The Mediterranean Lifestyle - English
CUCINA POVERA RICH FLAVORS
One of my favourite things about Italian cuisine is that ‘cucina povera’ (meaning poor cooking or cuisine) is the basis of many dishes. There is a focus on simplicity; although many dishes are made with few ingredients, the ingredients are in season, good quality, and full of flavor. Cucina povera was dictated by the limited number of ingredients that were historically available in poorer Italian regions such as Puglia, where the focus of many dishes was, and still is, grains and vegetables that could be locally grown.
Puglia, or Apulia, which is the region situated in the ‘heel’ of the boot of Italy, has been described as the Garden of Italy; it has a deep farming heritage, and today, produces around 40% of Italy’s olive oil. It is also home to some of Italy’s, most beautiful coastlines – the shimmering blue seas are mesmerizing. For this reason, seafood features quite heavily in the region’s cuisine. These recipes fuse the land and the sea to celebrate the simple but delicious flavors of Puglia. I hope they transport you to this beautiful region.
I visited Puglia in 2015, and I remember trying this dish in a beautiful trattoria in Alberobello, overlooking the iconic white Trulli dwellings, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cime di rapa is a type of edible weed, and is grown in abundance in this region. It has a unique, slightly bitter flavor, which balances well with the salty anchovies. Orecchiette, a Puglian pasta which literally means ‘little ears’, shows the resourcefulness of cucina povera; they are made only with water and flour, not eggs. For me, this dish is the epitome of cucina povera, and a wonderful example of making the most with what is available.