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The flavours of Florence

Publish Date: 19 Apr 2017

Authored by: Emiko Davies

Italy-based food writer Emiko Davies shares wine-spiked recipes from her beautiful cookbook, Florentine, including Tuscan roast pork and fresh pasta with duck ragu, matched together with Australian wines.

Wine is an integral part of the Florentine table. It is used in dishes (like peposo, a peppery beef stew that calls for a whole bottle of red) and always present on the table, whether it's a casual family lunch at home or dinner in a restaurant. It’s also key at aperitivo time, that wonderful moment before dinner when you have a glass of wine with a dainty nibble of something – nothing that will spoil the meal, of course, but just the right thing to “open up your stomach”, as the Florentines say.

There’s no doubt about it, Tuscans like to drink Tuscan wine. Sangiovese, which goes into producing almost all of Tuscany’s best-known wines, from Chianti to Brunello, is the clear protagonist in Florence – the Chianti Classico region sits on Florence’s doorstep, after all.

As you head west towards the Tuscan coast, you’ll find the area of Bolgheri growing international (and in particular Bordeaux) varietals such as cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. There’s San Gimignano (just 50km south of Florence), whose food-friendly vernaccia is a favourite white wine in Florence, and further south near the coast in Tuscany’s rugged Maremma area you can find white vermentino and Mediterranean red varietals such as alicante, carignan and ciliegiolo. These are just a fraction of the regions and grapes within Tuscany’s evolving wine scene that you can enjoy in Florence.

Florentine pork roast

This roast pork has been a fixture of Florentine cooking since at least the Renaissance, or so the legend goes. Artusi traces the origins of its unusual name to 1439 when, during an international assembly of bishops in Florence, this roast was served. It was received with such enthusiasm that a guest exclaimed, ‘Àrista, arista’, meaning ‘the best’.

Serves 4

1kg bone-in pork loin or rib roast, at room temperature

Extra virgin olive oil, for rubbing

1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked and finely chopped

8-10 sage leaves, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves

125ml (½ cup) white wine

Cut all along the pork bone, as if you were removing the bone completely, but leave it attached by about 3cm at the bottom to create a pocket. Rub olive oil all over the meat.

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Mix the rosemary leaves, sage and garlic, and add some salt and pepper. Place half of this herb mix into the pocket you’ve just made and with the rest, rub it in and around the rest of the meat. Tie with string to hold the roast together and cover the bones with aluminium foil to keep them from burning.

Place the roast, skin-side up, on a metal cooling rack in a baking pan so it is not touching the bottom of the pan. Pour the white wine over the roast so that it coats the meat and drips into the tray. Bake for about 50 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, you are looking for an interior temperature of about 65°C.

Remove from the oven, turn the heat to 220°C and place back in the oven for a further 5 minutes to crisp up the skin. Rest the meat for at least 15 minutes, uncovered, then slice thickly using the bones as guides and serve.


Wine match: 2011 Brown Brothers Patricia Chardonnay

The balanced acidity, citrus notes and backbone of oak that our Patricia Chardonnay provides are a perfect match for this traditional Tuscan pork.

Cate Looney, winemaker


Pappardelle with duck ragu

Serves 4


200g plain flour

200g semolina, plus extra for dusting

4 eggs

Duck ragu

4 duck legs, about 1kg, skin removed

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 small carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped

1 garlic clove

2 bay leaves

3 sage leaves

½ tsp fennel seeds

80g pancetta (or prosciutto)

500ml (2 cups) red wine

400g tomato passata (pureed tomatoes)

Grated parmesan, to serve (optional)

To make the pappardelle, sift flour and semolina onto a flat work surface and create a well in the middle with your hands. Crack the eggs into the well. Gently beat eggs with a fork in a circular motion until they become creamy. Begin incorporating the flour and semolina little by little until it becomes too difficult to use the fork and then gather the dough with your hands. Knead for about 10 minutes or until it becomes elastic. Let the dough rest, covered so it does not dry out, for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into two or three portions. With a pasta rolling machine or a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll out the dough until about 1mm-thick or until you can see your fingers through the other side. If rolling by hand, roll from the centre outwards.

The noodles should be cut to about 2-2.5cm wide. Fold the dough lengthways over itself three or four times (dust with semolina between each fold so they do not stick) and then cut across the short side of the folded pasta. Use a sharp knife for a straight edge or a fluted pastry wheel cutter for a ruffled effect (good for catching sauce). Unroll the pasta, shaking it out, dust generously with semolina and shape into little ‘nests’ of equal portions – 100g is equal to one serving. Cover under a tea towel or plastic wrap until ready to use.

