When in Tuscany: Testaroli

Shannon Vavich
Filmed by my children – on location!

When I go to the market in a place I’ve never been before, I look for things I consider strange. If you’ve ever felt the panic of “I have no idea how to make this” (when seeing an item in the grocery store), then you might be able to relate.

Over the years, I’ve been able to welcome that feeling of ignorance instead of squashing it down (is it shame?) and walking away from the item. Now, I take the quivering feeling of uncertainty as an opportunity to learn something new. For me, vacation is exactly the right time to google this/that ingredient. Without the added burden of normal household tasks and the kids’ school schedules to keep up with, I find I have the time and “brain space” to follow a path of curiosity leading to a (hopefully) somewhat accurate dissemination of knowledge about a little morsel of food that the local households deem an “everyday” item. All these morsels of knowledge have grown into a loose web of understanding that I now enjoy – small morsels that span the globe – yet nothing compared to what I *could* know, and what I hope to learn in the second half of my life.

So it was when I found flat bread-like discs at the market in Tuscany last week that I felt I had found a treasure. They were about the size of large tortillas. Since I don’t know of any kind of tortilla-like bread in the Italian cuisine, I rushed to put a couple “breads” in my cart along with dozens of other little-known (to me) ingredients.

When I got back to our airbnb I unpacked and started photographing all my discoveries. I opened one of the packs of “testarolo” and tasted the “bread”. I was shocked and disappointed to find that it was awful – plasticky, hard, dry and flavorless. “Well, I’m obviously missing something”, I discerned.

The next morning I woke up early, made myself some coffee and got to work in the 5×5 space of the house where we received a wi-fi signal. 3G. It took a while, but I was able to learn about this ancient dish through google and google translate. “Not bread at all!” I happily discovered. “Of course!”.

It made sense.

Testaroli is, most specifically. from the Lunigiana territory of Italy.

Lunigiana today falls within the provinces of Massa Carrara, Tuscany, and La Spezia, Liguria.

My pasta instructor in Florence told me that you might not even find “testaroli” in Florence. “It’s more from the mountain regions”. He seemed pleased that I had heard of it. It is, indeed, a specific local specialty.

I felt like Indiana Jones.

So anyway, please watch the video to learn how to prepare testaroli. If you do go to Tuscany and you see a “tortilla”, you’ll know what it actually is. And maybe you will prepare it for yourself, your friends, your family. It’s truly a special Tuscan “fast food” and it’s perfectly made in the sparse kitchen of an airbnb. It’s memorable, authentic and you’ll be proud to have made something “off-the-beaten-path”.

Thanks so much for being here,

Shannon Vavich