Romans celebrate spring with a pasta dish inspired by vignarola.
There is a magical moment in Roman springtime when the best of primavera’s fresh produce comes into season at the same time. Market stalls are awash with vibrant shades of green as mounds of peas, broad beans and bulging artichokes stretch as far as the eye can see. Romans like to celebrate this beginning of spring with a traditional dish called vignarola, a kind of soup/stew made with peas, beans, artichokes and lettuce cooked together with salty guanciale and Pecorino Romano cheese.
This pasta dish takes its inspiration from vignarola but adds another springtime favourite, lamb. The result is a tender lamb ragù combined with spring greens and a fragrant twist of Roman mint. The perfect recipe for Easter, it is best when served with a wide, fresh pasta such as pappardelle and devoured while basking in the Roman sunshine.
Pappardelle al ragù bianco d’agnello e vignarola
400g fresh pappardelle
250g boneless lamb, cut into small chunks
100g broad beans, podded
100g fresh peas, podded
2 artichokes, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
70g guanciale, cut into strips
Half a glass of white wine
20 leaves of mentuccia (Roman mint)
3-4 handfuls grated Pecorino Romano
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil ready for the pasta.
In a wide frying pan cook the guanciale until it has released its fat and it just crunchy. Remove the guanciale from the pan, leaving the fat, and add the sliced spring onion and artichokes.
Cook for 3-4 minutes on a medium heat then add the lamb, season well with salt and pepper then continue to cook for a further 4 minutes.
Pour in the white wine and add the broad beans and peas, cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes until the lamb is tender and the vegetables are soft.
In the meantime, cook the pasta for the time indicated. When it is perfectly al dente drain, add to the pan and toss everything together along with the mint leaves and a couple of handfuls of Pecorino.
Serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of Pecorino on top.
Kate Zagorski has lived in Italy since 2000. Married to a food-obsessed Roman chef, she leads food tours and also works as a freelance food and travel writer.