Ciao'd with a vase of yellow tulips keeping me company.

This recipe is the epitome of cucina povera or peasant cooking. It's home-based food that's not influenced by chefs or trends. Cucina povera is grounded in basic ingredients, historically gathered and grown on one's farm. Made with the freshest ingredients, whether truly fresh or preserved, the food manifests integrity and sings with flavor. In my recipe, I call for dried beans which would be used in traditional kitchens. If you're pressed for time, substitute 3 cups canned beans. 

Serves 4 to 6

1 cup dried cannellini beans*
Several sprigs each parsley, thyme, oregano
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh spinach, stemmed (about 8 cups), rinsed
1 pound boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 pound eggplant, trimmed, cut into ½-inch wedges
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup beef broth
Freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and drain the beans, picking them over to remove any debris. Transfer the beans to a medium saucepan, add cold water to cover the beans by 1 inch or so, cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat. Let rest 1 hour. Set the pan over medium heat. Add the herb sprigs, bay leaf, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Bring to a boil then uncover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender, 1-1 ½ hours total. Test for doneness after 1 hour, adding more water as necessary to keep the beans submerged. Drain the beans and remove the herbs.

In a large deep skillet over medium heat, combine the spinach along with any water clinging to its leaves and a generous dash of salt. Cook until the spinach just begins to wilt, about 3 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a paper towel-lined plate. When the spinach is cool, wrap it in the paper towel and squeeze to remove as much water as you can. Coarsely chop.

Wipe the skillet dry and heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the lamb and garlic and cook, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent the garlic from burning, until the lamb is browned but still pink inside, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a plate and loosely cover to keep warm.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is browned and tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is browned and tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Return the lamb and accumulated juices to the pan. Stir in the beans, spinach, oregano, and beef broth, and cook until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

*For a quicker version of this recipe, substitute 3 cups canned cannellini beans and skip the dried beans cooking method and ingredients therein.


Ciao'd while watching Moonstruck and sipping Amarone. Cuz, yeah, Italian.

Marcella Hazan was a master (mistress) at transforming a few, simple ingredients into remarkably good food. This recipe, published in 1978 in her book More Classic Italian Cooking, may be even more relevant in these crazy, time-pressed times. 

Marcella described this recipe as "succulent and expansive." The ribs are quickly browned in olive oil, then showered with sage and garlic, and drizzled with white wine. They are pan-roasted which translates to a slow cook in a covered pan without additional liquid. Once the ribs are removed from the pan, pour the cooking juices over mashed potatoes or polenta and serve along with the ribs.

The recipe, which was given to Marcella by her assistant, is a specialty of la cucina trevigiana, hence the "Treviso Style" descriptor. In Marcella's words, the ribs are "deeply warming and most satisfying." They are! 



To develop the golden-brown color and light crust that seals the moisture in the spareribs, dry them well and do not crowd them in the pan. 

Serves 4

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
3-pound rack of pork spareribs, cut into single ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, or 2 teaspoons dried sage
1 cup dry white wine

Choose a saute pan large enough accommodate the spareribs without crowding. Put in the oil and turn the heat onto medium-high.

Season the spareribs with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, put them in the pan and brown them on all sides. Add the garlic and sage. When the garlic becomes lightly colored, add the wine, raise the heat and let the wine bubble away for a few seconds.

Turn the heat down to moderate and cover the pan. Cook, turning the ribs from time to time, until the fleshiest part of the ribs is tender, about 40 minutes. 

Transfer the ribs to a warm platter. Tilt the pan and remove about one-third of the fat. Add 1/2 cup water, turn the heat to high, and scrape the residue from the bottom of the pan while boiling away the liquid. You should end up with a dark, dense sauce. Pour it over the spareribs (use a strainer if you wish to remove the garlic and sage). Serve immediately. Loosely adapted from More Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan, Knopf, 1978.


So why Modena? Renowned for balsamic vinegar, Modena also gave us (the lucky lot of usfast cars (Ferrari) and luscious iterations of pork. Marcella Hazan remarked, "The Modenese touch with pork can't be beaten." She is spot on. I've had the good fortune to visit Modena and enjoy pork in many variations. Each time, the taste was a revelation. Marcella prefaced her recipe for Braised Pork Chops with Sage and Tomatoes by saying, "This recipe is one of the simplest and tastiest ways of doing pork chops I've ever found." Again, spot on. 

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