One of the biggest pleasures during this period is going to the many farmers’ market all around the city and lose myself in the whirl of colours and smells that characterize this joyous season. This Sunday for example I spent some time in Terrabio, where I bought all ingredients for this recipe.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Vignarola, directly from the Roman tradition.
La Vignarola – Roman-style braised artichokes and spring vegetables
The Vignarola smells spring, land, countryside, abundance and country wisdom. In its simplicity, it’s really a celebration of the bounty of nature.
This vegetable braise is a real green explosion: peas, artichokes and fava beans are the protagonists of this culinary piece of art. To be precise, the artichoke plays its last act, as the only element that leaves the stage in this season, kissing goodbye to the newcomers fava beans and peas. Nothing represents the natural cycle and the changing of seasons better than this poor and rustic, yet exceptionally tasty and spectacular recipe.
You will be amazed by its versatility!Eat it as unique dish, or side dish, or use it as filling for a quiche. It is as well a marvelous dressing for pasta. If you enjoy it with a couple of slices of toasted bread is like being catapulted in the Roman countryside.
The origin of la Vignarola
As many other Italian specialties whose origins are a little bit obscure, this vegetable braise makes no exception. Its origin gets lost in a maze of past traditions, folk wisdom and legends. According to one version, the Vignarola takes its name from the peasants who sold their fruits and vegetables in the streets, namely the Vignaroli. Another version correlates the name to the fact that all vegetables involved grew among the vineyards – le vigne. Pretty charming, isn’t it?
Variations and additions
Like in many other cases, there are different versions of this recipe and opinions about how you should make it. I use just water to braise the vegetables, but some recipes call for white wine or stock. You can also add cured pork – guanciale or pancetta – to give a stronger note to an otherwise very delicate dish. I generally avoid it, because I don’t like to be distracted by the taste of the meat, but it’s really personal. If you wish to add it, you should sauté the guanciale alone as first step; then you should put it away and add it again in the pan right after the onion has become soft and translucent, before adding the artichokes.
An addition of mint or salad is foreseen as well. I use romaine lettuce, which is the most used variety for this braise, but you’ll do just fine with other similar kinds of lettuce as well.
Preparation and cooking time
The preparation depends a lot on the freshness on your vegetables and on the result you want to obtain. The cooking time varies from half an hour to even 2 hours! Anyway, if your vegetables are sweet and fresh, it’s really unnecessary to overcook.
The best result for me is an oily and juicy but not soupy dish, where the softness of the onion and the tenderness of the artichokes gently mingle with the slightly crispy crunchiness of beans and peas.
When your braise is ready, let it rest in the pan at least 10 minutes before serving it. It’s better to consume it at room temperature and the best thing is to eat it the day after!
Unfortunately this time I haven’ t found the variety of artichokes the Vignarola calls for, le mammole romane, the typical soft, large and juicy artichokes from Rome, but I mean, we gotta do with what we find, right?
Roman-style braised artichokes and spring vegetables – La Vignarola recipe
Ingredients (2 servings)
2 spring onions
4 tbsp olive oil
the juice of 1 lemon
2 artichokes, preferably mammole
150 gr (1 cup) shelled peas
150 gr (1 and 1/4 cups ) shelled fava beans
5/7 leaves romaine lettuce
2 tsp salt
500 ml (2 cups) water
Cut the lemon in two and squeeze its juice in a bowl filled with water.
Clean the artichokes, by pulling away the darker, outer leaves, until you reach the soft, inner ones; once there, trim approximately 1/3 from the top with a sharp knife. Trim the outer part of the stem and remove the final part as well.
Cut the artichokes lengthways so to reach the heart and pull away the hairy part with the knife. Cut them in wedges and pour them into the lemon juice/water mixture to avoid oxidation.
Remove the pods of peas and fava beans.
Wash the lettuce and cut it in small stripes.
In a large skillet heat olive oil and add the chopped onion with half glass of water. Sauté at low heat until the onion releases its sweetness and becomes soft and translucent, around 5 /7 minutes.
Add the drained artichokes with two glasses of hot water and a pinch of salt and braise for around 7/10 minutes, until tender.
At this point add the fava beans and half a glass of water if needed and, after 3/5 minutes, the peas and the salad.
From now on, depending on the vegetables you are using, 3 to 10 minutes can be enough. According to some recipes you should keep on braising for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. It is up to you to decide which consistency you prefer, tasting constantly, and adjusting the braising time consequently.
When it’s ready, adjust seasoning and remove from the heat.
Wait at least 10 minutes before serving it with some crusty bread.
ROMAN STYLE BRAISED ARTICHOKES AND SPRING VEGETABLES – LA VIGNAROLA
Roman style spring vegetable braise : artichokes, peas and fava beans meet in a green explosion!
- 2 spring onions
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- the juice of 1 lemon
- 2 artichokes, preferably mammole
- 150 gr (1 cup) shelled peas
- 150 gr (1 and 1/4 cups ) shelled fava beans
- 5/7 leaves romaine lettuce
- 2 tsp salt
- 500 ml (2 cups) water
- Step 1 Cut the lemon in two and squeeze the lemon juice in a bowl filled with water.
- Step 2 Clean and cut the artichokes.
- Step 3 Plunge them into the lemon juice/water mixture to avoid oxidation.
- Step 4 Remove the pods of peas and fava beans.
- Step 5 Wash the lettuce and cut it in small stripes.
- Step 6 In a large skillet heat olive oil and add the chopped onion with half glass of water.
- Step 7 Sauté at low heat for about 5/7 minutes.
- Step 8 Add the drained artichokes with two glasses of hot water and a pinch of salt and braise for around 7/10 minutes, until tender.
- Step 9 Add the fava beans and half a glass of water and cook 3/5 minutes.
- Step 10 Add the peas and the salad.
- Step 11 Braise according to the consistency you want to reach.
- Step 12 Adjust seasoning and remove from the heat.
- Step 13 Wait at least 10 minutes before serving it with some crusty bread.