Mushroom Leek Israeli Couscous

Mushroom & Leek Israeli Couscous |

Portabella mushrooms and leeks showed up in my CSA share more than a week ago and they sat inside the fridge, patiently waiting for recipe inspiration. Well, inspiration came by way of “make do with what you have on hand” due to my husband’s recent job loss. While our current financial situation certainly is stressful, it’s also an wake-up call to really “make do with what you have” regardless of your income.

So, I was especially interested in Cooking Light’s September issue featuring “cucina povera” which literally translates to “poor kitchen.” To quote the article, cucina povera “…really refers to the frugal genius of poor Italian cooks who made the most of anything abundant and affordable.”

So, rather than going to the store for a few unique, special ingredients to jazz up my veggies, I used what I had on hand. A box of couscous in the pantry, some sweet vermouth that’s been in our liquor cabinet for quite some time, a little butter, salt and pepper was really all I needed to make Mushroom & Leek Israeli Couscous.

Mushroom & Leek Israeli Couscous |

And in the tradition of “cucina povera”, the dish was rich in flavor and hearty enough despite being inexpensive -definitely something I would make again, perhaps with barley (currently in my pantry) or kale (in my next CSA share) – adapting for what I have on hand.


Mushroom Leek Israeli Couscous

Simple yet hearty mushrooms and leeks paired with Israeli couscous. An example of “cucina povera” – making the most out of abundant and inexpensive foods.

  • Author: by Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cup Israeli or pearl couscous
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/3 cup sweet vermouth or dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add couscous and stir for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Add water, cover and turn heat to low. Let cook for 12 minutes, remove from heat and fluff.
  2. While couscous is cooking, heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes.
  4. Add leeks and saute for another 7- 8 minutes.
  5. Add vermouth and cook for another 5 minutes until it reduces in volume.
  6. Add couscous and mix well. Heat for another 2 – 3 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat, add salt & pepper to taste and more butter, if desired before serving.


  • Serving Size: 4 servings

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For more humble yet delicious ideas, check out these Cooking Light cucina povera recipes .

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We’re Serena & Deanna, two dietitians who love food as much as you do!  

We're also moms and business owners who share our family recipes, healthy kitchen hacks and nutrition adventures while keeping it real in the kitchen with you.

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