{Recipe: Spring Pasta}

Can I ask you a question?  I’m not sure if you have an answer or not but I’m really trying to wrap my head around this.  All I need to know is: where did our spring go?  At one moment it was frigid and snowy, then frigid and rainy… and then sunny and 80 degrees.  I don’t do well with extreme temperatures and, despite being fed up with the chilly, wet weather, I was not prepared to be slammed by such a shift.

It didn’t really hit me until we were on the Cape this weekend and I looked around the yard.  Now, normally, the weather is a bit unpredictable this time of year.  You never know if it’ll be one of those nasty, gloomy, sit in your house and watch movies all afternoon kind of days.  Or it could be pleasant out… at least enough to not have to wear a long sleeved shirt.  But this weekend was like no other.  The birds were chirping, the rhododendron were in full bloom; people were boating and swimming and tanning on their decks.  Again, I have to ask?  How did I miss the shift between winter and summer?

And with this drastic climate change, I’ve somehow managed to completely neglect some of spring’s prime veggies.  I never found time to cook with morels before the season came to an end and that has made me very sad.  So I’ve been sure not to miss out on one of my very favorite spring treats: fiddleheads.

I can’t really tell you why I adore fiddlehead greens so much.  There’s nothing about the flavor that really sticks out.  But look at them, in all their curlicue glory!  Their shape constantly reminds me of the books I used to read as a child; something out of Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

A few weeks ago, Eric and I were lucky enough to get a bag of fiddleheads in our CSA box.  It was quite the pleasant surprise and as soon as I realized what they were, I immediately got to work thinking about what to do with them.  I did my best to resist the urge to make a pasta dish, but, really, I couldn’t.  It just seemed like the ideal pairing.  Then the question became, what else to add.

When coming up with a recipe, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the possibilities.  Sometimes all you need is some guidance.  And, so, as I walked home from work one afternoon, I decided to stop off at our favorite local gourmet food store, American Provisions, for some inspiration.  Their shelves were stocked with grilled baby artichokes and roasted red peppers and marinated olives.  And then I found the ingredient I was looking for: anchovies.  Yes, anchovies.  Not “eww,” not “gross.”  Oily, briny, with that wonderful fishy undertone.

As soon as I returned home with the groceries, I threw a pot of water on the stove for the pasta, sauteed the fiddleheads with some onion for a couple of minutes, at the same time preparing the remaining ingredients that would bring the dish together: fresh feta, lemon zest, chopped mint.  And those anchovies.

It was not heavy, nor boring, but bright and bold.  A quick spring pasta dish that was thrown together in 20 minutes and can be done with any of your favorite seasonal veggies (try some fresh sweet peas or some of that marvelous asparagus that’s shown up at the markets).

Spring Pasta

serves 4

Note: There are reports by health officials that say some fiddleheads contain natural toxins that can cause GI sicknesses.  These reports also say to never eat them raw and to boil them for 15 minutes or steam for 10-12 mintues.  Personally, I’ve never done this and I haven’t had any issues.  But this is me and you should certainly prepare them however you feel most comfortable.

1 lb pasta, preferably something corkscrew-shaped, like rotini

1 yellow onion, sliced lengthwise into thin strips

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb fiddleheads, washed well

3 tablespoons butter

feta cheese

fresh mint leaves, chopped

4 anchovy fillets, cut into thirds

zest of a lemon

salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box.

While this is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet set to medium heat.  Add the onions and stir, cooking for 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and fiddleheads, season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once cooked, set pan to the side.

Drain the pasta and toss with the remaining tablespoon of butter.  Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl.

Top the pasta with the cooked fiddleheads and onions, feta cheese, anchovies, chopped mint, and lemon zest.  Serve hot or cold.

  • June 1, 2011 - 12:28 am

    Liren - Hi Brian, I’m wondering where our spring went too. If you can believe, here we are heading into June, and it has actually rained here in the Bay Area. Winter seems to have returned, while the rest of the country has fast forwarded to summer.

    Love this pasta dish – fiddleheads are absolutely whimsical, and I just love the use of anchovies, feta and mint! Salty and fresh, my mouth is watering, imagining the flavors!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 12:36 am

    chinmayie@lovefoodeat - Pasta look delicious. I am new here and just had to tell you how much i LOVE your style of photography… such lovely colours :)ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 1:08 am

    El - I hear you. Looks like global warming is advancing a bit faster than planned. The pasta looks sensational.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 6:29 am

    Michelle - Fiddleheads and anchovies? You’re speaking my language!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 6:52 am

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen - I’ve been wondering the same thing myself. Summer really snuck up on us this year didn’t it? I want my spring back! I’ve been dying to get my hands on some fiddlehead ferns, but I haven’t seen any. I love the way they look and want to know what they taste like.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 6:59 am

    Ken⏐hungry rabbit - Pasta and anchovies- I can eat them all day long. This certainly will be a weekly staple for us during this Spring.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 7:53 am

    SMITH BITES - yep . . . 56 degrees and cloudy one day and the next it’s 90 degrees with a heat index of 97 degrees . . . just what in the heck is going on?? love the pasta dish although i’ve never eaten fiddlehead ferns – i’m certain i’d love them because i mean really, how can you go wrong w/pasta and anchovies?ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 8:12 am

