steak). It would all be served with sides like roast potatoes, cannellini beans with olive oil, or a simple green salad—the classic meal for sharing around during a big gathering.
Any Night Grilling is your guide to becoming a charcoal champion (or getting in your grill-pan groove), any night of the week. With over 60 ways to fire up dinner—no long marinades or low-and-slow cook times in sight—this book is your go-to for freshly grilled meals in a flash.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.
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