Mix up pasta night with Italy’s sleeper seasonal vegetable
The re-emergence of agretti, an almost-forgotten Mediterranean vegetable, is really causing a stir in the United States, especially during its brief growing season in the late spring. It looks like a cross between fennel fonds and grass, and it does have a grassy flavor with a saline edge. Long prized by Italian cooks, agretti pairs deliciously with pasta. But if you can’t find it, substitute dandelion greens or mature spinach sliced into thin ribbons.
Agretti Pasta with Anchovies & Chile
- 1 pound or 1 bunch of agretti
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 to 6 anchovy fillets
- 1 good pinch of red chile flakes
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced at an angle
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- zest of 1 lemon, to serve
- Wash the agretti well and remove any woody stems if necessary. Bring 5 quarts of water to the boil in a large saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of salt and the agretti. Blanch for a couple of minutes, then remove the agretti with a slotted spoon and refresh in cold water.
- Bring the water back to a boil, add the pasta, and stir. Bring back to a boil, cover, and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit in the water in the tightly covered pot for 8 to 10 minutes or until just al dente.
- Meanwhile, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, add the garlic, and cook for a minute or two, then add the anchovies, mash slightly, and add the chile flakes and scallions. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the well-drained agretti, and continue to cook until tender but still with a bite—a minute or two.
- Drain the pasta, add to the pan, and toss well. Drizzle with more olive oil. Season to taste, grate over some fresh lemon zest, and turn into a hot serving bowl. Grate over some more lemon zest and serve as soon as possible.