Tagliatelle porcini zafferano e tartufo bianco
You’ve already got an idea of the key ingredients in Sienese cuisine. Olive oil, bread, pasta, truffles (white), local vegetables (especially fresh tomatoes) and wine. What you may not know is the year-long relationship of the Tuscan land with the famous flower of Crocus sativus better known as saffron. The ancient Greeks and Romans prized saffron as a valuable perfume and scattered it about their public spaces: royal halls, courts, and amphitheaters alike. A typical product of San Gimignano (29 kms north-west of Siena) since 1100 AD saffron was not only used in exchanges and trade, but also as a form for money. In 1202 for instance, it was easier to obtain cash by pawning two pounds of saffron at Semifonte than by offering servants or land. Towards the middle of the 1600’s, the cultivation of saffron died out. There are many assumptions as to why: the economic recession, partially due to the transfer of the via Francigena towards the valley, but above all, the importation of French saffron, which was cheaper but very poor in quality. Its cultivation was reintroduced in San Gimignano in 1999, thanks to the formation of an association called “Il Croco” (the crocus), with the involvement and financial contributions of Sienna Provincial Council and Tuscany Regional Council. Since 2005, San Gimignano saffron is the first European saffron to have been DOP (protected origin) certified by the EEC. One very distinctive dish that smells and tastes Siena and saffron is Tagliatelle porcini zafferano e tartufo bianco (Tagliatelle with Porcini mushrooms, white truffle and saffron). The mushrooms are left to simmer in a pan of olive oil and white wine along with a generous amount of garlic and saffron. When the pasta is ready it is dipped in the heavenly sauce and covered by grated white truffle. What’s not to love?