Fresh from the vine

Pate’ toscano in pancetta

Rachel Priestley
October 10, 2013

I love this time of the year: the autumnal colours intensify as the evenings begin their shorter fall into dusk. The shades become stronger just before nightfall, and we see more of that amazingly intense hue of the sky, il cielo azzurro, that powerful blue the heavens offer around sunset, and which I have seen in only a few other parts of the world, where it appears briefly. But in Tuscany that moment of magic can linger for almost half an hour, especially at this time of the year.


The colours of autumn are vivid in the vines: the foliage of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon grapes are my favourites. I love to pick some of these freshly coloured leaves before they fall to the ground, taking them home to cook with, along with a bunch or two of uva if I am lucky enough to find some grapes missed in the harvest. These late grapes are filled with more sunshine, less moisture and more intensified sugars than earlier in the season, sweetening the thought of wintry chills yet to come and perfect to serve with my recipe for this month: patè toscano in pancetta, chicken liver pâtè wrapped in pancetta, which is in turn wrapped in grape vine leaves.


Everyone has his or her own take on traditional Tuscan recipes, and I would like to share my take on this treat with you for this season of mellow fruitfulness.


This dish may sound complicated, but it is in fact easy as well as delicious. It is a more simple, modern take on an age-old Tuscan specialty of crostini toscani. I use the vine leaves and pancetta from traditional Italian cuisine to make something Tuscan a little bit more special.


Buon appetito!





Patè toscano in pancetta (serves 6 as a starter)




400g chicken livers

130g white onion

50 ml extra-virgin olive oil

50ml vin santo (or sweet sherry)

30ml brandy

salt and pepper to taste

100g butter

1 bunch of grapes

sliced strips of pancetta

grape vine leaves





Remove the skins from the onions, cut in half, finely dice and set aside.


Trim the chicken livers, removing all the fine membrane covering the liver and the white cord. Leave the livers in halves or in large pieces after having prepared them.


Place a large pot of water on to boil; add salt. When at a rolling boil, add the livers. After just two minutes of cooking remove the livers from the pot with a slotted spoon, place in a colander and cool with running water. Let drain, saving a cup of the cooking water for later. Set aside half of the livers, with the other half cut into cubes of around 2cm.


Chop up the white onion and sauté in the oil until transparent. Add half of the grapes and the whole livers. After about three minutes, flame with the brandy.


Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, including the cubes of cooked liver, simmer for another two minutes, adding the cup of water the livers were cooked in and some cracked pepper.


Remove from the heat and bring to room temperature before adding the butter. The whole pâtè mixture should, by now, be fairly amalgamated with lovely chunks of liver running through it.

Blanch the grape leaves in boiling, salted water for no more than 60 seconds. Remove and drain on clean cloths. Meanwhile, remove the rind from some flat pancetta and slice thinly, laying out overlapping slices into each vine leaf. Fill each leaf with about 50g of pâtè, roll up from all sides into the middle and stitch-close with toothpicks.


Wrap each one tightly in cling film and refrigerate overnight. Remove the cling film and toothpicks and slice each one in half with a hot knife.


Take on an autumnal picnic or serve at the table with sweet, late-harvest grapes and chunks of fettunta—toasted Tuscan bread drenched with the new season’s olive oil.



Wine Match


A good wine match is a decent Chianti Classico with a bit of sapidity and savoury notes to balance with the sweetness of the chicken liver, butter and pancetta in the pâtè. My favourite is the Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria from the wine-making region of Gaiole, near Siena. The vineyard is also worth a visit, where they offer wine and olive oil tastings if you can manage the last 200 metres of steep descent to arrive at their property. They also have accommodation surrounded by their grapevines and a swimming pool encircled by forests filled with wild boar. Not quite the season yet, but a good time to start thinking...

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