The menu of a sagra
Let's now analyze the menu of a real sagra. We've chosen the Wild boar festival (Sagra del cinghiale) of Monteloro, a small hamlet in the municipality of Pontassieve, in the province of Florence.
Wild boar in Tuscany is often the basic ingredient in a sauce for a first course pasta dish. Or a second course dish, cooked for a long time in a pot, with recipes which vary depending on the area. Here in Monteloro you have three different kinds of pasta with the same wild boar sauce.
You may know "tagliatelle", which are popular and rather famous outside Italy, too. While the origin of tagliatelle isn't Tuscan, this kind of pasta was prepared in Tuscany too. It was one of the pasta first course traditionally made by Tuscan people. Tagliatelle's origin is the near Emilia Romagna region, which share a very long border with Tuscany. While Emilian cuisine it's very different from Tuscan, relationship between this two regions were historically deep, and so it's not too strange to find "tagliatelle" inside Tuscan traditional cuisine.
Tuscany never had many pasta dishes, as soups and bread based first courses (like pappa col pomodoro for instance) took most of the place in Tuscan tables, since many centuries. Not having many pasta tradition here, is another of the reasons why we just borrowed one of the many celebrated pasta created by Emilians, the tagliatelle.
Here in Tuscany tagliatelle were seasoned with sauce based on game ingredient, as hare and wild boar, or way more usually rabbit. Wild boars proliferated hugely in recent years, and that's the reason why many wild boar sagras happily developed quite everywhere inside the region!
The second pasta type you can have as first course in this menu is "tortelli di patate", which is traditionally made in Mugello valley and in all areas northern and eastern to Florence, from Arezzo to Prato mountains. Infact Monteloro is located in these high hills and mountains belt, at 400 meters level. In these areas, many sagras are dedicated to this delight throughout the whole year, and it's clearly the most local and typical dish you have in the Monteloro sagra's menu.
Notice that the third pasta choice in the menu, the "penne", actually is a Southern Italy kind of pasta and is not traditional of Tuscany. As already mentioned, Tuscan first courses were usually soups but in the last 50 years pastas like penne, spaghetti or lasagne become popular among Tuscan too, and so it can be found also penne in a traditional sagra menu like this in Monteloro.
Choosing one of these three first courses, tagliatelle, tortelli or penne, depends on personal preferences, and sure wild boar sauce is absolutely fabulous with penne too. However, we suggest you rather choose tagliatelle or tortelli which come from the local tradition, since at a sagra it absolutely makes more sense to taste a dish coming straight from the tradition and prepared like it was back in the old times there in Monteloro.
It's also true that wild boar dishes, while traditional, were once less frequent, because wild boars were way fewer than today. The meat sauce eaten with pasta first course was veal or cow ragout which you have here in the Monteloro's menu too, as an alternative to wild boar ragout - tagliatelle al ragù, tortelli di patate al ragù, penne al ragù.
You also have some less demanding first courses: like for example "penne al pomodoro", penne with tomato sauce, a recipe coming from Naples. Another one is a classical tuscan soup, the "zuppa di farro", emmer wheat soup, that is a typical peasant dish coming from Lucca area. These two "quieter" first courses can be a good idea because the second courses in the menu are all with meat.
As a rule in Tuscan cuisine, the main dish is a second course and that's one of the reasons Tuscans once preferred to start the important lunches or dinner with a soup rather than with a pasta dish which is logically more filling.
Here in Monteloro, you have some of the "heavyweights" of our local tradition! In prominence in the menu, you have the "cinghiale in umido", wild boar stew. Second course game dishes were very popular also because Tuscan peasants were hunters, and during the hunting season meat was very appreciated. Since this is a wild boar sagra, the wild boar second course is then the most "important" dish in the sagra! If you appreciate wild boar, this dish should not be missed.
The grilled T-bone steak, "bistecca di manzo alla griglia", is also a favorite of Tuscan cuisine, very popular and widely known. In Florence city itself there are many restaurants where you can have this wonderful dish. Infact in Italian, it's also known as bistecca alla fiorentina or simply fiorentina.
In Monteloro menu there is another classical of Tuscan cuisine, the "rosticciana". Known also as rostinciana or, in southern Tuscany, costoleccio, it's another ultimate dish of summer sagras and festivals, ubiquitous because of its huge popularity among Tuscans. So, you have spoiled for choice!
To this great classicals, the menu adds some other kinds of grilled meat: "bistecca di maiale alla griglia", pork steak, "pollo alla griglia", grilled chicken, and sausages, generally loved by everyone!
In Italy side dishes are usually called contorni. With this meat triumph, side dishes are a simple salad, "insalata", and French fries, "patate fritte".
The desserts are not specified in the menu. The question is, how can you have a little of space for something else after these ponderous first and second courses?