You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

sabato 8 maggio 2010


Primavera. Spring. If you’re an art historian, or a licensed tour guide in Florence, thoughts turn inevitably to Botticelli’s large, magnificent, Birth of Spring. You might, if you live in Italy, wonder when you’ve last experienced such a joyless, rain-filled one as this year’s.

If you like food, you might think of a recipe called Pasta Primavera. Unclear how and why it was invented, but it’s pretty much 100% clear that it’s a United-States kind of invention (though it may have been invented by a Frenchman).[1]

Amanda Hesser’s informative May 2009 piece in the New York Times Magazine discusses the origins of pasta primavera. She refers to it as “an absurdity of 1980s so-called seasonal cooking.”.[2] Who invented it? She goes on to explain the controversies surrounding the possible inventor of this dish, as various theories abound. Perhaps it was Jean Vergnes, chef at Le Cirque, who whipped it up in the 1970s.[3] (To quote Hesser: “Despite his assertion that he invented it, Vergnes was said to have hated the dish so much, he forced his cooks to make it in a hallway.”) Perhaps it was Mrs. Sirio Maccioni, wife of owner of said restaurant, who did so.[4] Perhaps it was Ed Giobbi?

In fact, Jacques Pepin, in his delightful memoir, credits Giobbi: “one of [Ed's] claims to fame is that he invented the now well-known dish called pasta primavera. When Sirio Maccioni opened the first Le Cirque restaurant in 1976, he asked Ed if he knew of a recipe for pasta that would be a bit different and new.” Giobbi proposed a dish made by his grandmother using fresh raw tomatoes tossed with basil, garlic, and olive oil and mixed up with hot cooked penne.[5]

Food folk such as Amanda Hesser have observed that this dish is a merger of Italian ingredients (olive oil, Parmesan) with French (cream, cream, and then some butter). Sort of like what Le Cirque used to be like (a delightful union of both, with Italian heart and soul), in all its glory. But let’s be serious: if we’re going to have a dish with “spring” as an adjective, why obfuscate with needless creameries and out-of-season vegetables?

Really, does it matter? (To echo Mick Jagger in “Shattered.”) This dish incorporates the freshest of springtime things and then, depending upon whom you read/cook, adds frozen peas (horrors!) or prosciutto (tasty!) or tomatoes (not in season when the rest of the ingredients are!).

A quick glance at the invaluable shows some interesting takes on this recipe. All of them look intriguing, some of them downright tasty; many of them call for the somewhat puzzling addition of frozen peas (given that peas are spring vegetables and can be had fresh at this time of year). If you type “primavera” in the search engine, you get 15 recipes, some with pasta, some with rice. Bon Appetit, clearly smitten with the idea of primavera, offers five recipes – one in June 1994, another in April 1995, April 2003, and May 2005.[6]
Next on the Scallion’s and my soon-to-let’s-eat list: Jeremy Fox’s , chef at Ubuntu in Napa, terribly creative (red miso!) take on this somewhat tired, but always tasty, dish. You can download his recipe if you go to Amanda Hesser's article.[7]

(By the way: there are no pea plants, blooming favas, or asparagus shoots in the Botticelli painting. Just a whole lot of flowers and some citrus. Perhaps someone, someday, will take the time to figure out which ones, of the real ones, are edible. Primavere doppie/double spring ... what a thought.)

This dish should shriek Spring! (or Primavera!) when you put a rice-filled fork to your mouth.

Risotto alla primavera

2 T. butter
1 leek, trimmed, white part only, slit longitudinally, and then minced horizontally
¾ c. Arborio rice
1 c. good white wine (the kind that you would like to drink and cook with)
¼ c. thin asparagus, tough ends removed, cut on the diagonal
1 c. freshly-shelled peas
1 c. freshly-podded fava beans
3-4 c. mushroom broth, heated
1 scant t. saffron threads
½ c. grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste
Freshly scissored chives, for garnish

Heat the mushroom broth and bring it to a most warm, but not boiling, temperature. Add the saffron threads, stir, and reserve. Have all your vegetables prepped, and ready to be dropped en masse into the saucepan.

Melt the butter on a medium-low flame in a large saucepan, add the leek, and stir ‘til softened. Add the wine, and stir while it absorbs. Add the mushroom-saffron broth by increments, stirring all the while. Continue adding broth and stirring. After about 15 minutes of careful attention, tip in the vegetables. Keep stirring. The rice ought to be done in about 18 minutes or so, and when you’re about one minute away, add the grated Parmesan. Taste for salt and pepper, and remove from the flame.

Ladle the risotto into two white bowls or dishes (makes the saffron’d green combination really come alive on the plate) and garnish with snipped chives.

This in from Spritzer Gal. Has nothing to do with dogs or food, but ought to put a smile on your face:
And this from Ms. Julie: “As a fellow dog lover, I wonder if you're familiar with the Animal Rescue website. I faithfully visit it daily and click, which ostensibly provides aid to rescued creatures. If you're interested, the website is”

[1] The Scallion and I have a dear Florentine friend – Vittorio – who thinks that many of our (i.e., U.S.) pasta recipes are abominations but terribly tasty.
[2] Go to
[3] Who has sadly just died:
[4] It does not appear to be on Le Cirque Café’s prix fixe lunch or dinner menu at present. Nor is it on offer for Le Cirque’s $95 Mother’s Day Menu tomorrow. Check out
[5] Jacques Pepin, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, New York, 2003.
[6] It makes some us really, really mourn for the demise of Gourmet.
[7] He was involved with Ubuntu at the time Hesser wrote her piece. The web reveals that he and his staff left the place in February 2010. His recipe still sounds good. Named one of the Best New Chefs by Food and Wine magazine in 2008, you can check out seven of his tasty vegetarian recipes at

2 commenti:

  1. Don't you think the Italian Pasta Authorities should cook up a little multi-culti gathering where a representative of each cuisine would offer a culturally-&-geographically correct Bounty-of-Spring pasta dish?
    Technically, this should be a twice-a-year promotional affair, I suppose, so that the down-under hemisphere could showcase its Rite of Spring pasta dishes, too.

  2. I'm looking forward to making the risotto alla primavera, but I may have to wait until next Spring. I have stubbornly decided to eat ribollita everyday until the Tuscan sun shines for at least 5 hours during the course of one day. Which may mean a dietary change near la vendemmia, in which case most of the necessary ingredients will be past their prime. This gentile reader implores you consider a blog with ribollita variations.