La vignarola

La vignarola (Roman Spring Vegetable Medley)

In antipasti, contorno, Lazio, Spring by Frank14 Comments

A Springtime Roman treat, la vignarola is a vegetable ‘medley’ made from spring onions, fava beans, artichokes, peas and tender lettuce. It comes in an entirely vegan/vegetarian version and one that uses a bit of guanciale or pancetta to lend flavor.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) mixture of artichokes, trimmed and cut into wedges, shelled fava beans and peas
  • A few leaves of Boston lettuce, finely shredded
  • 3-4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) guanciale or pancetta, cut into cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

You begin by lightly sautéing a bit of your cured pork meat in olive oil, just until translucent.

Then add sliced fresh spring onions (scallions will do nicely as well), sauté for a minute or two, then add your artichoke, trimmed in the usual Italian manner and then sliced into wedges. Mix and continue to sauté for a minute or two longer. Then add fresh shelled fava beans and peas, season with salt and pepper, mix, and add some water to the pan. Cover and simmer gently until all your vegetables are nearly tender.

Then add some tender lettuce (Boston or baby Romaine), finely shredded, and continue cooking until the lettuce has wilted and the vegetables are perfectly tender but not ‘mushy’. As you prefer, you can cook off the liquid entirely or leave the dish rather ‘brothy’. The exact cooking time varies according to the size and freshness of the vegetables but should take no more than 20-30 minutes at most.

Serve either still warm or, even better, at room temperature. 

As in so many of these popular dishes, exact measurements are hardly that important, but try to balance the ratio of the main vegetable ingredients—artichokes, peas and fava beans—so they balance each other, so roughly equal amounts by weight of each should work well.

La vignarola

Notes

While I’d venture that the above recipe is probably the most typical, as for so many traditional dishes, there are some variations on the theme. Some modern recipes get fancy and add that other typical, but more ‘noble’, springtime vegetable, asparagus. Some recipes call for the typical large Roman artichokes called mammole, similar to globe artichokes, but personally I like to use tender baby artichokes. Some recipes call for a bit of garlic in addition to the onion. I’ve seen one recipe that calls for a bit of peperoncino, it seems to me that would utterly overwhelm the delicate, sweet flavors of the spring vegetables. Some call for adding a bit of Roman mint called mentuccia or a few drops of lemon juice to ‘brighten’ the flavors. The amount of water varies from recipe to recipe. Some call for just a few drops of water—if necessary—to keep the vegetables moist. Personally, I like to add a fair amount of water to the pan and allow it to evaporate. I find that this melds the flavors more effectively and saves on the cooking time. Some recipes substitute broth or wine for the water, but I prefer the pure vegetable flavor you get from adding only water. As mentioned above, in some recipes, you serve your vignarola as a zuppa, still quite brothy, which makes for fine dipping with some crusty bread. Otherwise, you can let the liquid cook off and serve it perfectly ‘dry’.

The dish is typically an antipasto, but it can serve as a light second course or, in its vegetarian version, even as a side dish.

La vignarola has a very short ‘season’ of only a few weeks while all the requisite vegetables are simultaneously in season. The dish is still good even if you’re missing one of the ingredients (in fact, when I made it this time I didn’t have the lettuce on hand.) But you can successfully use substitutes when one or more of the ingredients are out of season. Frozen peas are perfectly fine in lieu of fresh peas (just add them rather later in the cooking) and—believe it or not—edamame, even frozen edamame, are a fine substitute for fava beans, which can be hard to find in the US. And, in a pinch, you can use frozen artichokes. So, in fact, you can enjoy la vignarola more or less any time of year. But, of course, this dish is at its very best when you use all fresh, tender, young spring vegetables that the Italians call le primizie di primavera.

By the way, vignarola is also apparently the name of a kind of bruschetta topped with a lamb and cicoria mixture, an unusual antipasto that I found in a book called Le specialità della cucina romana: ricette tratte dalla tradizionale cucina casalinga. But by far the more common use of the word is for the recipe described above.

I have heard two stories about the origin of the name vigarola, which derives from ‘vigna‘, or vine in standard Italian.  One story has it that the vegetables that go into it were typically grown in between rows of grapevines. The other is simply that vigna in Roman dialect is used to mean vegetable garden, (orto in standard Italian).

La vignarola (Roman Spring Vegetable Medley)

Rating: 51

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

La vignarola (Roman Spring Vegetable Medley)

Ingredients

  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) mixture of artichokes, trimmed and cut into wedges, shelled fava beans and peas
  • A few leaves of Boston lettuce, finely shredded
  • 3-4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) guanciale or pancetta, cut into cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. You begin by lightly sautéing a bit of your cured pork meat in olive oil, just until translucent.
  2. Then add sliced fresh spring onions (scallions will do nicely as well), sauté for a minute or two, then add your artichoke, trimmed in the usual Italian manner and then sliced into wedges. Mix and continue to sauté for a minute or two longer. Then add fresh shelled fava beans and peas, season with salt and pepper, mix, and add some water to the pan. Cover and simmer gently until all your vegetables are nearly tender.
  3. Then add some tender lettuce (Boston or baby Romaine), finely shredded, and continue cooking until the lettuce has wilted and the vegetables are perfectly tender but not 'mushy'. As you prefer, you can cook off the liquid entirely or leave the dish rather 'brothy'. The exact cooking time varies according to the size and freshness of the vegetables but should take no more than 20-30 minutes at most.
  4. Serve either hot or, even better, at room temperature.

As in so many of these popular dishes, exact measurements are hardly that important, but try to balance the ratio of the main vegetable ingredients—artichokes, peas and fava beans—so they balance each other, so roughly equal amounts by weight of each should work well.

http://memoriediangelina.com/2010/04/29/la-vignarola/

Comments

  1. Pingback: Carciofi coi piselli (Braised Artichokes and Peas) | Memorie di Angelina

  2. Well, doesn’t that sound wonderful. And talk about a “classic Spring dish”, this must top the list. Yum!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Adri! Spring—real Spring, that is—has finally arrived in these parts. Was beginning to wonder if it ever would!

  3. Ciao Daniele!

    I just made this last night, too! IN truth, I can't remember where I heard or read about the origin of the name, but what you say makes a lot of sense to me.

  4. Oh, I love everything about this dish! I'm making this for sure! Recently bought some fresh fava beans and made a salad with them,I'll be running to the store for more!

  5. this is lovely Frank! all these vegetables are in my local farmers market right now, I'll have to give this a try.

  6. So simple and yet I can almost taste the flavours already. Another great way of using artichoke. Sigh really need to keep practising preparing them

  7. Like me, you seem to have fava beans on the brain right now! I love anything with them, and this is really is my sort of dish.

  8. looks amazing as usual. Speaking of artichokes I have a request! My great-grandmother used to make stuffed artichokes with bread crumbs. I've tried replicating it myself but can't get it close to right….maybe you want to try your hand at it? 🙂 Maybe even a little lesson on artichokes because they intimidate me!

  9. I think that version is popular even outside of Rome, all my favorite ingredients in one dish. I can see myself adding some pasta to this beautiful mixture, I made some gnocchi with the same exact ingredients, delicious!

  10. Hi Franfajr…mmmmm I can smell it even thru my Windows…:p thanks for sha;ring such a wonderful dish 🙂

  11. I just did a spring vegetable “stew” – rather brothy. No garlic. I love the tender sweet vegetables. The baby artichokes are so hard to come by here and am just salivating at the thought.

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