For the duck sauce, brown the duck legs in a large casserole pot with the olive oil over medium heat. This should take about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the pot and set aside. Drain any excess fat and add the vegetables, garlic, herbs, fennel seeds and pancetta. Season. Let the mixture sweat over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are soft but not browned, add the wine and return the duck to the pan. Simmer, covered, for 1½-2 hours until the meat is very tender.

Remove the duck from the pot and strip the meat off the bone. Discard bones and chop or shred the meat. Return to the pot. Add the passata along with 125ml (½ cup) water. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and let the sauce reduce, uncovered, until thick. This should take about 20-30 minutes.

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water for about 3-5 minutes, or until silky and cooked al dente. Drain and add to the warm sauce. Toss until well coated and serve, if desired, with some grated parmesan.

Note: If you are not planning on using the pasta immediately, freeze for later use or keep it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Try not to squash the nest shapes, they should help keep the noodles from sticking to each other.


Wine match: 2013 Mama Goat Merlot

As an elegant blend of blackcurrant and mulberry notes, with hints of vanilla, cocoa and spice, our Mama Goat Merlot's complexities will combine magnificently with this rich ragu.

Emma and Steven Raidis, winemakers


Beef & pepper stew

Serves 4

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1kg good stewing or braising beef, such as chuck, diced

3 garlic cloves, whole but peeled

750ml (3 cups) red wine, preferably Chianti

A good pinch of salt

1 tbs freshly ground black pepper

Tuscan bread (or other crusty bread), to serve

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based stockpot. Brown the meat in batches over medium heat, then return all the meat back to the pot and add the garlic, red wine, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, for 2½ hours, or until the meat is very tender but not falling apart. Remove the lid of the pot for the last 45 minutes to reduce the liquid to a thick sauce.

Serve with plenty of Tuscan bread to mop up the sauce.


Wine match: 2013 Audrey Wilkinson Shiraz

Our 2013 Audrey Wilkinson Shiraz would be perfect with this traditional peposo. With intense dark cherry and mulberry fruit, floral, violet aromas and dark pepper spice, it should complement this dish beautifully.

Jeff Byrne, chief winemaker


Rabbit & olive stew

Serves 4

600g rabbit

Plain flour, to dust

30-60ml extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 rosemary sprig

5-10 fresh sage leaves

180ml red wine

400g tomato passata (pureed tomatoes) or tinned chopped tomatoes

1 litre (4 cups) homemade vegetable stock or water

100g good-quality black or green olives

1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped 

A word or warning: Be wary of the smaller bones floating around in the stew. If you’re careful enough while chopping the rabbit, you can try to avoid using (or at least chopping through) the rib bones, which are the smallest, sharpest ones.

Prepare the rabbit by rinsing and patting dry with paper towel, removing the kidneys and liver if they are still intact, then chopping into pieces on the bone much like you would a chicken – hind legs (these can also be cut in half again), front legs, backstrap and tenderloin. You could also ask your butcher to do this for you.

Dust the pieces of rabbit with flour and shake off any excess. Pour oil into a deep pan, and sear the rabbit over medium-high heat until golden. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, cook onion, carrot and celery over a gentle heat until the onion becomes transparent and soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and herbs and continue cooking a few minutes until fragrant. Return the rabbit back to the pot, season with salt and pepper, add the wine and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Add the tomato to the pan with 2 cups of the stock (or water) and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook on the lowest heat until the meat begins to just fall off the bone, about 1½ hours. If the sauce is getting too thick or dry, top up as needed with the stock or water (you may or may not need to use all of it).

Check the meat to see if it is tender. When it is ready, you can either remove the meat from the larger bones for easier eating or leave in large pieces. In the meantime, remove the pits from the olives. Flatten them with the flat edge of a heavy knife and pull the pits out. Add the olives to the stew right at the end, along with the fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with roasted potatoes.

Note: If there are any leftovers, pick out the bones and simply toss the stew through some pappardelle pasta like you would a ragu. Even if there is no meat left, but plenty of that delicious sauce, it still makes a wonderful pasta dish.


Wine match: 2015 Coriole NERO

With a bright nose of wild berries, sage flower and cassis, the 2015 Nero d'Avola is dangerously delicious. Medium-bodied with soft, silky tannins, it has the structure to stand up to this provincial stew. For a regional match, try using Coriole Verdale Olives in the dish.

Alex Sherrah, winemaker

Photography: Lauren Bamford

This is an edited extract from Florentine by Emiko Davies published by  Hardie Grant Books RRP $49.99 and is available in stores nationally. For more tempting dishes from the book, plus 33,000 tried and tested recipes from top chefs, visit

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