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Cucina Povera: The Italian Way of Transforming Humble Ingredients into Unforgettable Meals

April 4, 2023

The Italians call it l’arte dell’arrangiarsi, or the “art of making do with what you’ve got.” This centuries-old approach to ingredients and techniques, known as cucina povera, or peasant cooking, reveals the soul of Italian food at its best. It starts with the humblest components—beans and lentils, inexpensive fish and cuts of meat, vegetables from the garden, rice, pasta, leftovers—and through the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the cook, results in unforgettably delicious and satisfying meals.

In 100 recipes, Cucina Povera celebrates the best of this tradition, from the author’s favorite, pappa al pomodoro (aka leftover bread and tomato soup), to Florentine Beef Stew, Nettle and Ricotta Gnudi, and Sicilian Watermelon Pudding.
Soul satisfying, super healthy, budget-friendly, and easy to make, it’s exactly how so many of us want to eat today.

Cucina povera dishes are immediately recognizable: the use of humble ingredients, seasonal vegetables, and simple cooking techniques, plus a healthy dose of inventiveness. Cooking this way transforms ingredients into hearty meals that are more than the sum of their parts.
– Giulia Scarpaleggia

Buy it online or at your local bookstore

The book is available everywhere books are sold. See the links below for where to find it near you!

Book Events & Talks

Gather your friends and foodie enthusiasts and join us for an unforgettable culinary experience. Taste the flavors, learn the techniques, and discover the soul of Cucina Povera at our book talks & events.

  • Thursday, April 13th – Zoom Webinar with I am Books Boston. Join us in a conversation about the use of humble ingredients, seasonal vegetables, and simple cooking techniques. Register here.
  • Sunday, April 16thLIVE TALK open to everyone, a virtual book launch and party to celebrate Cucina Povera. Reserved to the Letters from Tuscany subscribers. Join our newsletter here, and keep your eyes peeled for the link to join the event. If you have already received Cucina Povera, cook or bake your favourite recipe and join the fun online.
  • Friday, April 21, 2023CUCINA POVERA: The Art of Making Do With What You’ve Got – Online event with MoFad New York and Kitchen Arts and Letters. A conversation with Regula Ysewijn. Purchase tickets here.
  • Sunday, April 23, 2023 – Italy Off the Beaten Path with Giulia Scarpaleggia, hosted by Milk Street Live Online Cooking School. Purchase tickets here. Use CUCINA to have a 15% discount.

Discover more about the book

Ahead of publication day, join us for a sneak peek into the 2-year journey behind the creation of “Cucina Povera.” Our newsletter shares behind-the-scenes stories and provides an in-depth look at the writing and photography process.

Editorial Reviews

As a home cook that likes to stretch every ingredient as far as possible, Giulia Scarpaleggia’s Cucina Povera has become a favorite in my household.” – Food & Wine | The Best Spring Cookbooks for 2023

Ms. Scarpaleggia’s “waste-not” approach and pristine recipes lead to dynamite Italian flavors.” – Wall Street Journal | Spring 2023 5 Best Cookbooks

This book is an invaluable cultural guide and history lesson in the foundations of Italian cooking that enthusiasts will not want to miss.” – Booklist

I thought a lot before writing the next sentence: I don’t think that, in the coming months, you’ll get a more useful cookbook than this. Giulia’s Cucina Povera is actually an authentic picture of the Italian classic cuisine that we – people in our 40s – remember from our grandmas or mothers” – Secret Breakfast Newsletter

For resourceful home cooks who prefer a farm-to-table approach and Italian flair, this book is a must.” – Publishers Weekly

“Giulia transports the reader through her native Tuscany and beyond with elegantly simple dishes.” – Katie Parla, author of Food of the Italian Islands

Cucina Povera invites you into the heart of Italian home cooking with open arms, and reminds you that good food is—and always has been—simple, sustainable, and cheap. Giulia’s writing is as beautiful and warm as the dishes she makes; this book is an essential resource for any Italian-food lover, but it’ll also make you want to run to the kitchen and cook.” – Meryl Feinstein, founder of Pasta Social Club

Italian cooks are known for their ability to turn humble ingredients into delicious food. But in the hands (and kitchen) of Tuscan food writer Giulia Scarpaleggia, the art of la cucina povera shines with new allure. Giulia’s deep knowledge of and respect for her native country’s culinary traditions come through in every recipe of this beautifully photographed book.” – Domenica Marchetti, author of Preserving Italy

I rarely open a cookbook and want to make several recipes immediately. But it happened! Here is a creative yet practical book with stunning photos. The produce-forward dishes remind me of Cal-Ital cooking in upscale restaurants, yet the ingredients are humble. It’s a cookbook worth adding to your stack.” – Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food

If you’re looking for simple and affordable Italian classics, don’t sleep on this one—you’ll find everything from cover-star pici cacio e pepe to orecchiette with broccoli rabe and, a highlight of last fall in my kitchen, roasted squash risotto.” – the spring ’23 cookbooks on my wish list by Pasta Social Club

This book shows you inventive ways to roll one meal into the next and never waste a scrap of food.” – Susan Spungen on Susanality

Her latest cookbook, “Cucina Povera: The Italian Way of Transforming Humble Ingredients into Unforgettable Meals,” is full of inviting writing, interesting little history lessons and plenty of tips to make the most of those simple ingredients. Of course, there are also 100 recipes accompanied by beautiful photographs from Tommaso Galli, Scarpaleggia’s husband.” – Mims Copeland on Oregon Live


  • Spaghetti Frittata (Frittata di spaghetti) on The Splendid Table
  • Tomato Bread Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro) on Graza
  • Rice and Pea Soup (Risi e bisi) on Susanality
  • Cheese-and-Egg Balls Stewed in Tomato Sauce (Pallotte cacio e ova) on Wordloaf
  • Sicilian Almond-Milk Pudding (Biancomangiare di latte di mandorla) on Oregon Live

Stay Hungry with our Newsletter!

Letters from Tuscany is an anchor to Italy, to the Italian table and our loud conviviality, a reason to experiment with less known ingredients, and the voice of a friend in the kitchen.

Letters From Tuscany is our own independent publication: we test, photograph, and write each recipe just for you. It is a way of sharing great content, recipes that we like, created to inspire you, to bring a little taste of Italy to your kitchen, for you and your family.

Other previously published cookbooks

My love for cooking and the curiosity for traditional family recipes led me to write my first cookbook, Le ricette di mia nonna – My grandma’s recipes, a cookery book in Italian and in English on the food we daily eat at home.
In 2012 Food Editore published my second cookbook, I love Toscana, which has been translated in English, Dutch, Polish, and Taiwanese Mandarin. Two more cookbooks followed I love Toscana: in 2014 Cucina da chef con ingredienti low cost, published with BUR, and in 2015 Cucina naturale: Frutta, published with Gribaudo.
My fifth cookbook, La Cucina dei Mercati in Toscana, was published with Guido Tommasi Editore on February 2017. The English version, From the Markets of Tuscany: A cookbook, followed in 2018.

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