Along with the majority of post-war Italian families, the young Gennaro was raised on a diet harvested on a limited budget. Restricted choice of scarce ingredients meant they learnt the value what they had, how to cook dishes lovingly and use imaginative methods of preservation to make simple dishes go far: including salting, drying and curing.

Cucina povera’ is a simple philosophy – turn delicious affordable ingredients into hearty nourishing feasts. In this inspirational cookbook, Gennaro takes you on a culinary journey of regional basic Italian staples and turns them into beautiful meals. With tips and ideas of what to do with leftovers, Gennaro helps home cooks turn humble ingredients into nourishing feasts without taste sacrifice.

“Cucina povera is the basis from which all our favourite Italian dishes come. It’s the sort of cooking I was brought up on and still cook today.

It originates mainly from rural areas, where meals were created using the limited number of ingredients available – either what people grew or what little they could afford. In doing so, they learnt to value what they had and to lovingly cook dishes to ensure they tasted better, using all their imagination to make dishes go as far as they could.”


With tips and ideas of what to do with leftover, Gennaro’s Cucina squeezes the most from the ‘cucina povera’ ethos’, ensuring that every part of the ingredient, and your budget, is put to good culinary use.

From Sicilian chickpea fritters to lentil soups and bread salads – to more elaborate filled vegetables, delicious ‘poor-man’s’ ricotta dumplings and simple sweet biscotti, this book will transform the way you shop, cook and eat.

Fave e Cicoria

Split broad bean mash with greens

This simple but highly nutritious dish originates from rural Puglia where two main ingredients – fava beans and wild chicory – are widely available. With just the addition of olive oil, garlic and bay leaves for flavour, this dish really symbolizes the best of the old cucina povera and makes a delicious complete meal.

If you can get dandelion or puntarelle from your greengrocer, remember to remove the heart, which you can then use in a salad (see Insalata di Cuore di Cicoria recipe on page 129). Otherwise, you can pick your own wild dandelion leaves or use long-stemmed broccoli instead.


serves 4-6

400g (14oz) dried split broad beans, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water
4 bay leaves
5 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and left whole
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
for drizzling
600g (1lb 5oz) dandelion or puntarelle (gross weight)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Drain and rinse the soaked broad beans. Place them in a saucepan, cover with plenty of fresh cold water, add the bay leaves and three garlic cloves, then bring to the boil and cook, partially covered, over a medium heat for about 45 minutes, until the beans are cooked through and tender. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaves and garlic, then blend the beans until smooth using a handheld stick blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Remove the leaves from the dandelion (and the heart if using puntarelle) and save the roots to make a salad (see recipe intro). Take the leaves and blanch them in a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes until tender. Drain well.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the remaining two garlic cloves and sweat for a minute. Add the greens and stir-fry over a medium-to-high heat for 2–3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat through the blended beans mixture, remove the whole garlic gloves and then serve with the greens, drizzled with a little olive oil.