La cucina povera refers to a traditional Italian home-based cuisine, mainly based mainly vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains. The term literally means poor or peasant cuisine.
In the southern regions of Italy meat was traditionally expensive and scarce, and therefore eaten only occasionally. While cheeses were more common, the production and consumption of dairy products in general was limited by climatic and geographic factors. Butter was traditionally rare in southern Italy, and given the abundance of olive oil in the region it is not surprising that oil was normally used in place of butter in most types of cooking. In practical terms then, authentic cucina povera dishes are frequently vegetarian or vegan without really trying.
The southern Italian region of Puglia is a horticultural region famous for its abundance of fresh food. Plenty of sun, fertile soil and a mostly flat landscape make it ideal for growing fruit and vegetables. Local and seasonal aren’t just fashionable buzzwords in Puglia, they are simply the way things are done! With over 60 million olive trees, Puglia ranks number one in the production of olive oil in Italy and produces 23% of all olive oil in Europe. It ranks number two in Italy in almond production, and is typically among the top three regions in wine production.
Puglia is home to an authentic mediterranean cuisine emphasising fresh vegetables, legumes, pasta, seafood, mozzarella cheese and olive oil. With a coastline of some 800 km, seafood is also naturally prominent in many Pugliese dishes, but vegetables and legumes remain the cornerstone of daily cuisine. Simple, wholesome and delicious, la cucina povera is a rich culinary and cultural tradition characterized by the prominence given to fresh local ingredients, with most dishes aiming to preserve and enhance the original flavours and aromas of those ingredients.