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How To Make Pasta Povera – Poor Man’s Pasta

Italian Dinner

I was born during the 1940’s.  There was a war going on and times were rough, and many foods were rationed.  We had to buy certain items with food stamps and many times they were not available.  Meat was very scarce and expensive. But my family, like most was creative and diligent. We cut coupons from LaRosa spaghetti boxes and traded them for items like dishes and that’s where the term “depression glass” comes in. We also saved all the cooking fat, that couldn’t be reused, in cans.  I can’t remember where we had to bring the grease filled cans, but I remember being told they used the grease to make candles for the soldiers. Sugar was scarce but that wasn’t a problem because we concentrated on nourishing foods and not desserts.  A big treat back then was Jello. Many ways were found to make ends meet.  Somehow, I never felt deprived. This was a meal we ate often but for me it was quite enjoyable. Maybe it was because my Little Nonna made it. 

For Pasta Povera

She lived right next door and we either went there or she came to our house and cooked sometimes. I loved everything she made and always looked forward to her meals…….everything except liver.  Never liver!! 


  • 1 Lb Pasta – your favorite
  • 3 Cups Breadcrumbs – plain or Italian style – your choice
  • 2 – 3 Garlic Cloves – minced
  • Red Pepper Flakes – a pinch or to taste
  • ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive oil


  1. Cook pasta in salted water, al dente.
  2. Meanwhile heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the breadcrumbs, garlic and pepper flakes until the crumbs are golden brown.
  3. Drain the pasta and with a slotted spoon remove the bread crumb mixture and spread over the pasta. Add as much of the oil as necessary.
  4. Mix well and add more of the oil, as necessary. This works best with homemade breadcrumbs because they are not as fine as store bought.  

Note: Growing up we could not eat meat on Friday. On the First Wednesday of every Season, we couldn’t eat meat either. For Catholics these were called Ember Days. So, this was a good basic meatless meal. For variety sometimes anchovies were mashed and cooked with the breadcrumb mixture. My brother and I being cheese lovers always toped our pasta with grated cheese. 

Buon Mangiata! 


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