Cucina Povera

Cucina povera, or “poverty cuisine,” is “the natural fallout of the poor status of … many Italian families after the first world war until the end of the second world war and beyond,” says vidanto. It means “to use every ingredient coming from the garden (tomato, garlic, onion, zucchini, pepper), from the barnyard (rabbit, chicken, pork, duck), from the woods (wild asparagus, mushrooms, chestnuts), from the sea (anchovies), from the flour mill (bread, pizza, piada, pasta).” And dishes are prepared to minimize waste and maximize the use of leftovers. Ribollita, a hearty dish of leftover minestrone boiled with dry bread, exemplifies this tradition.

Cucina povera dishes are “the products of mean necessity and a poverty of ingredients,” says summerUWS2008. Clam dishes are often described on menus in Italy as vongole verace, meaning “true clams,” says summerUWS2008. This distinction is necessary because there’s also an Italian dish called vongole finte, meaning “fake clams,” that substitutes potato slices for clams. “The delicious pastas tossed in breadcrumbs and not much else fall into the category of cucina povera, as do chestnut pastas, farro soups, and plain pies made of ground chickpeas (‘farinata’) that really have almost nothing in them except the starch,” says summerUWS2008.

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