Italian Spring Dishes Make Life Lovely

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Light And Lively Spring Sauces Add Zip To Anything

As the first baby vegetables reach edible size, I find myself backing off from complex sauces in favor of speedy, garden-based ones that can do triple duty as dressings and marinades. I’ve included a few recipes to show how I’ve been enjoying them, but please play around with your own favorite underpinnings. Rice, pasta, steamed or roasted vegetables all make anchoring bases for these bright, piquant sauces.

These days, I’m most often tossing these sauces with cauliflower (my latest craving that just won’t quit). Roasted for half an hour with just a light misting of avocado oil and a little sea salt, cauliflower becomes addictive (to me, anyway), especially when paired with an vividly flavorful sauce. Yow! You can also use these sauces as sandwich spreads (partner with crisp Romaine and sliced cucumber) and raw vegetable dips, slather them into wraps or spoon them over grilled fish…

Italian Parsley Sauce

I learned to make this lilting sauce back when I was a perpetually broke student in Perugia, a lovely Italian hill town. Parsley sauce enlivens pretty much anything and makes a fantastic dressing for fresh or steamed spring greens, asparagus, new potatoes, and baby peas. It’s also great over hot pasta or rice, topped with crumbles of soft goat cheese. Use flat Italian parsley and include the thinner stems as well as the foliage for a more intense flavor.

Salsa di Prezzemolo

2 cups chopped Italian parsley, well packed
1/2 cup fruity Italian olive oil
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
1-2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon capers, drained

In a food processor or blender, combine parsley, oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon rind, 1 teaspoon vinegar, the garlic, salt and pepper and puree until smooth. Season to taste with remaining lemon juice and vinegar, stir in capers and serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Italian Tuna Salad

This goes together fast and tastes amazing, with tantalizing flashes of lemon and capers balancing the subtle sweetness of tuna and white beans. It’s also great with cooked salmon and garbanzos, and for vegans, you can omit the fish entirely (just use more beans).

Tuna & White Bean Salad

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup radicchio, chopped
1-1/2 cups cooked white cannellini beans, drained
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup thinly sliced brown field mushroom caps
4 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup cooked flaked tuna
1/3 cup Salsa di Prezzemolo (see above)

In a serving bowl, toss all ingredients gently and lt stand for 10-15 minutes to meld before serving. Serves 4.

Spring Dug Garlic Sauce

Freshly dug garlic has a sweet side that mellows its fiery bite. Brighten this richly layered sauce with minced fresh garlic greens from your spring-planted crop or use chives for a similar but milder effect. If you leave out the anchovies for your vegans, add brine-cured olives for more body and depth.

Double Garlic Sauce

2 tablespoons raw almonds
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 organic lemon, seeded and chopped
2 anchovy fillets, drained OR 1/4 cup pitted olives
1/4 cup fruity olive oil
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, packed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
2 tablespoons minced garlic greens OR chives

In a food processor or blender, grind almonds to a coarse paste. Add garlic, lemon and anchovies (or olives) and again grind to a coarse paste. Add oil, oregano, salt and paprika and puree for 8-10 seconds. Stir in minced greens and serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Garlicky Pasta With New Peas

Another speedy dish that cooks in under 20 minutes yet tastes like you spent all day making it (I love getting more credit than I deserve!). This is also an Italian regional dish with many variations, including adding chopped greens to the peas and garnishing with grated hard cheese.

Fettuccine With Fresh Peas & Garlic

10-12 ounces fresh fettuccine
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 pound fresh peas, shelled
1/2 cup Double Garlic Sauce (see above)
1/4 cup chopped snap peas (in the pod)

Cook pasta according to package directions. While water heats, combine butter, garlic, onion, celery and salt in a wide, shallow pan over medium high heat and cook until barely tender (3-4 minutes). Add peas, reduce heat to low, cover pan and sweat peas for 3 minutes. Add Double Garlic Sauce, heat through, remove from heat and toss with hot, drained pasta, garnished with snap peas. Serves 4.

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4 Responses to Italian Spring Dishes Make Life Lovely

  1. Diane Gordon says:

    Hi Ann, I think I must have all of your gardening books and have been an admirer for years. Just recently subscribed to your blog and am enjoying your posts. Last night I made your Italian parsley sauce and served it over grilled salmon, asparagus and new potatoes. I even grilled the salmon with some of the sauce. Couldn’t resist we put it on everything and it was great. I’m looking forward to trying some of your other recipes as my small kitchen garden continues to grow over the summer. THANKS!

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Hey, great to hear! I love that sauce and sometimes make it with cilantro instead, also very delicious.

  2. Intend to try the parsley sauce to bring back memories of my own time spent in Perugia.

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