Cucina Povera Weekend (February 2023)
Friday 10th February-Monday 13th February 2023
In all my years living in rural Italy (over 30 now!) the best food I have eaten has always been what in culinary literature is known as ‘Cucina Povera’ - ‘poor’ cooking. The adjective is certainly misleading as it refers to something currently recognised as good and wholesome. It has become very expensive in restaurants all over the world! Not ‘poor’ at all but plain, simple, seasonal, salubrious and unpretentious in its essence. The irony is that Cucina ‘Povera’ has become the fashionable, expensive ‘cucina’ internationally and considered the best for your health as it constitutes the famous Mediterranean diet.
Cucina Povera is really about using things from the land you have around you with care and respect, never wasting anything – so ‘povera ma buona’. Frugal but delicious, healthy and in modern terms sustainable. Yes - we will use the famous ‘cucina economica’ which (see below) is like an Italian Aga – a wood burning stove used to warm the home and guess what! you use the same heat to cook the meal and vice versa! A good example of rural intelligence. Maybe we will even cook on the fire or braziers.
‘Cucina Povera’ is the style of food that now we have come to recognise as ‘Italian’ rather than the ‘Cucina Ricca’ once prepared for the nobles. Coming from ostentatious courts – like the Medici’s in Florence – the ‘Ricca’ version was exported to France by Catherine de Medici when she married the French King Henry II. A branch of was absorbed into what we now recognise as ‘French’ cuisine. She apparently also introduced the fork to France!
When doing some research into the difference between the Povera and Ricca kitchen, it appears that the basic recipes often have the same origin but gradually more and more expensive ingredients get added in parallel with increase in wealth, trade activity, prestige and the desire to indicate status and being ‘Ricca’. As always to put on a fancy show – ‘La Bella Figura’. Same old story. Showing off.
‘Cucina Povera’ was passed down and developed by women who ran household supplies and the pantries, women responsible for the rationing, preserving and preparation of food for survival of the family and friends. There was always pride and esteem in the community for the woman of the house’s secret recipes. It was how you could sustain your kindred so they could flourish, work, provide, get married and increase. A matter of pride and accomplishment. Who makes the best tortelli or pumpkin pickle? Still much of an argument in many villages but it was intrinsically about good nutrition and the sensible use of your natural resources.
As we often get this type of cooking filtered through non-locals or ‘chefs’ in less modest forms, I thought it would be interesting and quite frankly just a lot of fun to pay tribute to the manifold generations of women who have created an extraordinary and ancient tradition. This weekend would be a hand’s- on, pile-into-the-kitchen cooking jamboree. In this day and age, we have many things to learn from common sense thrift and skill. (The brilliant Pasta Grannies series gets a big hats off from me as this expertise definitely needs passing on, celebrating and documenting.)
Daniela is the mother of our cheese-maker/shepherd Emiliano at Caseificio Murceti and
makes the tortelli and biscotti we have as a main staple at the castle. She is a treasure house of local knowledge
Luisa is the wife of Emiliano and is the cheese maker at Caseificio Murceti.
Caseificio Murceti is a sheep farm and cheese dairy located on the Amiata mountain in the
‘middle earth’ between sea and the summit.
They make genuine and traditional cheeses from the milk of the sheep
Pasquale is a cook and friend from Naples
Ervelina is from Albania and knows how to do everything and will be part of the kitchen
Friday 10th February
Wine tasting with Castello di Potentino winemaker Charlotte Horton and introduction
to the castle and its history.
Pasquale will prepare dinner and ‘prep’ in the kitchen – traditional dishes from the South of Italy. Whoever would like can join in and learn.
Saturday 11th February
Daniela and Luisa – local Tuscan food sessions.
There will be the proper preparation of chicken broth and traditional meat ragu sauce.
Followed by a hand’s on demonstration of Pecorino sheep’s cheese making with the fresh milk
from Caseificio Murceti and a cheese tasting lunch.
Daniela and Luisa will show everyone how to make tortelli and pici.
Pasquale will be in the kitchen with prep for Neapolitan sweets and cakes.
Early evening there will be dinner with stracciatella or cecciarelli followed by tortelli with meat sauce, pici pasta and local salami and porchetta. All are invited to participate in the production.
Dinner will be accompanied by The Cardellini del Fontanino (Polyphonic Singers from the
Sunday 12th February
Traditional mountain breakfast prepared by Daniela and Luisa - barley coffee with ricotta and toasted bread and home-made jams
Followed by making of typical Tuscan biscuits.
Then Pasquale will make the timballo and sweets from the south for lunch.
Afternoon will comprise of the dinner preparation with Daniela and Luisa.
Crostini with Cavolo Nero
Crostini with chicken livers
Swiss chard and ricotta soup
Tuscan Agro-Dolce Chicken
There will be some surprise additions for other culinary fun in the kitchen.
If you are in the area and would like to join in for the cooking and meals, you are more than welcome- please contact Charlotte for prices. email@example.com
Board and lodging at Castello di Potentino
All cooking sessions
What's not included
Transfers to and from Potentino (can be booked as an extra)
Prices vary by room choice and number of guests sharing the room.
A single person is € 1275.
Two people sharing a room is € 1050 per person.
Three people sharing a room is €975 per person.
If you would like to pay a deposit
The payment system asks for payment in full. If you would rather pay a non-refundable 25% deposit at the time of booking, please enter the code DEPOSIT25 at checkout. The final payment will be due one month before the start of the course.
If you have any issues booking
Sometimes, it takes a few attempts to clear the cart if you need to make any changes to your room selection etc.
If you have any issues at all, please contact Alexander Greene firstname.lastname@example.org