Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome
FiR 700 x 180 H 1

A guide to the 'poor cuisine' in Tuscany

Simple-yet-hearty dishes have been a staple of Italian cooking since the Middle Ages.

For centuries, farmers and peasants had to learn how to utilize minimal ingredients and food scraps to create dishes that provided sustenance throughout all seasons of the year. This culinary tradition is known as cucina povera, or poor cooking.

Cucina povera dishes have survived in Italy due to their simplicity, nutritiousness, and waste-free nature. The tradition has a particularly large presence in Florence and the region of Tuscany, whose culinary philosophy is “qui non si butta via niente,” or “we throw nothing away here.”

While dishes vary regionally, at their core, they are frugally sourced and prepared, often containing legumes and vegetables. In Tuscany, bread is also a common addition to cucina povera dishes. It is characteristically unsalted due to the cost of salt during the Middle Ages which ultimately made it a versatile ingredient to be used in other dishes.

Today, such dishes can be found in various forms, from traditionally-prepared to elaborately-decorated and Michelin-starred. As both a sustainable and traditional way of cooking, the cucina povera tradition may provide visitors with a unique culinary alternative to Italy’s famed pasta and pizza.

Ribollita

Ribollita

A meat-free, wintertime bread soup, ribollita originated during the Middle Ages. Its name translates to “reboiled,” as its ingredients originally derived from nobles’ leftovers that were altered and reheated by servers and peasants. They would soak stale bread chunks in a soup of kale, potatoes, white beans, carrots, onions, and any other available vegetables to create this dish that would last them for days.

Pappa al pomodoro

Pappa al pomodoro

This dish became a symbol of Italian pop culture after the release of Rita Pavone’s 1965 song “Viva la pappa col pomodoro.” Pappa al pomodoro is another classic of cucina povera in the form of a pappa, which has a texture similar to that of baby food. It is made up of stale bread and a mix of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and basil. Originally from the Siena region of Tuscany, pappa al pomodoro can be found on menus throughout the city of Florence, and it’s best enjoyed alongside a basket of typical Tuscan bread.  

Panzanella

Panzanella

Perhaps the most well-known of the Tuscan cucina povera dishes is panzanella. A refreshing salad made of stale bread, tomatoes, onions, basil, oil, and vinegar, panzanella is particularly popular during the summer months. While its origins are not so clear, the first documentation of a panzanella dish dates back to the 14th century by Renaissance writer Boccaccio. However it came about, the innovative use of stale bread as makeshift croutons is a testament to Tuscany’s no-waste culinary philosophy. 

Lampredotto

Lampredotto

This sandwich, made with meat from the fourth stomach of the cow, is Florentine street food at its best. During the Renaissance, those who couldn’t afford high-quality meat and sh settled for this part of the animal that the nobility would likely put to waste. Served on a roll, the meat is cut into thin slices and is seasoned with a sauce of parsley, garlic, capers, and anchovies. It may not measure up to the sought-out Florentine steak, but it is a more affordable option for those in search of a meat-heavy cucina povera dish.

Castagnaccio

Castagnaccio

With origins in the 16th century in the Tuscan town of Lucca, castagnaccio is a cake made of chestnut our and rosemary, topped with raisins and pine nuts. It was often referred to as “poor man’s bread” and was occasionally used as a substitute for traditional leavened bread. This slightly-sweet dessert acted as an affordable and protein-dense dish, as chestnuts were widely available in the countryside. It is typically enjoyed in autumn, when chestnuts are at their peak, but it can be found year-round.Top Ph: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Ambrit 724 x 450
AOSR H3 1920 x 190
AOSR H3 1920 x 190
AOSR H3 1920 x 190
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
RIS  H5 1400x360