Cucina Povera or ‘Poor Cooking’ is a term often referred to the rural cooking of Italy. Rather than being an insult, it is a strength. The ingenuity of not wasting any food, eating from root to shoot, has meant that Italy provides us with a wealth of dishes.
Nonna Maria was an artist. Her canvas the kitchen table, her pallet the array of food, her talent the creation of flavours. Nonna’s used her negotiation skills during WW2, exchanging some of her 9 rationed eggs for a bag of flour with her neighbours.
This is a more elaborate version of bruschetta, which is made from ‘just-about-to-go-stale’ bread. She made bruschetta for when we woke up from our siesta; with fresh tomatoes, olive oil and fresh basil. This recipe can be used as a starter or a nibble.
1 ciabatta loaf * 4 garlic cloves, crushed * 2 tbsp softened butter * 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped * 4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped * 1 tbsp tomato purée * 8 stoned black olives, sliced * 1 tbsp olive oil * 2 tsp lemon juice * 1 tsp balsamic vinegar * 55g (2oz) mozzarella cheese, sliced into eight pieces * salt & freshly ground pepper * fresh basil, pick out the tiny leaves
Slice the ciabatta loaf to give eight pieces. Lightly toast each side under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes. Mix the garlic, butter and chopped basil together and spread on the lightly toasted side. Mix the tomatoes, the tomato puree and olives, then divide between the eight slices. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar together and drizzle over each slice. Place a mozzarella slice on top of each and season. Return to the hot grill for a further 1-2 minutes until the cheese has melted. Sprinkle the baby basil leaves over the top and serve.
I have collated all my favourite recipes into one book FOOD FOR ALL OCCASIONS.
This recipe comes from the section THE ITALIAN JOB, a selection of authentic Italian recipes.