It was a toss up right until the last possible moment what we were going to have for Easter lunch yesterday. We are down in Bari for the long holiday weekend, and we just couldn’t settle on a menu ahead of time. Partly I was having a hard time getting into the spirit of things. But also I’ve been crazy busy and just didn’t have time to plan ahead. Happily certain things followed tradition and were a given. Antipasto would be hard boiled eggs (dyed the day before) and locally made sopressata sausage. But the primo? And main course? The only thing we knew for sure was that we weren’t going to have lamb because Sophie doesn’t do lamb anymore.
We came home with pretty much what you would expect this time of year: artichokes, fave beans, peas and asparagus. Also two beautiful fish.
And so our menu quickly became pasta with fave, peas and artichokes, followed by pesce con olive with a side of roasted asparagus.
But what kind of pasta? On the way home from lunch on Saturday in the old part of town, we picked up freshly made orecchiette from Nunzia. But rather than use the medium sized pasta we usually buy, we decided to go wild and get the huge mega orecchiette, which are basically the size of the ears they are named after. In all the years I’ve been coming to Bari we have never ever bought them. We go teeny tiny, or medium. But never the big ones. And I have no idea why.
The pasta turned out delicious, and we all decided that large sized orecchiette are definitely our preferred shape from now on. They were somehow chewier and almost meaty in consistency, and we had to use a fork and knife to eat them. But don’t worry if you can’t find the big ones, the normal sized will do. Or any other short, stubby pasta shape really.
The rest of the lunch went as it always does. Everyone saying they couldn’t, after the antipasto and pasta, possibly eat the main course. And then finishing it. And then swearing off the multitude of cakes, cookies and chocolates. And then eating those too. And then of course, falling into a sugar stupor and taking a group nap.
Kind of like every other holiday, right? But with artichokes.
- 800 grams orecchiette
- 4 artichokes
- 1 kilo fresh peas in pod
- 1 kilo fresh fave beans in pod
- 2 medium leeks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- zest from one lemon
- juice from half lemon
- 1 cup grated ricotta salata,
- Trim the artichokes by cutting off the tough outer leaves and trimming the stem. (see this post for more details on how to do this). Once the artichokes are trimmed, let them sit in water with a bit of lemon juice until you are ready to slice them. This keeps them from oxidizing.
- Take the peas and fave beans out of their pods, but keep them separate, since they have different cooking times. I don't double shell the fave beans, as most people don't ever do this in Italy.
- Slice the leeks in quarter lengthwise, then chop finely.
- Pour the olive oil into a pan large enough to hold all the vegetables at the end. When the oil has heated, add the leeks and about a tsp of salt and a half teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Cook on medium low heat until softened , about 10 minutes.
- Slice the artichokes into ¼ inch slices and add to the leeks. (if your artichokes have chokes, this is the time to trim them out). Stir and about a cup of water, stir and cover. Let this cook for about 10 minutes.
- Next add the fave beans, stir and again cover and let cook until tender. This will depend on the size of your fave beans. It should take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat if you are not ready to make pasta yet.
- While the vegetables are cooking, using a vegetable peeler, remove the lemon zest from the lemon in strip. Place on cutting board and chop with the parsley. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta.
- At this point add the peas to the rest of the vegetables. , which should only take about 10 minutes to cook. Turn up the heat and add a bit more water if yo think it's too dry. Cover and let the peas cook. I add them at the last minute with the hope they will retain their bright green color. (sometimes a loosing battle. ) Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding the lemon juice.
- When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and toss it with the cooked vegetables, gently. Add the ricotta salata and the chopped parsley mixture. Toss again and serve.