Befanini the Tuscan Christmas cookies

Around this time of the year the flavors of the befanini cookies is unmistakable in our homes, bakeries and pastry shops. These cookies once available for the Epifany celebration of January the 6th, have become the most popular biscuit that welcomes the holiday season in Tuscany.
Let’s see how to prepare them with the recipe we inherited from grandma.befaniniphoto Aurelio Barattini


500 gr of white flour
300 gr white sugar
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla essence
2 teaspoons of baking powder
4 eggs
200 gr of butter
pinch of salt
grated skin of 2 oranges
1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon powder
2 tablespoons of Rhum
colored sugars to decorate

In a bowl combine 3 eggs with sugar and whisk well, then slowly add, while mixing, the melted (and cooled) butter, salt, grated orange skins, rhum, and baking powder.
On a separate surface combine the previous mix with the flour and knead well (in case the dough is too firm help yourself with a little milk). Wrap the dough in a cloth or aluminum foil and let it cool in the fridge for an hour.
Roll out the dough to about 3 to 5 millimeters thick. cut cookie shapes as you wish, can be little stars, christmas trees… and place them on oven tray.
Beat the remaining egg and brush each cookie, add the colored sugars on top and bake in a 180° preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and let them cool, they keep well in a glass jar for a couple of weeks (if nobody finds out where the jar is !)


Get your slice of tuscan bischeri pie and all is well!

This recipe made of short crust pastry basket filled with chocolate, rice, raisins and pine nuts comes from the culinary tradition of the Pisa area, and the bischeri are the name of the pastry tips that stick out from the cake. Original recipe was started in the Valdiserchio area and used for celebration days or local catholic festivities because its richness of flavourful aromas and fullness of taste made everybody cheerful.

This is the version we make at home.

Ingredients for the dough:

300 gr of flour

250 gr of sugar

70 gr of melted butter

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of baking soda

¼ lemon zest

1 tablespoon orange juice

20 gr of Strega liqueur (or rhum)

In a bowl mix all the above ingredients and work until a firm ball of dough is formed, then wrap it in aluminum foil and let it rest for at least an hour in the fridge.

Meanwhile prepare the filling with the following ingredients:

100 gr of dark chocolate

70 gr of short grain rice

150 gr of milk

30 gr of cocoa powder

150 gr of sugar

60 gr of candied cedar

60 gr of candied orange

40 gr of pine nuts

40 gr of raisins (pre-soaked in warm water)

½ teaspoon of grated nutmeg

1 large egg

Boil the rice in milk until well cooked, turn off the heat, discard any excess of liquid and add the dark chocolate in small chunks, mix until the chocolate is all melted and let it cool completely.

In a bowl add to the rice-chocolate mix all the rest of ingredients, stir well and set aside.

Pre-heat oven at 180°. Retrieve the dough from the fridge and split it in 2 pieces, the larger should be about 2 thirds of the whole pastry, roll this out in a large dish that has to cover bottom and sides of a baking pan, previously folded with non-stick paper foil, allowing some pastry to go a little over the pan edge. Now do some oblique cuts on the edge of the pastry at regular distance, and bend the cut part to form little triangles.

Spread evenly all the filling into the dough surface, and with the remaining dough rolled out cut in 2 cm strips, create a grid on top of the filling.

Bake for 50 minutes, remove from the oven and let it cool, Buon Appetito.


An easy and refined dish ? Sure success with White Truffles Tagliolini.

There are many varieties of truffles, the most common in Italy is the black truffle, while the white from San Miniato in Tuscany is one of the most precious and expensive.

One way to appreciate a good truffle is preparing a fragrant plate of tagliolini (narrow string egg noodles) with truffles.

tagliolini al tartufo

Photo by Vetrina Toscana

Tagliolini with truffles, are prepared with a few simple ingredients, just to enhance the flavor of truffles only, so you do not affect their pure subtle aroma.

Ingredients for 4 people:

350 gr of tagliolini

80 gr of butter

70 gr white truffle

50 gr Parmesan cheese


black pepper

In a large pot bring to a boil enough salted water and cook the noodles “al dente”.

Meanwhile, clean the truffle with a brush to remove any residual dirt, then rub it with a dry cloth.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add half of truffle grated, a pinch of salt and a little black pepper.

Once the noodles are cooked, drain, pour into the pan with truffle butter and add a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and let them cook shortly for a minute or so, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Transfer the noodles served on a platter and serve immediately, still hot, sprinkled with the remaining truffle thinly sliced with the appropriate tool.

With Arianna & Friends cooking classes you can learn directly great truffle recipes, or take a tour and enjoy a fun truffle hunt in Tuscany, Italy. If you’re a truffle lover coming to Italy don’t miss this opportunity.


Can you say “Cheese” ? Then Pecorino Toscano is for you

For those who appreciate the tastes and flavors that the world of cheeses can offer, the tuscan pecorino represents a must to try.



Sheep cheese comes from a very old food tradition in Tuscany where the Etruscans used to make it and consume it as a regular part of their daily diet.

In time, thanks to the generous pastures in the region, shepherds presence grew, driving many to turn their activity to dairy production, specialized in the milk transformation to cheese.

Today Pecorino Toscano is a DOP protected trademark (Protected Designation of Origin) by the European Commission, this guarantees that the product, a cheese with a soft semi-firm consistency, is made according to the rules fixed in Regulations that state its requirements, and ensures that tuscan sheep cheese is only made in Tuscany from sheep breeding to the final piece of cheese.

From a full-fat sheep’s milk cooked curdle then pressed and salted, pecorino toscano goes under an ageing process that promotes delicate aromas and flavors. It ‘s available fresh with about 3 weeks age but mostly preferred a few months old.


All around Tuscany this cheese is cured with different aging tecniques. like wrapping it in chestnut’s leaves, brushing with evo oil and herbs or tomato paste, left in oak casks.

Ways to taste pecorino are numerous, just by itself to enjoy the full palate that it express, with honey or jams, fresh fruits, ham, a typical old one is to combine the fresh cheese with green broad beans (baccelli) in springtime.

Well, if you are ready to see the real thing, how is made and try some in a typical farm, see here for a tuscan cheese tasting tour that will make you want for more!


A modern organic farm in Tuscany , old time tastes and flavors

We are in a scenic hardly inhabited area of central Tuscany, close to the old town of Peccioli, the “capital of cereals” and the motto is - let’s cultivate the diversity -

Here old grains variety like Etruscan wheat, different types of Farro (spelt), Millet, Oats, Barley, Fenugreek are cultivated, milled, transformed and packed respecting the strict organic specification, this is why all the products from this farm are “top quality” and their flavor and taste easily witness it.

These people focused on selecting varieties of cereals to grow, suitable for use in organic farming in different climatic and soil conditions and at the same time recover the nutritional qualities of the old varieties.

In the 70’s when many where fleeing the lands to find work in the cities, the founder of this farm decided to buy many hectares (over 300 right now) in this little paradise of the Pisan hills.

In these fields can now be found grains that are ideal for making bread, produced here with natural yeast, and grains perfect for different kinds of pasta, also made here.







The flour comes from a stone mill, not an old fashioned one though, here all is very modern and technological with great attention to hygiene and control of the product’s purity.

The farm has actually 2 sections, one has fields and stone mill, the other with more fields and the bread and pasta factory with a shop and almost all the cereals production is locally transformed in breads, pasta and baked products.

There is a dedicated guided tour of this organic farm available and organized by Arianna & Friends , the local tuscan tour operator, and the opportunity to taste the products offered is not to be missed.