The Ribbed Florentine

In the Tuscan culinary tradition, the Ribbed Tomato of Florence (pomodoro costoluto da sugo), also known as “Florentine”, is a basic ingredient of a sauce nowadays considered quite ordinary. However, it has not always been like this. In fact, one hundred years ago, it was considered a solemn dish which contributed to the success or failure of the lunches held on the occasion of winter feasts, viz. Christmas, New Year’s Day, Epiphany and last Thursday before Lent. Its delicious aroma filled the air, promised abundant pleasures of the table, good humour, a reunited family, in short a festive atmosphere. The making of this sauce required a lot of time. In a traditional sauté of onion, carrot, celery, finely chopped parsley and high quality olive oil, the “Florentine”, fully ripe and cut into cubes was added and left to cook on a small flame. As soon as the tomato was well mixed with the other ingredients, slices of lean beef were added, the saucepan was covered again and the sauce left to simmer slowly. When the aroma of meat and vegetables had become one and the vegetables, tomato and meat had absorbed each other’s flavour, one of the slices of beef was taken out, finely cut and then put back in the sauce. The other pieces were also finely chopped and mixed with egg, cheese and a pinch of breadcrumbs served as stuffing for the agnellotti, typical, half moon shaped fresh pasta, boiled in abundant salt water, served with the meat sauce and covered with a generous helping of Parmigiano Reggiano. People judged a woman’s worth and skill in the kitchen by the quality of her meat sauce. No housewife would dare to use an ordinary tomato because the members of the family would immediately notice if the sugo had been prepared with the wrong tomato. The ribbed one of Florence was special, with only few seeds and only slightly sour, actually, nearly sweet, inimitable.

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