Lombard Leftover Cooking

24 Oct 2014

What can you do with a kitchen full of leftover rice, old stale bread, or random array of herbs and vegetables?  In the zone of Cremona in Lombardy which straddles the Po river in northern Italy, traditional cuisine has evolved around frugality and zero waste. This rich culinary tradition still exists in homes and osterias of the region, and was the topic of a Taste Workshop at Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre today, part of a packed program of lessons and workshops on cooking with leftovers.


“Today when we buy meat, we find pre-prepared pieces which we can throw straight in the pan,” said Fausto Malinverno, owner of La Crepa osteria in Cremona which has a strong philosophy of minimizing waste. “If you buy just duck breast, of course it will cost a lot of money. But you can learn to use all parts of the animal, which will be cheaper and tastier.”


Of course, there are no recipes, it’s a matter of using what you have, and with a bit of creativity and inspiration, you can do as the northern Italians do. Like..


Sautéed rice: This tradition was born in the aftermath of the traditional Sunday family lunch, the biggest meal of the week, when piles of leftover rice were turned into Mondays’ dinner. Heat up a pan with lots of butter, dump in the rice and press it down with a spatula. When crisp, use the lid to flip it over as though you were making an omelet. Cook until you get a crunchy crust. You can also do this with sausage if you have any lying around.


Dumplings. An ingenious recipe to use old stale bread. Grate the bread into breadcrumbs, add a spoon of melted butter then broth. Work with your hands until you get a consistent dough. When it is cool, add an egg and grated cheese such as parmesan. Break of small pieces of the dough and roll them with your hands. Cook in boiling water, drain, and dress them with melted butter and some aromatic herbs like parsley, sage, thyme or rosemary. “This is a simple dish, but one that we mustn’t loose,” says Fausto.


Frittata with herbs:  One of the quickest, humblest, most potentially creative dishes in the peasant kitchen. Rural cooking has a wide variety of frittatas. To the simple (and here, abundant) egg, you can add herbs, meat, and other leftover ingredients, or even frogs or small birds. “My mother would go to the veg garden, see what was left, and throw it into a frittata”.


Meatballs: Great as a small starter with a glass of wine, and the symbol of leftover cooking. “It’s a quick recipe that lets you use so many things in your house: meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese..


Boiled meat: “Many parts of the animal that are actually very tasty are discarded because of lack of creativity or knowledge, says Fausto. Bollito misto is a way to use meat cuts unsuited for other preparations. Avoid the leanest parts like fillet, and go for the parts with the nerves and fat.


“We must be imaginative professionals. Creativity can only be expressed when you know the parts of he animal, you know what sweetbreads are, you know how to use them. This knowledge has been almost lost, but we need to preserve it.”

Blog & news

Change the world through food

Learn how you can restore ecosystems, communities and your own health with our RegenerAction Toolkit.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Full name
Privacy Policy