Spring on a Plate. Cucina Povera.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACucina Povera is my kind of cooking.  Historically, as the name suggests, it is the cuisine of the poor, or rather that of the Italian contadini or peasant class, those who relied on their own home grown seasonal produce and preserves stored in the dispensa, but not much else. It also suggests eating what’s on hand- what is available or in season. As Italy is now a very urban society, this style of cooking can be seen, historically, as rural cooking. It becomes cuisine of the wealthy when many different fresh herbs and vegetables are purchased from farmers’ markets to produce a simple Pasta Primavera.

The garden is your best friend: grow food among your flowers, in your front yard, on your balcony, on the nature strip, in containers. Many tasty and nutritious pasta dishes can be thrown together with a handful of wild rocket, herbs or silverbeet (chard). These things grow like weeds. Along with a few staples from the pantry, such as rice, pasta, lentils and dried beans, anchovies and EV olive oil, cucina povera is a few short steps away.

This week’s pasta ingredients are shown in the photo below.  It assumes you have stashed a few little luxuries in the pantry, such as some very good extra virgin olive oil, and a chunk of parmigiano Grano Padano or Reggiano. The other little splurge for today’s pasta recipe is a box of Farro pasta, in this case by Monograno Felicetti. I picked this up at the Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick, and I must say here, that I receive no kickbacks from either of these companies. Substitute any short pasta you have on hand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI picked some lovely leggy broccoli shoots, a small radicchio, young broad beans/fave, a few baby kale leaves, some fresh oregano and a big silverbeet/chard leaf. Some of the greens were shredded, hand torn or plucked. The picture also shows two small chunks of cheese- fetta and parmigiana. Some goats cheese, or tiny nuggets of gorgonzola, would make a good substitute. Again, use what cheese you have. Not shown, but always assumed, are a few cloves of garlic, smashed up, salt, and olive oil. I often melt a few anchovy fillets for flavour, but not this time- I wanted a pure Spring taste.

Pasta Primavera

  1. Into a big open pan goes a generous glug of oil and a few cloves of smashed garlic.  After a quick stir on medium heat, in go the garden pickings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Meanwhile, or even before one plays with the garden greens, a big stockpot of boiling salted water is on the go, then Butta La Pasta, throw in the pasta. I count on 100 grs per adult if the dish is un piatto unico, a one course dish.
  3. Within no time, the leaves wilt and the baby broad beans soften. Time for some salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  4. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the farro spirali pasta is ready, scoop out a little pasta water before draining.
  5.  Add the drained pasta to the cooked vegetables and consider whether to add a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking water to loosen the dish, making a garlicky unctuous sauce. Increase the heat and briefly toss again.  Add lots of ground pepper then crumbled fetta. Feel the creative energy of Spring. Then plate.


Serve with a golden lick of good olive oil and some grated parmesan.

                                                           Spring on a plate.


A little footnote. Today my blog, Almost Italian, turns one. Where did that year go? A big thanks to all my friends, followers, and those who read these posts. I really appreciate your support. It encourages me to continue and to learn. Have a look at my post one year ago– it’s a funny looking thing about artichokes. Francesca



36 thoughts on “Spring on a Plate. Cucina Povera.”

  1. Cucina povera exemplifies what I grew up on and a lot of the meals I feed my children. When my parents were growing up in Southern Italy this was what they ate. Coles “feed your family for under $10” – please! Can feed them for half that on this type of food!


  2. Completely agree – Italian cooking is all about taking whatever is in season, keeping it simple, and making the most of what you’ve got! That’s why it’s always so darn good – you need to get creative to get the most out of limited ingredients, and creativity brings about some really good food!


  3. Congratulations on your milestone… keep up the great work, Francesca. I am Hungarian, not Italian, as you know, but I love the cucina povera style of cooking….


  4. Congrats Francesca on AI reaching 1yr old. Developing an engaging rapport with fellow bloggers like you make blogging an engaging pastime. Thank you.
    Delicious pasta dish. With a transient lifestyle and the absence of a garden I have to source my veg off sight, but it doesn’t stop me from making cucina povera. I am super impressed with Monograno Felicetti pasta.


    1. When I bought that pasta, I thought of you as I am sure it would be GF. And I must say that it is also a pleasure to meet you through these pages. Your cooking style, approach to food and recipes are exceptional. I could happily use your blog as my only cookbook.


  5. Congratulations on your One Year Anniversary! So glad to have found you. Cucina povera would be my favourite style of eating too. I read the post written by Olga and was very moved. Being a migrant myself (and grandchild of an Italian migrant to the USA) it really resonated. I often say a little word of gratitude in my head for being so fortunate to come to Austalia and for being welcomed so warmly. Am taking a blog-break after helping my daughter this morning. We are both very glad I am here. xx


    1. Thanks Ardy and it is so nice to have found you too. I think that you may be the only person who opened the link about my dear friend Olga. Olga had ten children: when her youngest was a baby, and her eldest was 14, her husband Franco, left without trace. Her autobiography explores her life here as a migrant on her own with ten kids and little English. I was fortunate enough to translate that book from Italian to English.
      I didn’t know that you also have Italian in your background Ardys. Its a good thing to have.
      Hope all is going well in Adelaide : your daughter is a lucky girl to have you.


  6. A very happy One-Year Anniversary – may there be many more to come! Am envious of the produce already available in your garden – mine boasts a whole lot of herbs asking to be repotted and rows of pots of tomatoes will a lovely array of opening buds – c’est tout!! Of course follow the cucina povera route also but living semi-rurally kind’of have to use the ruddy duopoly for most supplies 😦 !!


    1. Thanks for the blogaversary wishes.
      I am avoiding the duopoly, but like everyone, I am forced in there on desperate occasions. I like to think of them as centres for toilet paper supplies. A fabulous meal can be made from a handful of herbs, and your tomatoes will be moving along very soon.


  7. Happy first anniversary with many more to come. I really do think that the Italian poor eat better than so many other cultures. They just seem to be so resourceful with so few and often such ordinary ingredients. Yet they turn them into magic xx


  8. Although many generation Australian-born descended from mainly English ancestry (one saving-grace Prussian) I resonate toward simple European heritage cuisine (we’ve mentioned previously my affection for Marlena di Blasi’s books) and thank goodness for multiculturalism… I loved the link to your friend Olga’s letter via the entertaining artcihoke post. I belong also to the tribe of peope who enjoy artichokes, along with my sister but no-one else in the family; it seems to be a random preference selection.
    Happy blogging world birthday 🙂


  9. Congratulations on your blog’s first birthday. Further congratulations on growing, picking and cooking your own produce. This is a delectable dish, very rustic but we have the peasants to thank for such creative, wholesome dishes. Perfect Spring fare 😀


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