a frugal meal plan after holiday excess

cucina povera zero waste frugal

After the holiday cooking, feasting, gift giving and general excess I’m craving simpler things, meals, minimalism and fresh starts.  This week I’m drawing inspiration from la cucina povera, literally “kitchen of the poor” in Italian.  It refers to a simple way of cooking that elevates and makes the most of simple and humble cooking.   We’ll start with a simple pot of beans, some oven roasted squash, and a pot of chewy farro and stretch and cajole them into a few different iterations.  I’m assuming you have olive oil, chili flakes, sugar/sweetener, salt, and pepper in your pantry.  Each recipe serves 4, and at the very end there’s a shopping list + the prices I paid for each item if you’re curious.  It came out to $54.68 total, or $10.93/dinner for 4 ($5.47/person) for all organic food.

farro cannelini white bean mason jar zero waste shopping

the meals + recipes:

winter pasta fagioli (bean+pasta soup):  chop up 1 large onion, 2 carrots, 2 stalks celery.  Heat up a few tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot (or use water if you’re oil free).  Add the veggies and sauté until they are softened, approximately 10 minutes (if you have + like fennel seeds, add in a teaspoon or two) .  Chop up 4 cloves garlic and about a tablespoon of fresh sage and add that, cook for 1 minute.  Then add 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, 4 cups veg stock (or water) + 1/4 pound of spaghetti broken into 2 inch lengths.  Cover and simmer on medium for 15 minutes, uncover, stir in 2 cups of the cooked white beans (scoop the beans with their cooking liquid too) and 1.5 cups roasted squash and let simmer 5 more minutes until everything is heated through.  If too thick, loosen with more of the bean cooking liquid.  Top with chopped parsley and serve with chili flakes and lemon wedges.

winter vegan butternut squash pasta fagioli

farro, white bean, red onion salad:  toss half the farro with 2 cups drained white beans, 1 small thinly sliced red onion, juice and zest from 1 lemon, and the rest of your bunch of parsley, chopped.  Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

farro salad vegan pomegranate avocado parsley onion

sausages with white beans in tomato sauce:  heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add in 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife.  Saute the garlic until golden (about 2 minutes).  Add in 4 vegan sausages and saute until browned, about 5 minutes (if you have + like fennel seeds, toss in a teaspoon or two as well).  Keep an eye on the garlic- remove and reserve it if its getting too dark.  Add in 1/2 cup bean cooking liquid, about 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes, and 2 large fresh whole sage sprigs.  Simmer 5 minutes, then add 1-1.5 cups beans and 1/2 cup water or stock.  Cover and simmer 15 minutes, then uncover and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened if desired.  Serve with some crusty toasted baguette rubbed with garlic (or rice would be good if you’re GF).  If you can’t find/make vegan sausages or just want a lighter meal, this would be so good with greens or cooked cubed potatoes wilted in in place of the sausage.

vegan Italian sausage white beans parsley garlic skillet

white bean salad with arugula, squash, farro:  adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler and heat it.  Halve and slice 1 red onion, toss with little oil, salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet and broil until edges are charred and onion is soft, 6-8 minutes (check often and toss halfway through cook time) Whisk juice + zest of one lemon with 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup and 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss the rest of farro and the rest of beans with dressing, onions, 1 cup of the roasted butternut squash and about 6 cups baby arugula.  Sprinkle your reserved roasted squash seeds over and serve.

arugula squash dark red onion salad grain vegan bean

butternut risotto:   this recipe , but omit cheese and sub vegan butter or oil or omit entirely for the butter.  Sub veggie broth.  Add some chopped sage in with the onions and add the roasted butternut with the last addition of broth.

butternut risotto vegan parsley cast iron


meal prep:

white beans with garlic + sage: soak 3 cups white beans overnight (any type you like- great northern, cannellini, giant corona beans, or butter beans are all great here).  Drain beans, add 8 cups water, 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional), 1 head garlic (unpeeled, cut in half crosswise), 1 large fresh sage sprig, 1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns, 2 teaspoons salt.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer 1-1.5 hours (start checking at 1 hour, depends on how old/what size your beans are).  Compost the garlic, sage, peppercorns.  Season to taste with salt/pepper.  Store in the pot in the fridge.

vegan Italian beans sage garlic Dutch oven

roasted butternut squash:  Preheat oven to 400.  Peel the squash and cut in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds (reserve them).  Cut squash into 1/2 inch chunks.  Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper + place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Rinse the seeds and remove any fleshy membranes.  In the same bowl you used for the squash, toss the seeds with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place in a different baking dish.  Roast both dishes in the oven, the seeds for 15 minutes or until crispy, and the squash 35-45 minutes or until totally soft, and caramelized on the bottoms.  Store in a sealed container in the fridge.



farro:  bring a pot of salted water to a boil (like you would for pasta).  When it boils, add the farro and cook until tender, then drain.  The exact time depends on the type of farro and how old it is, but at least 15 minutes.

farro vegan meal prep

pomegranate:  de-seed this guy and store in a sealed container in the fridge.

zero Waste shopping vegan meal plan

shopping list:

3 cups dry white beans (try to get these in the bulk section to avoid plastic if possible!) ($2.99)

crusty bread x 1 loaf ($4)

canned plum tomatoes (like san marzano) x 28 ounce can ($3)

garlic x 2 heads ($1)

sage x 1 large bunch, fresh ($3)

parsley x 1 bunch, fresh ($1.59)

8 cups veggie stock (best to use a concentrate like better than bouillon (glass jar) or my package free: veggie broth so you don’t end up with a bunch of cartons) ($4)

onion x 2 yellow + 2 red ($2.50)

celery x 1 bunch ($2.99)

carrots x 2 ($2.69)

lemon x 2 ($1)

pomegranate x 1 ($2)

butternut squash x 1 large (2.75 lbs for $3)

baby arugula x 6 cups or 1/2 lb ($2.99)

spaghetti x 1/4 pound (1 package of gf Jovial brown rice pasta for $4.49)

Italian style vegan sausages x 4 (I’m making my own but I priced store ones at $4.19)

2 cups farro or any other grain ($2)

1.5 cups short grain brown rice or arborio rice ($2.25)

white wine (cheap is fine) $5

white cannelini beans dried soaked