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A Tuscan panino for the Giro, the cycling Tour of Italy

It would come when the days were getting longer, when I could finally wear a sleeveless t-shirt under my school smock, when you could anticipate the lighthearted spirit of the upcoming summer vacations in the late afternoon bike rides.

As I was working on the last of my homework, I could hear the television in the living room broadcasting the commentary of the stages of the Giro d’Italia.

Nonno Biagio was a fan. He wasn’t a sportsman, he never followed soccer, but he wouldn’t miss a Formula One Grand Prix, or a stage of the Giro d’Italia.

Every now and then, while I was having an afternoon snack – probably bread and jam, or maybe a prosciutto panino – I would sit on the sofa armrest right next to him, and watch those fast bicycles sliding away on the TV screen. When the Grand Tour of Italy was on TV,  it meant summer was close. It was a fun way to brush up on the geography of the Bel Paese, the muffled sound of a commentary coming from the next room, while everything in the house was quiet.

Today the Giro d’Italia has the heroic flavour of a competition that mingles with the people, the dust of the provincial roads, the fatigue of the hairpin bends, and the descents’ thrill. It is in the voice of the songwriters, in the joy of the cities hosting a stage,  bigger and smaller towns that for one day rise to the forefront of the spotlight.

merenda toscana

Today the Giro d’Italia, one of the most important cycling stage races in the world, makes a stop in Siena. For the occasion, Raspini Salumi asked me to share a typical afternoon snack from my region.

This, combined with the Giro d’Italia, was an unmissable opportunity to go back in time, to make a sandwich that would have pleased the Giulia of many years ago, who listened to the commentary of the Giro d’Italia as if it were the soundtrack of the upcoming summer vacations.

merenda toscana

A Tuscan afternoon snack

A typical Tuscan bread bun, the semelle, then fava beans and pecorino cheese, because May is the month of picnics, and you can’t imagine a Tuscan picnic without a basketful of fresh fava beans and a few slices of fresh, milky pecorino cheese. Add two slices of Raspini Salumi prosciutto cotto, a delicate, high quality cooked ham. To finish, a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil, another ingredient that can be missed in a Tuscan snack.

And now to the recipe, developed in collaboration with Raspini Salumi.

Bread bun with fava bean pesto and cooked ham

A springtime Tuscan afternoon snack, with fava bean pesto, fresh pecorino cheese, and prosciutto cotto, with the scent of mint and lemon.
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Afternoon snack
Cuisine Tuscan
Servings 2 people


  • 100 grams shelled fava beans
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices fresh pecorino cheese
  • 4 slices prosciutto cotto, cooked ham
  • 2 bread buns
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  • Blend the shelled fava beans with olive oil and mint leaves until you have a rustic pesto. Add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
  • Open the bread bun, slather one half with the fava bean pesto, then add a slice of pecorino cheese and two slices of cooked ham.
  • Close the sandwich and eat immediately.
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More Tuscan afternoon snack from the blog archive

  • Bread for merenda. I’ve always had bread in the afternoon: it could be bread rubbed with garlic and a generous dash of freshly pressed olive oil in late Autumn, when the slightly toasted slices were all I needed to warm my hands and made me finish my homework in a rush to enjoy them sitting at the table with my grandma, watching cartoons on tv, with the olive oil dripping everywhere.
  • Zuppa inglese. The pastry custard is also the starting point to make zuppa inglese, literally English soup and basically a trifle, which was made when there was sponge cake or some savoiardi, lady biscuits, an acclaimed afternoon snack, perfect for those days when you needed a boost of energy or an extra cuddle, to be added to the wool blanket on the couch and to grandma’s caresses.

merenda toscana

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