Food for Thought: Cucina Povera

It may be one of the most overused words in the food world but Italian ‘peasant’ food or cucina povera, as it is affectionately referred to in Italian, was the inspiration for many of the dishes we know today.

Cucina Povera was a cuisine born out of hunger, poverty and the reality of a post-war Italy. Produce was homegrown and pantry staples were a result of preserving, often with neighbouring families. Dishes, although simple, were packed full of flavour and texture while still being created from a humble amount of ingredients. The shortage of milk and cheese manufacturing resulted in the creation of ‘poor man’s parmesan’, a crunchy and delicious take on breadcrumbs. Heat a large glug of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan with a smashed garlic clove; add a large handful of breadcrumbs and a sprinkling of chilli flakes if desired. Stir until golden brown; remove the garlic and set-aside until required. Pangritata is best when served sprinkled over the top of your favourite pasta dish but is particularly fantastic on Spaghetti Aglio Olio. It’s pretty hard to beat a double-carb dish in my opinion and the Italians have the concept mastered. One of my favorites has to be Pasta alla Genovese; this combination of potato and pasta is made even more enticing by the fact it is made in the one pot. Finely-diced potatoes are first to enter a pot of salted water on a rolling boil, followed by a packet of dried spaghetti and lastly a handful of fresh green beans; all cooked until al dente. Once drained, a large spoonful of basil pesto brings it all together. Serve immediately with freshly-grated Parmesan. Beans and pasta are another classic combination of the Italian countryside. Think Minestrone soup or one of my favorites Pasta e Fagioli. The magic lies in the size of the beans and pasta being relatively the same, allowing every mouthful to capture the difference in texture between the two. Although Italian food and culture have developed over time, the foundations of their cookery stays true to its foundation. Last month, I ate at a restaurant in Reggio Emilia that hadn’t changed the menu in three generations. When the food has so much history, significance and tastes so incredible – why would you? Here our some of my favorite spots in Adelaide to get good quality, bronze extruded pasta. Imma & Mario’s Mercato 625/627 Lower North East Road, Campbelltown mercato.com.au Marino Meat & Food Store Adelaide Central Market, 52 Gouger Street marinomeats.com.au

Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli            

This is a super quick and easy version; you can make it thicker by blitzing half of the beans. The addition of pancetta or guanciale will instantly boost the flavour.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tin cannellini beans
  • 750ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 450ml tomato passata
  • Red chilli flakes
  • 150g baby shell pasta
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Parmigiano Reggiano

Method

1. Heat a large glug of olive oil in a saucepan. 2. Add the onion and cook until translucent, followed by the garlic. Cook until fragrant. 3. Add the beans, stock, tomato passata and a desired amount of chili flakes. 4. Bring to the boil before and simmer for 10 minutes. 5. Add the pasta and cook until pasta is al dente. 6. Remove from the heat, season to taste and stir through a large handful of basil leaves before serving. 7. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and extra chilli flakes for those who like it hot.   @annabelleats

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