Sparasi e ovi is a quintessentially Venetian springtime ritual, often consumed around Easter time. The ritual seems to be originating from the town of Bassano del Grappa, in the Vicenza province of Veneto, where the time-honoured tradition of growing white asparagus has in time reached peaks of perfection.
Many works of art witness the presence of white asparagus in the area: a famous painting by the Venetian artist Giovanbattista Piazzetta called La Cena di Emmaus, for example, portraits a dish of white asparagus as part of the Last Supper, prepared following the local tradition.
A classic sparasi e ovi feast is nothing fancy. It basically entails dipping the steamed white asparagus in a condiment made with oil, salt, pepper and vinegar, in which the egg has been previously crumbled (mimosa-style). The result is not just delicious, but joyfully messy, too. It’s a good way to kick off a springtime meal, as well as a lovely idea for a seasonal picnic.
From all these stories, though, one truth emerges clear and sharp: the women in my family were and are some really good cooks, able to put on the table meals for dozens after spending long days in the fields, and taking care of the house. Strong women who could prepare nutritious, filling, if only a tad repetitive food out of humble ingredients. Women whom, in part, I didn’t get to meet, and whose cooking I heard so many times about but sadly didn’t get to experience.
Few things feel more festive to me (as to most Venetians) than bìgoli in salsa. As strange as this might sound, this poor, anchovy- and onion-based pasta dish is hands down the most popular Venetian Christmas Eve’s first course. A big classic in the cuisine of Veneto, bìgoli in salsa used to be enjoyed on giorni di magro (fasting days) such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Christmas Eve. Nowadays, you can find all year round in traditional osterie and local restaurants all over the region. However, it remains very much linked to fasting days in the local tradition.