Spring is a time to appreciate the fresh fruit and vegetables that help to add a bit of flavour and colour to the food, allowing us to awaken from the heavy food of winter. The first plants of spring, although short lived, are a wonderful addition to any meal. And if you are visiting Italy in Spring, why not try meals with some of the great Spring veg.
Made famous by a line in a film, Fava beans is a large bean and is a beautiful, bright green colour. One of the main dishes is Vignarola, a typical Roman dish. Vignarola is a combination of fava beans, lettuce and artichokes and is a light stew, that is full of flavour and helps keep the Spring chill away.
In the Vignarola, there was another spring vegetable, the artichoke. They play an important part in springtime menus, especially in Rome. The Romans have different ways of serving an artichoke.
One of the styles is Carciofi alla Romana. Once the artichoke is peeled of its outter leaves, it is stuffed with mint and garlic and is cooked in a mixture of water, white wine and olive oil.
Another famous dish is Carciofi alla Giudea, Jewish style. The artichokes are fried and originated in the Jewish Ghetto, many of the restaurants still do them as a speciality!
A great addition to perk up any meal, the asparagus has had a long history in Rome. Romans were the first to start to cultivate asparagus, and it is even said that Julius Caesar eat asparagus with melted butter.
The asparagus can also be served in many different ways, boiled, roasted, fired, added to risottos, pasta and pizza. In Rome it is common to steam the asparagus over water.
It is a Roman dish of grilled lamb. Families will tend to buy their own, especially on the run up to Easter, marinating the meat and then roasting it with garlic and herbs. It is very tender meat and is perfect for the spring.