Vignarola can be served on its own but also makes a wonderful side dish for roast lamb or piled onto a bruschetta as an antipasto.
In Italy everything revolves around food, so naturally the celebration of spring takes place at the table.
In Lazio, the month of April is the moment of a delicious overlap of ingredients: the plump romaneschi globe artichokes, which will soon drift out of season, the emergence of sweet fresh peas and small nutty fava beans, as well as newly-sprouted crisp, green lettuce and gleaming bulbs of spring onions.
As this is the only time of the year that each of these individual ingredients hits its peak, vignarola warmly wraps them together in a fresh stew of braised vegetables, gently cooked with guanciale and roman mint, and finished with shavings of the ubiquitous pecorino romano.
It is easy to make a vegetarian version by simply omitting the guanciale and adding and extra glug of olive oil. Vignarola can be served on its own, with plenty of bread to mop up the juices, but also makes a wonderful side dish for roast lamb or piled onto a bruschetta as an antipasto.
(Serves 2 as main course, 4 as a side dish)
1kg fresh fava beans
1kg fresh peas
4 romaneschi artichokes
3 large spring onions
½ head of lettuce
100ml dry white wine
100ml extra virgin olive oil
About 15 leaves of mentuccia (roman mint)
Pecorino Romano, to serve
First prepare all of the vegetables.
Fill a bowl with cold water, squeeze in the juice of the lemon and add the peel. Remove the hard outer leaves and inner choke from each artichoke and cut each one into 6 pieces, immediately placing them into the lemon water to stop them from turning black.
Pod the fava beans and peas and set aside.
Trim the spring onions and slice into 1cm rounds and roughly chop the lettuce.
Heat the olive oil in a wide, high-edged pan, slice the guanciale into strips and add to the pan along with the spring onion. Cook for a couple of minutes on a medium heat until the onion begins to colour then pat dry the artichokes and add them to the pan. Continue to cook for 4-5 minutes then add the white wine and cook for 3 minutes until the alcohol has evaporated.
At this point add the fresh fava beans and peas and season with salt and pepper.
Add half a ladle of water then cover the pan and leave to braise for 15 minutes, check regularly and if it become too dry add a little more water.
Finally add the mentuccia leaves, cover again and cook for 3-4 minutes more before serving topped with shavings of pecorino romano cheese.
Recipe by Kate Zagorski
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. For more of her recipes see Wanted in Rome recipe page.
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