The province of Apulia, forms the iconic “heel” that is the boot of the Italian penninsula. Although it is rich in agriculture and the largest wine producing region in the country, it is also among the poorest regions in the country and that is reflected in it’s cuisine.
Cucina povera, or literally “poor kitchen” is a term that is often used to reflect the nature of the region’s cooking. Simply put, it’s peasant food. Nothing is wasted. Expensive ingredients don’t exist. The region is far below the Cream/Butter line, so the only fat you see is olive oil. And as the produce is bountiful, it makes appearances in many forms. One such example, is this simple and delicious pasta.
1 pound Penne
5 fresh, ripe tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 vidalia onion diced
6 sweet sausage links
1 pkg. Arugula
In a little olive oil, saute the onions and garlic until softened. Then add the sausages and brown. They don’t have to be fully cooked, but nicely brown. Remove them from the pan and allow to cool. Then add the diced tomatoes, salt and pepper them, and simmer slowly until they start to break down, about 15 minutes. Once the sausage is cool enough to handle, slice crosswise and return to the pan.
Boil the water and begin cooking the pasta. About 5 minutes before the pasta is done, take 2 large handfuls of the arugula and add it to the tomatoes. Take a third handful and put it into the bottom of a large serving bowl. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and combine all the ingredients into the serving bowl. If the pasta sauce looks tight, add some extra olive oil or reserve some of the pasta water and add that.
The arugula will be wonderfully wilted and have a slightly bitter “bite” to it. Pass pecorino to add at the table. Alternatively, since the Apulians are apt to not have cheese available for grating, to really embrace the Cucina Povera mindset, use toasted bread crumbs in place of the cheese. Salute!