ITALIAN recipes always have truly fascinating stories explaining how they came to be.

They can go back thousands of years, often linking with historical events or religious tales, and many of these recipes are still so frequently used today - often without change.

Over the years, throughout different periods in history, different wars, different financial climates, cucina povera recipes have always been common.

Translating as ‘poor cooking’ or ‘poor kitchen’ this term covers the ‘peasant food’ culture which has always been apparent in Italy. These days these peasant food recipes are still so widely used because they are low-cost, simple, and usually involve minimal - and readily available - ingredients.

Different dishes will usually be prepared at different times of the year, making the most of seasonal ingredients, and while these dishes may be low-cost to prepare, they are never low quality. The idea was always to save money without compromising flavour, which is probably why so many of these recipes still exist today.

So we know why these recipes are still used to commonly, but how is it that they have stuck around for so long? The answer is simply: families handing down their recipes from generation to generation.

Most families have at least a handful of recipes that have been handed down to them, that will have remained unchanged for generations, although each family can differer on what they do with different recipes.

There is this idea of a traditional Italian mamma, who takes care of everyone, who slaves away over a hot stove all day, lovingly putting hours and hours of work into each dish. If you grew up with a traditional Italian mamma then not only will she have raised you well, but she will have sent you off into adult life with a handful of recipes too.

Here in the UK this month we will be celebrating Mother’s Day and, whether you mum has armed you with a recipe book to get you through life or not, mums should always be celebrated for everything they do, and what better way to spoil your mum than by cooking her a delicious Italian dinner?

Not only are cucina povera recipes low-cost, but they’re often quite simple dishes to prepare too, so if you are not usually one for spending hours in the kitchen, these types of recipes might be ones you can get on board with, executing perfectly to celebrate one of the most important women in your life. Of course, you can make these for anyone - for your family, for your friends, or even just for yourself.

The cucina povera recipe I am sharing with you is for Pasta e Fagioli - which is simply pasta with beans, a dish that is quick and easy, inexpensive, nutritious and popular with adults and kids alike. The recipe can be altered to be vegetarian or vegan friendly by using vegetable stock and vegetarian cheese, or no cheese at all.

You can also fry up and throw in Italian sausage to give it a little something extra. It is a simple Italian dish but an authentic one, and really easy to knock together for your loved ones, so why not give it a try for yourself?

Pasta e Fagioli


2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed


Freshly ground black pepper

2 400g cans cannellini beans 

1 400g can chopped tomatoes

1l chicken/vegetable stock  

2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped

150g any small tube-shaped pasta

Freshly grated Parmesan

Freshly chopped parsley


1. Take a large, deep pan, add the oil and place on the hob over a medium heat. Finely chop the onion, peel and finely chop the carrots, and finely chop the celery. Add all of these ingredients to the pan, once the oil is hot, and cook until everything softens slightly. This should take around five minutes.

2. To chop your clove of garlic, peel away the skin, crush with the flat side of a knife and then chop the garlic horizontally and then vertically until it is in small pieces. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant. Season the contents of the pan with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3. Next, add the beans to the pan, including their liquid. Add the chopped tomatoes and the chicken/vegetable stock, depending on your preference. Finally add the finely chopped rosemary to the pan before bringing the contents to the boil.

4. Once it is boiling stir in the pasta (any small pasta is fine but small tube-shaped pasta works best). Reduce the heat to a medium temperature and cook for around eight minutes if you like your pasta al dente, or leave for a little longer if you prefer your pasta softer. Keep an eye on it, testing it for your desired texture. Tasting will allow you to check that your pasta is cooked the way you like it, and if it is seasoned enough. If required add more salt and freshly ground black pepper.

5. To serve your pasta spoon into bowls. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan (or a vegetarian friendly cheese if you prefer) and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve immediately.