While I was in Italy, seasonal eating took on a whole new meaning. When something was in season you ate it, not once or twice but every day until it was gone. There were weeks of fresh favas and seemingly endless days of artichokes, and grilled spring onions accompanied every meal until there were none left on the shelves at the market.
The Italians are firm believers in eating something when it is in its prime. Frank Stitt, chef and proprietor of Bottega in Birmingham, Alabama also subscribes to this philosophy.
Garganelli with Spring Onions, Asparagus, and Peas from Bottega Favorita is basically pasta with spring vegetables, a touch of cream and some fresh herbs and a sprinkling of grated cheese. It's the perfect vehicle to take advantage of the bounty of young produce that is available right now. Any of the vegetables called for in the recipe can easily be substituted with anything that looks good at the farmers' market—ramps, fiddlehead ferns, snap peas or baby new potatoes are all welcome additions.
Win 'Bottega Favorita'
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Bottega Favorita to give away this week.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 heaping cup sliced spring onions or leeks (white and pale green parts)
- 12 slender asparagus spears, tough bottoms discarded and cut into 2-inch pieces
- Sliced baby carrots, sugar snap peas, or other spring vegetables
- 1 cup fresh or frozen sweet peas
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound garganelli
- 1/4 cup chopped mint, plus a little extra for garnish
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced chives
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino romano
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions or leeks and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until very soft.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted to a boil for the pasta. Bring a large sauce pan of water to a boil, add the asparagus, and cook for 1 minute. Add the sweet peas and cook for 30 seconds, then drain. Add the asparagus and other vegetables to the onions, then stir in the cream. Set the pan aside while you cook the pasta.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to the pan with the onions.
Place the pan over high heat and cook, tossing, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the vegetables are hot. Add the mint, chives, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the lemon zest, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and toss well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve in warm bowls, garnished with more mint and the remaining grated cheese.