Onto the recipe. The decadence and totally over-the-top nature of this pasta is what makes it so very good. I don't say this lightheartedly: usually Italian recipes are very much about the 'less is more' approach, and this is what I love about them the most. Yet, sometimes, piling it all up high is just the right thing to do. In the case of this recipe, for example, it works.
The base is a Roman-inspired spring concoction called vignarola. This is a dish made of fresh peas, broad beans, artichokes, sometimes lettuce, sometimes fresh herbs, others bits of guanciale for extra flavour - all braised in oil and white wine until tender and utterly flavoursome. Vignarola is often served on bread, which has the double pourpose of carrier, and of sponge for absorbing the delightful juices left at the end. You can sometimes find vignarola served alongside some fresh ricotta, but mostly, it can hold the stage on its own.
The inspiration for serving vignarola on pasta came after a meal I had last year while visiting Rome around Easter. Rachel (who happens to have just written about it, beautifully as always) had invited us for a lunch at Cesare al Casaletto in Monteverde, and after a round of antipasti, my tonnarelli alla vignarola arrived. I was hooked. The sweet, oily juice in which the vegetables had stewed made the perfect seasoning for the fresh, slightly chewy ribbons of pasta. A generous topping of grated pecorino, melted into the hot pasta, with a little help from some starchy cooking water, added a dose of addictive saltiness and creaminess to the whole. It all disappeared in a shamefully short amount of time.