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Recipe: Pasta alle Briciole, 'poor man's Parmigiano,' and more Tuscan peasant cooking

Here's a couple of recipes from Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking, featured in today's Buffalo News. Italian food expert Pamela Sheldon Johns writes that this simple bread crumb prepatation is used on lots of dishes besides pasta.

Pasta alle Briciole
Pasta with Spicy Bread Crumb Topping

The topping for this pasta is sometimes called poor man’s Parmigiano and represents cucina povera at its most frugal. Women would save every bread crumb until there were enough to dress pasta, garnish soups, or flavor roasted or grilled vegetables. For this recipe, the breadcrumbs are tossed with garlic and spicy red pepper flakes that have been sautéed in olive oil. The finished topping is crunchy with a wonderful, spicy flavor.

1 pound pasta (such as pici, bucatini, or spaghetti)
3 cups coarse dried bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the bread, garlic, and pepper flakes until the crumbs are golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and let cool.

Drain the pasta, add the topping, and toss. Serve at once.

Serves 6

—From Cucina Povera by Pamela Sheldon Johns/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pomodori, Fagioli, e Cipolline
Roasted Tomatoes, Beans, and Onions

This hearty vegetable casserole needs no meat to make a satisfying meal on a cold night. If the small, squat onions known as cipolline are not available, you can substitute 4 quartered sweet red onions or 4 heads of garlic with the tops removed.

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds cipolline onions, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, trimmed and peeled
1 bulb fennel, cored and cut lengthwise into eighths
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups cherry tomatoes
3 cups cooked cannellini beans
3 sprigs fresh thyme for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the potatoes, onions, and fennel in a roasting pan. Add the olive oil and
toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roast, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and roast another 10 to 15 minutes, or until
the potatoes and cipolline are fork-tender and golden brown. Add the beans, garnish with thyme, and serve
at once.
Serves 8 to 10

—From Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking by Pamela Sheldon Johns/Andrews McMeel Publishing

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