imageIt’s spring in Rome, and every afternoon I walk past this fruttivendolo, a greengrocer with piles and piles of lovely fresh produce. I’d been eying the agretti, and bought some for dinner that day. Agretti is a Mediterranean succulent, only appearing for some weeks in the spring. It looks like giant chives, but has a flavour of its own and is slightly crunchy when steamed. Agretti is wonderful with lemon.
CarciofiYes, it is also season for carciofi, and there are mountains of artichokes just begging to be taken home. Hmmmm, maybe pasta with carciofi and mint, or a nice artichoke risotto….? No, today it will just be agretti.

From “…The Italians know and like it and besides agretti, call it barba di frate (monk’s beard) and roscano. The Latin is Salsola soda, which reflects its historical importance as a source, once burnt to ashes, of sodium carbonate, which is used in the manufacture of both glass and soap. Its profoundly unexciting English name is Saltwort.”

Cleaning agretti: Wash, and remove the rubber band (those survive boiling…). Just chop the roots off, remove any yellow stems. I’ve usually enjoyed agretti lightly sauteed in a frying pan, then served with a little fresh lemon juice squeezed over. Lovely quick springtime side dish.

imageI’d been reading on a couple Italian blogs that they preferred to boil the agretti (like here) in abundant salted water, so I tried that this time.
Boiling agrettiInto the pot of boiling water it goes, just for 2-3 minutes.
Agretti with lemonDrain, and serve with lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil if you wish.  Delicious, it’s slightly squeaky and very fresh-tasting. Nice cold for lunch the next day as well. Also good in omelettes. I think it is just as easy to steam the agretti or saute it in a pan, the main issue is not to overcook it. Good luck in finding some agretti to try for yourself!

Spring day in Garbatella

Spring in GarbatellaSpring has certainly arrived in Rome. There are blossoming trees, newly planted geraniums appearing in window boxes, and even the occasional local observed in short sleeves. No sandals yet, though it is gorgeous and sunny.
I wandered up to the farmers’ market last weekend, and as usual bought more than intended.
Salumi at market – it’s hard to resist!
SalamiThere was a lovely salami with tartufo (truffle) which I must get some more of.
Laundry in garbatellaI too had laundry waiting at home to be hung out, though not as picturesque as this.

GarbatellaLooking through the lotti, always interesting to see the internal courtyards here.

Looking ahead

herbs in windowboxSunday in Rome, church bells ringing and it’s quieter than normal. Lovely sunny day, so we strolled up to the Rome Farmer’s Market in their new Garbatella location to have a look. Nice to see the old market finally in use again. Still many stands not in use, but an interesting selection of cheeses, salumi and other food items (who doesn’t like to browse that?). Definitely worth exploring further. My excuse (not that I need one) was the dismal state of the balcony boxes, and the rapidly increasing temperatures. 25C today: great for drying laundry, but not so good for fragile herbs on a south-facing balcony. I stocked up, and replanted three boxes.

Garbatella view

I also bought some fresh ricotta, to make pasta with peas and ricotta tomorrow.  For recipe, see Rachel eats: Farfalle con piselli e ricottaHer writing makes me hungry, and she even made the pasta from scratch……. Wonderful.


Pasta with peas and ricotta


UPDATE: it was absolutely delicious! I confess, we used frozen peas, about 200g peas and 200g fresh ricotta, half of mixture blended. then served with extra ricotta on the pasta as Rachel recommended. Just a bit of salt and pepper. Definitely one to make again.