Cucina Povera and the Bean Easter - The Peasant Traditions of Tuscany

If you're wondering why Tuscan cuisine is considered one of the best in the world, you don’t have to look much further than the high-quality, fresh ingredients and simple cooking techniques that produce flavorful and authentic dishes. Tuscan cuisine can trace its roots to the strong peasant culinary traditions that arose from close contact and knowledge of the land as well as a lack of purchasing power and therefore limited access to expensive ingredients. Not having a lot of ingredients on hand required inventive approaches to creating dishes that were nourishing and filling for these hard-working people living primarily in the Tuscan countryside. The peasant cuisine focused on meals that used everything without wasting and upcycled, to get the most out of each ingredient. Think of panzanella, the refreshing summer salad with old bread, delicious fresh tomatoes, and red onions.

One of the nicknames for Tuscans is Mangiafagioli – or Bean Eaters. There is a famous painting by Carracci's of the same name “The Beaneater” ( on display in Rome's Palazzo Colonna. This portrait depicts a peasant enjoying one of the staples of Tuscan cuisine: white beans and olive oil. Beans are one of the most central ingredients for this delicious and hearty cuisine. In fact, one of the best dishes is the wonderful cannellini white beans slowly cooked in earthenware jugs with a touch of freshly pressed extra-virgin olive oil and a few cloves of garlic. Another dish is fava beans, freshly shelled and eaten raw, with a drizzle of salt and a wedge of fresh Pecorino cheese. There are bean recipes traditionally cooked slowly over an open fire with fresh pork sausages, and even the very modern recipe of chocolate and black bean cake. Wherever you look, if you're a fan of beans, this is the right region for you. We offer a special legume cooking class at MaMa  to introduce you to all the best recipes from Italy.