By Antonella Ciancio

MILAN, Italy (Reuters) - Italy's passion for eating is world famous but more than half of Italians are now recycling food leftovers to prepare new meals as they try to save money and weather a year-long recession, a survey showed on Friday.

The survey, by food-producing association Coldiretti, said 59 percent of Italians were re-using pasta, bread and vegetables to try to make ends meet, a trend that underlines how austerity measures and unemployment are hitting people's wallets.

Italy wasted 10 million tonnes of food each year worth around 11 billion euros ($14.40 billion), the survey said.

But the research, conducted with statistical group SWG and called "Italians' behavior at a time of crisis", suggested Italians could make a virtue of necessity.

"Anti-waste recipes are numerous in Italy," Sergio Marini, the chairman of Coldiretti, said at the presentation of the report.

"You only need a little creativity and you can cook tasty meatballs with leftover ground beef, eggs, bread and cheese," Marini said.

Although Italy is a country of rich culinary traditions most of them are based on poor ingredients as they date back to the end of World War Two, when food was scarce.

The Tuscan "ribollita", the Venetian "pinza" or the Neapolitan "frittata of pasta" sound like gourmet meals but all are based on recycled ingredients such as pasta and vegetables.

Consumer spending is headed for its biggest post-World War Two decline this year and data from ISTAT shows consumer morale has only recovered slightly from a historic low hit in June, retail lobby Confcommercio said last month.

Coldiretti said one in four Italian families was in a difficult economic position, 3 percent more than last year.

A planned one-percentage-point hike in value added tax, due to come into effect in July next year, could cost families a further 500 million euros in higher prices, Coldiretti said.

($1 = 0.7638 euros)

(Reporting by Antonella Ciancio; Editing by Andrew Osborn)