Saturday, 2 February 2013

Hearts and Flowers

Spaghetti allo Zafferano Carciofini e Piselli
Spaghetti with Saffron, Baby Artichokes & Peas

The hearts in question here were of course these tiny, delectable baby artichokes- so small and tender they were literally all heart! And the flowers, crocuses- in particular, these were Sicilian ones from Tropea, where the wonderful saffron that I used originated from. I am not sure which region in Sicily the artichokes came from... but they were also from The Old Country- so I got a little nostalgic whilst I prepared this... and very, very hungry!

This is a traditional combination in Italy, although I must admit, it was one that I had never tried until this evening! When I caught sight of the tiny little artichokes I knew they had to be mine- I know by now how wonderful they are! I only began eating the smaller artichokes in the past year or so- back home, my mother only ever prepared the larger, "Roman" artichokes- with lemon, garlic and and mint... mmm! But now I am all grown up I am enjoying venturing out and beyond a little- and that is a good thing!

To make this, I heated just enough water to cover the artichokes in a small saucepan, brought it to the boil, added about a half teaspoon of saffron threads, a squeeze of lemon and the artichokes. Once they came back up to the boil, I added a little salt, reduced the heat to a gentle simmer and let them cook for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, in an second saucepan, I started the spaghetti boiling. After about 5 minutes, when it was half- cooked, I turned off the heat and set it to one side. I then took a large frying pan and fried a very finely chopped clove of garlic in a little olive oil in it. When the garlic began to color slightly, I added the peas, straight from frozen and let them fry for a minute or two. I then added the artichokes along with the water they had simmered in, which was by now tinted wonderfully yellow by the saffron. 

And then, you guessed it, I added the spaghetti, so that it could finish cooking along with the other ingredients and really soak up the good flavors- oh, and that wonderful color too! When I added the pasta, I scooped it out of the saucepan using a pasta fork, so I still had the hot cooking water, which I added little by little as was necessary. The idea is to give the pasta just enough liquid to cook, but no more- so that all of the flavor stays right there in the saucepan.

I seasoned with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg and after about 5 minutes of cooking this way it was ready to serve! And it was totally delicious! Buon apetito a tutti!

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