Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spaghetti with spring greens

Spring is a good time to stop and smell the rosebuds. I’m not going to warble on about renewal and the joyous mystery of the seasons (yea Gods woman — ‘joyous mystery’? Spare us!), but man, you’ve got to admit that visiting farmers’ markets around this time of year is like letting a kid with low blood sugar loose in a candy store. Especially if you’ve committed to buying more local and seasonal produce.

I recently finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (of The Poisonwood Bible fame), a memoire of her family eating only food sourced within a radius of 100 miles from her home for one year, and I am so inspired. I’d read about eating seasonally and locally before, but this book really put it into perspective for me. But more on that in my next post, I think.

Back to spring and the gorgeous glut of greens available now. I visited the Tokai farmer’s market last weekend, which is located in the most beautiful woodland setting (complete with grazing horses), and I picked up some gorgeous organic asparagus and baby squash (zucchini, patti-pans and gems). Perfect items for this spring greens spaghetti.

It might sound like there are a lot of anchovies in this recipe, but once they’ve melted and coated the spaghetti, their flavour just fades into the background to give a subtle savouriness. You can leave them out if you prefer to keep it vegetarian. My only warning with this dish is that it is a very real and present temptation to eat all the asparagus before combining everything. So if you must have a taste, make sure your resolve is iron-clad!

I'm sure you know that the quality of the pasta is rather important. No Fatti's & Moni's please! (That dreck is to proper Italian spaghetti what margarine is to fresh farm butter.) With a glass of chilled dry rosé, this, for me, is the perfect early summer lunch.

Spring pasta with asparagus and baby squash
Makes 2 generous portions

250g spaghetti
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 or 7 anchovy fillets
1 bunch fresh sprue (thin) asparagus
2 cloves garlic, crushed with sea salt
About 300g baby zucchini, patti-pans, or any tender spring squash, finely sliced (julienne-style)
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pecorino, to taste
1 handful basil, leaves picked and chopped

1. Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted water according to package instructions (al dente) and drain, but reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water.
2. In a separate large pan, heat the oil. Add the anchovies and fry gently for about 30 seconds, then add the asparagus. Continue to fry on a medium-low heat until the anchovies have melted and the asparagus is half-cooked, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
3. Toss the spaghetti with the asparagus, anchovy and garlic, as well as the julienned squash. Season to taste. Add a little of the cooking water if the spaghetti seems a bit dry — you want to achieve a silky, slippery, glossy effect.
4. To serve, drizzle with a little good-quality olive oil, and top with shavings of Pecorino and the basil (I used the tender young leaves from my sweet and purple basil plants — no chopping required).

Post script: I have enjoyed my time off (oh, I have tales — breaking down in the Karoo on a lonely dirt road with no cellphone reception is a highlight — more on those another time), but I must confess I missed you terribly. It’s good to be back!


  1. You're back! Loved this post, and it mirrors my sentiments about this time of year, and a new way of eating, completely.

  2. Read that book sometime last year and it really is an inspiration! Now that I subscribe to Ethical Co-op's weekly veggieboxes, seasonal eating has finally become a reality for me, and one which I'm loving every minute of!

    Great looking pasta - the purple basil looks so pretty!

  3. glad to see you blogging again! I love anchovies and they add a lovely dimension to so many dishes :)

  4. Love how red basil prettifies :-)

  5. Simple, fresh and delicious. Well done and 'nuff said!!

  6. Welcome back! I am a bit of a fan with anchovies smashed into pasta dishes, so I'm going to like this one - it really does ring the bells that summer is a comin' huh.
    Nice book suggestion too..., that's the 2nd time someone has told me about this book in the last few weeks - think I should check it out.

  7. Jeez. You are back with a vengeance, huh? What a beautiful glorious photo and incredibly tasty looking pasta (minus the anchovies for me). So good to have you back Robyn!

  8. Welcome back, my friend! This spring dish looks quite fabulous & mighty tasty too!

    MMMMMMMM,...a lovely post too!

    Kisses from Brussels to you!

  9. That does look gorgeous..reminds me of the summer long gone.

  10. oh this makes me want to just relax outside and enjoy this delicious pasta dish!

  11. Nice that you're back - hope you had a good break. I loved that book by Barbara Kingsolver - really changed a lot for me, and like you I'm really enjoying the beautiful flavours of spring right now - especially asparagus which is my favourite. Love your spaghetti - will try this for sure.
    Sue :-)

  12. Welcome back! I adore spring veggies. Eating local is such a wonderful thing. Your pasta dish looks delicious, I love the anchovies!

  13. What a beautiful looking dish and you are so right about the anchovies.
    Once they melt down they just add a whole new dimension to the flavour.

  14. Oh, this is a gorgeous dish, Robyn, and just perfect for what I have in my garden now. Even though I live in the northern hemisphere, my gardening season, in backwards fashion, runs from September to May, and I'm willing my "spring" greens to GROW GROW already right now! Must make.

  15. I love spaghetti since I was a child. My mom always cooks me, my brothers and my sister whenever it's our birthday or other special occasions that needs celebrating. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Now I can cook for my mom. I'll definitely make this before I get my TABC Certification Online.