Cucina Povera is an expression in Italian cooking that literally means "the poor kitchen". It is used when referring to peasant cooking and having to make do with what you have and not wasting anything. I was recently sent a copy of "Cucina Povera", Pamela Sheldon Johns' beautiful new cookbook in which she has shared just these kind of dishes from Italy. She has a number of interviews with her Tuscan friends who recall what it was like to cook and eat through hard times. It's a very interesting book to read aside from the great recipes it has in it, like classic Ribollita, Farro Salad and a cookie I love - Ugly but Good (Brutti ma Buoni).
Pamela Sheldon Johns is a great cooking teacher and cookbook author who lives in Tuscany and gives culinary workshops all over Italy, including a fabulous one along the Amalfi Coast - check out her great itinerary. She and her husband also run a bed and breakfast in Tuscany. Whenever I see her name attached to a recipe, I know I can count on it. She's also written a number of books for Williams Sonoma.
When I saw this recipe in her book, I definitely wanted to make it. I like to make pork loin because it's lean and cheap, but it is like chicken breast - no flavor. So I love this recipe, in which you pound slices of the loin until they are thin and then fill them with a moist ricotta and spinach mixture and wrap them up in slices of pancetta. Braising them in a pan produces a lot of flavor with a little white wine. It's a simple recipe that is easy to make and delicious.
Pork Rolls Stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach
Involtini di Maiale
for a printable recipe click here
- 8 ounces fresh spinach, steamed and finely chopped
- ½ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 pound boneless pork loin, sliced into 8 pieces
- 8 thin slices pancetta
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine
In a medium bowl, combine the spinach and ricotta and stir to blend. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Set aside.
Place a slice of pork between two pieces of parchment paper, and roll with a rolling pin until flattened to an even fitness, about an eighth of an inch. Repeat to flatten the remaining slices.
Spread a thin layer of the spinach mixture on top of a slice of pork, leaving a quarter inch border. Roll it and wrap with a slice of pancetta, then fasten with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining pork, filling, and pancetta.
In a large, heavy sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and sear the rolls for about two minutes on each side. Add the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer briskly for 7 to 8 minutes, turning the rolls once or twice to heat them through. Serve at once.