Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another take on pasta primavera: Spaghetti with dandelion greens and green garlic

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Remember pasta primavera? Ordinary cut-up vegetables in a goopy cream sauce, as served in every Italian restaurant in which I ate growing up on Long Island? I am here today to tell you that I reject that version of pasta primavera and have decided to reinvent it. This is the true pasta of spring.

My pasta primavera recipe uses one of the most emblematic Italian ingredients of spring: dandelion greens. Italians are famous foragers. Remember the scene in Under the Tuscan Sun (a great foodie book, by the way) where the author discovers a bent-over nonna picking weeds on her property, just as she'd done every spring for decades? You can do this, too. Just let your lawn alone for a while and you'll likely find some of these:


Resist the urge to pull them out. Do not pour chemicals on them. Let them grow and prosper. And then pick the leaves and put them in pasta.

My pasta primavera recipe also includes green garlic, an ingredient whose appearance elicits cheers and actual jumping up and down. You'll find it at farmers' markets, gourmet grocery stores, and possibly Asian markets in the early spring. Green garlic looks like a very large green onion - in fact, it's the young version of the garlic plant, before the bulb matures and swells. Its flavor is milder than bulb garlic, and you use the whole thing, including the greens. If you can't find green garlic, use regular garlic, but do look for the young green garlic at this time of year. Many people use it in soup, but we prefer green garlic pizza.

Pasta with weeds and sprouts - my husband was quite skeptical. But chopped and sauteed with pancetta, tossed with steaming spaghetti, and topped with freshly grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, my pasta primavera won him over.

P.S. I think I'm in trouble. Emery, my 12-year-old son, just looked over my shoulder and said "Hey, when did you make that?" Um...on Sunday morning, when you were visiting your grandparents, darling. Note to self: Buy more dandelion greens.


Pasta primavera with green garlic and dandelion greens
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 large bunch dandelion greens, washed and chopped
  • 2 stalks green garlic, washed carefully (it can be gritty) and chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain immediately.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook 2-3 minutes, until the fat starts to render and the edges of the bits of meat start to brown. Add the onion and saute another 1 minutes, just until the onion starts to soften.

Now add the dandelion greens and the green garlic, stir, and cover the skillet briefly to let the greens wilt. Dandelion greens are hardier than spinach but more delicate than kale; you won't need to cook them too long. By the time you've drained the pasta, the greens should be ready.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta and the dandelion mixture. Add the grated cheese and olive oil and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

13 comments:

Monet said...

Have I told you how much I love your son's name? So beautiful! And I also love these pasta dishes you share. You know the way to my heart! Thanks for sharing, sweet woman! Many blessing to you as the week unfolds.

Erika said...

@Monet - have I told you how much each and every comment you leave on my blog warms my heart and makes me smile? I wish I were such a good blog friend and reciprocated half as often....I don't know how you do it. WHEN are we going to meet in person? Camp Blogaway, maybe? Hoping?

Cookin' Canuck said...

I don't know if I can convince my husband to let the dandelions grow, but this is a wonderful version of pasta primavera!

Marly said...

Now we know what to do with dandelions when they sprout! Great post!

The Cilantropist said...

Haha, that last part about Emery is too cute! And picking dandelion greens from your own yard??! Never ever thought to do that, genius.

Cathy @ ShowFoodChef said...

Sometimes I'm amazed how like minded we foodies can really be: About once a quarter I do a living room series with artists of all kinds that for 2 years has been called Dandelion Salon and I make food, of course, for the event and always include something with dandelions in some form. This pasta sounds wonderful! I may be the biggest Under The Tuscan Sun nerd EVER and read/watched/met everyone about it and it sent me to Italy for my very first time years ago. Your post has my loves ALL over it. I'll have to have you come and bring it to one of the salons, ok?

Erika said...

@Canuck - you have to cordon off a section of the backyard, where the neighbors can't see it. And then get the kids to blow dandelion spores directly onto the grass. :)

@Marly @Cilantropist - I'm waiting for the dandelions to grow in my yard too. Just trying to figure out how to convince the gardener not to mow them.

@Cathy - you know I will!

Sippity Sup said...

You have spring fever! GREG

Mom on the run said...

Hi Erika,
My name is Sarah, and I started following your blog when it was a blog of note. I've never commented before and hope you don't mind. I live in Colorado and am dying to try this recipe and the green garlic pizza. They look amazing. Do you know if I can find green garlic in Colorado? I've never even heard of it before. I have plenty of dandelions though! Thanks for blogging, I love reading about your culinary adventures.

Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves said...

I didn't know you were a Long Island native too :) This is a wonderful looking dish. I admit the dandelion greens intimidate me so I think I'll omit them for now...but nice spin. Also thank you for the foodie book rec.

Erika said...

@Sarah aka Mom on the Run - do I MIND that you're commenting? I'm THRILLED that you're commenting! Thank you for letting me know that you're here. I am extremely glad to meet you.

I would look for green garlic at the farmers' market. Ask a grower who brings onions and garlic at other times of year if they've got any. You'll generally find it only in the early spring, which may be a few months away for you.

Erika said...

@Bianca - yep, born and raised in Jericho. You? And don't be scared of dandelion greens. They're delicious. You could use chard or arugula instead, but not nearly as much fun.

Mom on the run said...

You're so sweet! Thanks for commenting so quickly, and with good advice. Spring farmer's markets won't be here until at least May, so I'll have to wait. Thankfully, I have five local farmer's markets within a 3 mile radius of my house (huge perk to living in a small farm town), I'll keep my eyes peeled and let you know if I ever find it.

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