Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not Cucina Povera

Pasta with artichokes, garlic and celery    

Cucina Povera in its literal translation means "kitchen of the poor" or "simple kitchen".  For me, this means when I have not been to the market, have very few ingredients on hand, but I am hungry and would rather cook than order take out.  These dishes are simple but please don't mistake simple for lacking in flavor.  Upon return from a trip yesterday, I was very hungry and needed to prepare something for my daughter and myself.  In my refrigerator, I had a few stalks of celery which still had some crunch left (barely) and grated Romano cheese.  In the cabinet, I had a can (don't gasp) of quartered artichoke hearts which I find to be a lovely ingredient when time is an issue.  Do I prefer freshly cooked artichokes?  Yes!  But sometimes I am tired and/or lazy and that tin can provides me with my artichoke fix for a Bruschetta or pasta or Frittata.  I also had plenty of fresh garlic and two packages of small amounts of pasta, one Linguini and one Spaghetti.  Often, I only use a half of a box of pasta, and the other half languishes, lonely in the dark for sometimes months.  Somehow, the next time I prepare pasta,  I want another shape or I need the entire box, so I am always giddy when I finally get to use the remaining contents of those boxes.  Normally, I would never mix pasta shapes, but since this was only the two of us, no one was reporting to the Pasta Polizia,  and I was really feeling the "Cucina Povera" vibe,  I threw caution to the wind and combined the two pastas.  The key to a simple dish like this is to pay attention to every step of the cooking process, since there are so few ingredients and make sure your pasta is cooked in abundantly salted water.  An elderly Tuscan woman who first taught me to cook pasta years ago said "the water for the pasta should taste like the sea".  I always hear her voice echoing in my head while preparing pasta!  It makes sense, since salt brings out the flavor in food and the dried pasta soaks up the cooking water....