Every year during wintertime, San Giovanni Valdarno celebrates one of its most famous traditional dishes: stufato, a specific type of local stew. Between the months of January and February, the town organizes a culinary competition, the Palio dello Stufato alla Sangiovannese.
Stufato is prepared according to the original recipe, which dates back to the beginning of 20th century. The principal ingredient is the anterior leg muscle of a calf; cooking must be done in an aluminum or earthenware saucepan and everything must be stirred with a wooden spoon. The flavor is very different from that of the common meat stew. During the cooking process, various ingredients are used, including nutmeg, calf bones, red wine and lemon rind.
The Palio was created to keep this local flavor alive; to do that, the finest rendition of this homemade dish wins recognition. Any San Giovanni Valdarno residents can take part in the competition; audiences can enjoy the lunch afterwards that offers a chance to sample the various competing stews.
Recently, a new event was added to the festivities program: the Palio dei Quartieri, during which the various rioni (historic districts) of the city (Bani, Calambrone, Centro Storico, Fornaci, Gruccia, Oltrarno, Ponte alle Forche/Forcellino) face off in a battle to see which neighborhood “stufataro” (stewmaker) can prepare the tastiest dish.
Two juries are in charge of deciding the victors. One side is technical, made up of chefs, journalists, bloggers and institutions, and another is the “popular vote” submitted by the residents in attendance.