Cucina Povera

I ordered this book myself while we were still in Umbria, and then the author Pamela Sheldon Johns had her publisher send me a copy to review as well. I brought one copy back to the US with me earlier this month, but just haven’t had time to write a review of this book until now. Although I have yet to meet Pamela in person, we have “met” through FaceBook and Twitter and I have followed the progress of this latest book over the past year. When I first learned that the book was to be called Cucina Povera, I knew I would like it immediately, as I have over the years developed a fondness for Italian country peasant cooking. Perhaps it is the fact that I live in a farmhouse in the Umbrian countryside for six months of every year, but I have learned to truly appreciate simple, Italian home cooking. The book includes 60 Tuscan peasant inspired recipes recipes, and as the introduction states, “This book is more than a collection of recipes of “good food for hard times”. Cucina Povera is a philosophy of not wasting anything edible and using techniques to make every bite as tasty as possible.”

I have learned of a number of similar recipes from my Mother-In-Law who lived in Italy during the war when ingredients were scarce, and have always been amazed how a handful of basic ingredients can be turned into a hearty, nourishing, and most importantly, delicious meal. The introduction to the book gives you a good feel for Tuscan peasant cooking before you delve into the recipes which all look delicious. I was not surprised to see that many of the recipes included in the book are ones I prepare myself since I have learned to embrace Umbrian cuisine and Umbria sits directly next to Tuscany in central Italy. One of the recent recipes I made recently and thoroughly enjoyed, was Farinata Toscana, a hearty soup that is thickened with cornmeal and served over toasted bread.

Pamela has written yet another important book which both teaches us the importance of cucina povera to today’s Italian recipes, as well as sharing some of the history of how Tuscan peasant cooking developed. The recipes are just the type I make myself every day in my own Umbrian inspired kitchen, and I think anyone that appreciates simple, Italian country cooking will love this book.

Review from – Italian cookbook authority Pamela Sheldon Johns presents more than 60 peasant-inspired dishes from the heart of Tuscany inside Cucina Povera. Budget-conscious dishes utilizing local and seasonal fruits and vegetables create everything from savory pasta sauces, crusty breads and slow-roasted meats to flavorful vegetable accompaniments and end-of-meal sweets. The recipes inside Cucina Povera have been collected during the more than 20 years Johns has spent in Tuscany. Dishes such as Ribollita (Bread Soup), Pollo Arrosto al Vin Santo (Chicken with Vin Santo Sauce), and Ciambellone (Tuscan Ring Cake) are adapted from the recipes of Johns’ neighbors, friends, and local Italian food producers. Lavish color and black-and-white photographs mingle with Johns’ recipes and personal reflections to share an authentic interpretation of rustic Italian cooking inside Cucina Povera.

If you are interested in buying Cucina Povera by Pamela Sheldon Johns, you can find it at by clicking the book below.

Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking

Deborah Mele
November 2011

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