Since when I was a little kid, springtime has always been synonym with foraging and cooking with wild herbs. For years in this season, our table has been filled with dishes featuring wild garlic, wild hop shoots, mauve leaves, dandelion, and nettle. Usually, we would keep things simple and stir fry the herbs quickly before throwing them in a frittata or a savory tart, or directly on a plate as a side for meat or hard boiled eggs. Sometimes, we would do risotto or pasta or even soup –a simple minestrone with legumes and grains and whatever vegetables the season offered. Living in the countryside has deeply shaped my way of conceiving food as seasonal in the first place, and of cooking while following this philosophy.
In London, the availability of produce from all over the world fascinates and scares me at the same time. It is as if the symbolic value of time and place that food carries was completely deleted and forgotten, so much so that the meltin’ pot of people intermingles with the meltin’ pot of foods. It feels great to have such a huge amount of ingredients to select and cook with, but in a way it feels confusing, too. This is why I love farmers’ markets – they help me reconnect food with a place and a time and find a balance between myself and what is around me. In Wimbledon, where we live at the moment, there is a small farmers’ market happening on Saturdays. Last week, we bought greens and a big bunch of wild garlic, then headed home and made a big pasta lunch.
Wild Garlic Spaghetti with Chilli Oil
Fill three-quarters of a large pot with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, add coarse salt and spaghetti (do not break them, push them down slowly with a wooden spoon until they are submerged). Cook the pasta al dente following cooking instructions (count a couple minutes less than what written on the package).
While the water boils and the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add chilies and let them fry for a few minutes, then add the garlic leaves and sauté them until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the spaghetti and add them to the skillet with the rest of the ingredients. Toss everything for a minute over medium-high heat. Remove, season with grated Parmigiano and serve immediately.