Since when I was a little kid, springtime has always been synonym with foraging and cooking with wild herbs. For years in this season, our table has been filled with dishes featuring wild garlic, carletti, hop sprouts, mauve leaves, dandelion and nettle. Usually, we would keep things simple and stir fry the herbs quickly before throwing them in a frittata or a savory tart, or directly on a plate as a side for meat or hard boiled eggs. Sometimes, we would do risotto or pasta or even soup –a simple minestrone with legumes and grains and whatever vegetables the season offered. Living in the countryside has deeply shaped my way of conceiving food as seasonal in the first place, and of cooking while following this credo.
In London, the availability of produce from all over the world fascinates and scares me at the same time. It is as if the symbolic value of time and place that food carries was completely deleted and forgotten, so much so that the meltin’ pot of people intermingles with the meltin’ pot of foods. It feels great to have such a huge amount of ingredients to select and cook with, but in a way it feels confusing, too. Surely enough, the UK isn’t the luckiest place as far as growing season and climate goes. Still, I feel appalled by the view of raspberries from Guatemala, as I am pretty sure that with some patience we will be able to see berries from local farms, too, whenever the right season will be. I believe there is always the right season. I believe in the value of waiting.
This is why I love farmers’ markets –they help me reconnect food with a place and a time and find a balance between myself and what is around me. It is a connection I deeply need in order to feel good. It is not about being hispter, hippy or radical chic –it is about balance. Here in Wimbledon, a small farmers’ market takes place on Saturdays, and its presence has become reassuring. There, I can find all I need for a few days, from bread to dairy to produce. For now, spring greens, nettle and wild garlic are slowly taking over winter greens. I deeply enjoy seeing the process happening.
Last week, we bought greens and a big bunch of wild garlic. After a walk through the park, we headed home for lunch with a good deal of hunger. Whenever that happens, we know we both crave a plate of pasta –something quick, easy and deeply satisfying. Pasta alio olio e peperoncino popped suddenly in my mind –so simple and so tasty. But we didn’t have any garlic at home.
“We should try to make it with the wild garlic. It will be perfect and very spring-y“.
- 200 gr spaghetti (regular, whole wheat or gluten free)
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
- 2 dried chilies, crushed
- a bunch of wild garlic leaves, chopped
- pinch of salt
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano
Fill three-quarters of a large pot with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, add coarse salt and spaghetti (do not break them, push them down slowly with a wooden spoon until they are submerged). Cook the pasta al dente following cooking instructions (count a couple minutes less than what written on the package).
While the water boils and the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add chilies and let them fry for a few minutes, then add the garlic leaves and sauté them until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the spaghetti and add them to the skillet with the rest of the ingredients. Toss everything for a minute over medium-high heat. Remove, season with grated Parmigiano and serve immediately.
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