Vignarola

Just when I thought that Spring couldn't get any better (a class on chocolate; my own homemade pastaa weekend in Bologna and soon one in Matera) I have also stumbled across my new favorite make-eat-repeat dish*, which goes by the name of:


V I G N A R O L A 
(veen-ya-ro-lah for the non-Italian speakers)

Vignarola -- a Roman dish, for the record -- has been making constant cameos in my kitchen, and with good reason(s). Here's why you should be making it, too:  

-It's the season on a plate! It's got not only the mighty might artichoke but also bright green peas and fava beans, not to mention a hint of mint, and I don't think it gets springier than that;

-It exemplifies Italian cuisine, or rather: a handful of very good ingredients plus a simple preparation to produce a divine dish (cacio e pepe and saltimbocca also fall in to this category). Indeed, vignarola requires a little time in a pan and nothing more, and it is quite divine; 

-Vignarola aka my new culinary obsession is chock full of veggies (four, if we're counting the onion) making it a pretty darn nutritious to boot. But wait, there's more! It is also perfect for your vegetarian friends, a completely crave-able and substantial dish with no meat in sight. Heck, it would even work for your vegan friends!;


-Having said this: I have found that vignarola is also endlessly versatile, great when dressed up with guanciale excellent when served over pasta or with a few potatoes thrown in, plus a great addition to a ravioli filling. If you're me: lovely when dolloped with ricotta and a grating or two of lemon zest. In short the possibilities are many;


-DID I MENTION HOW GOOD THIS IS?! It's got sweet onion and even sweeter peas, earthy artichokes and nutty fava beans, plus a touch of bright refreshing mint, and this dream team of flavors make for a dish that is addictive and surprisingly luxurious, one you're happy to eat a bowl of after just one bite -- rather, unusual for a dish containing no cheese, chocolate, pork, or butter, no? Vegetables for the win!

I'll be eating my way through Matera this weekend (taralli, here I come) but if you will be cooking the Easter meal this year, do make this (it would be lovely paired with lamb, by the way) and consider it an antidote to all your Cadbury eggs, okay?

*Ehem: for previous-make-eat-repeat dishes, see this farro with tomatoes, this torta pasqualina, and this pasta with ceci.

A couple of notes: You can use either water or wine here; I prefer water as it let's the vegetable flavor shine completely, but you could also use half water and half wine or all wine if you prefer. If you are purchasing your vegetables at a farmer's market/outdoor market/locally run fruit and veg shop, they will probably shell your fava beans and peas for you (I am lazy and usually ask them to do  the shelling for me). You could also ask them to clean the artichokes for you, but I happen to enjoy artichoke prep and like to do that myself (I'm weird I know). In Rome the herb to be stirred in at the end here is mentuccia, in the mint family but with smaller leaves and a more delicate flavor; if you can't find mentuccia, mint is fine.

Looking for other Spring-y recipes? I've got these carciofi alla giudia, these carciofi alla romana, this pasta frittata with asparagus, this asparagus with burrata, this roasted asparagus pizza, this frittata con fave, pecorino, and pancetta, this panzanella primaverile, this pasta with fave and pecorino, and this torta pasqualina.

VIGNAROLA
Recipe from Rachel Roddy via The Guardian. 
Serves 4. 

Ingredients:
1 lemon 
3 large artichokes, preferably carciofi romaneschi
2 1/4 pounds (1 kilo) peas in their pods (roughly 12 ounces or 300 grams when shelled)
2 1/4 pounds (1 kilo) fava beans, in their pods (roughly 12 ounces or 300 grams when shelled)
1 yellow onion
1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) olive oil
1 cup (about 250ml) water 
A few leaves of fresh mint


Directions:
1. Fill a big bowl with cold water. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze the juice in to the water, and a little on to your hands, then leave the two halves in the water and set aside. 

2. Start with your artichokes! Using a sharp knife, trim away fibrous outer layer of the stem (I use a vegetable peeler for this) and feel free to trim any longer stems; you can cook the stems with the artichokes (they're delicious). Next, work your way around the artichoke and remove the tough outer leaves to expose the tender inner leaves. Using a sharp knife, cut off the spiky ends of the artichoke globe, then use a sharp knife to cut off the bits of artichoke base remaining from where you removed the tough leaves. Detach the trimmed stem and slice it into four pieces (lengthwise), then cut the trimmed globes into 8 wedges, removing away any hairy choke. Immediately, drop the wedges and stems of artichoke into the bowl of lemon-y water. Having said all this: If you have any doubt about preparing artichokes, there are lots of YouTube tutorials, plus these excellent guidelines from Serious Eats found here, plus some step-by-step photos from my post on carciofi alla giudia.
 
3. Shell the fava beans and peas. If the fava beans are large and have a tough outer coat, remove it by blanching the broad beans in boiling water, and then immediately transfer them to a bowl of cold water, squeezing off the outer coat. Chop the onion.
4. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion over medium-low heat until soft, then add the artichokes (don’t forget the stems!) and stir. Add the wine or water and a little salt, stir again, and then cover the pan. Allow the onions and artichokes to cook for about 15 or so minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the peas and fava beans and cook for an addition 5 minutes. 
5. Once all the vegetables are tender, taste the vignarola and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Stir in a bit of mint and serve immediately. 























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