    Winnie - Beautiful photos and recipe Brian! I love all the assertive flavors of this dish. I did get sick after eating lightly cooked fiddleheads last year so I always boil them now. ps I am hating this HOT weather and longing for a real spring.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 8:28 am

    Yuri - With the pasta and the fiddleheads this looks like a bowl of curly delicious umami-rich fun!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 8:35 am

    Jennifer (Savor) - Brain, I just noticed the fiddleheads in our store yesterday but must say, they are not a hit in this family. Shall I try again?ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 9:01 am

    Georgie - Brilliant & lovely!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 9:03 am

    Deb @ knitstamatic - I was wondering the same thing about spring, I really do prefer the gradual change in temperature. 50 degrees one day and then 80 the next is way too big a swing for my aching bones. :-) Such a beautiful light springy dish…fiddleheads and anchovies, huh? I’ll have to give that combo a try.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 9:08 am

    spiceblogger - I’m intrigued…. I’ve never seen or heard of fiddlehead greens! I love the look of them, and they remind me too of “Alice in Wonderland” or any Dr Suess book. :)
    Thanks for teaching me something new today!

    And I’m missing our spring as well. It’s already reaching 100 here in Louisiana! :/

  • June 1, 2011 - 9:51 am

    Ethan - Happy belated Spring! I’m always jealous when I see you receiving your CSA box of goodies.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 9:51 am

    Chris @ The Peche - Lovely stuff, Brian. I haven’t had fiddleheads in years…time to grab some at the market while I still can.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 10:44 am

    Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) - Brian this is my kind of dish. I’ve heard that about fiddlehead ferns, too, but I’m glad you said you’ve never had any problems. This is a perfect spring salad, in my opinion.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 11:00 am

    Elizabeth - I love pairing the fiddleheads with the armoniche rigatoni. Fun fact: their name means accordion.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 3:14 pm

    Lora @cakeduchess - Beautiful pasta dish. I’ve never seen fiddleheads before. Love that you added anchovies, mint, feta…delicous combination and perfect for hotter days:) Have fun on your trip!!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 3:18 pm

    sippitysup - Love those white anchovies. But fiddleheads are not to be had in CA. Sorta the only thing we can’t get. Well that and a blizzard. GREGReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 4:05 pm

    Lauren at Keep It Sweet - I love that you used fiddleheads, I’ve never cooked or eaten them! Really a gorgeous spring pasta dish.

    We’ve also skipped spring in NY but I am very happy to see some summer weather.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 4:40 pm

    Judy - We’ve had no spring or summer. It’s cold and raining still in Northern California. I’ve only had fiddleheads in a restaurant and I’m pretty sure they were raw. No problems here!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 5:12 pm

    Barbara | Creative Culinary - CSA box with Fiddlehead ferns? You lucky guy!

    We’ve had similar weather. Snow last week (OK, just a bit, but still!) and now, well, now actually a perfect day but spring really was too cold and too wet but my yard is happy so I’m going to be too!

    Local Korean market has anchovies…a friend with me went ewww too but I bought some because I’ve heard that they are fabulous freshly cooked. Now to find those ferns.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 5:27 pm

    Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts - Very pretty dish. I have never heard of a Fiddlehead though! Something intesting to see if I can find though!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 9:11 pm

    Bakerbynature - Anchovies are my hearts desire; I always love adding them to pasta and pizza.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 9:20 pm

    Liz - Just a gorgeous pasta dish…I saw some wilted fiddleheads at the market…so had to pass. Maybe next time. Yeah, we went from a week of cold, monsoons to August heat and humidity. Crazy.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 10:40 pm

    MikeVFMK - If this pasta dish doesn’t call our for spring, I don’t know what will. Love the combinations in this dish, mainly fiddlehoods and anchovies. We had some anchovies in Washington in a salad and I was pleasantly suprised. And you were right. It’s oily and briny and the perfect complement to this wonderful pasta! Love!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 11:05 pm

    Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet } - Brian – my hubby and I raised the same question – where did Spring go? Living in the Bay Area it is typically really sunny and warm this time of year, instead we have rain storms forecasted for Friday to almost Tuesday. Urrr. On another note, I have yet to cook with fiddleheads – you have inspired me. This salad looks simply amazing. :)ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 11:15 pm

    Angela@RecipesFromMyMom - I’m not sure if any of the CSAs or farmers markets in our area can get their hands on fiddleheads. Good research question for this week. Regardless, your pasta salad with another green veggie is delightful. I’m a recent anchovie convert after putting them into a tapenade.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2011 - 11:31 pm

    serena @bigapplenosh - Yum, I absolutely love fiddleheads!ReplyCancel

  • June 2, 2011 - 1:22 am

    sweetsugarbelle - I have been staring at this post for two days. I am VERY intrigued by the ferns. I’ve googled them, and am generally impressed that you aquired them and instantly knew what to do. Very very interesting post!ReplyCancel

  • June 2, 2011 - 6:13 am

    Joanne - Okay, your pasta does not even COMPARE to my pasta! Yours is just uber fabulous! I love fiddleheads…for some reason they just seem so…cute! And yes, straight out of Alice in Wonderland 😛

    The anchovies were definitely the perfect touch.ReplyCancel

  • June 2, 2011 - 7:50 am

    Christy - Fiddleheads, wow, what a unique green vegetable!~:) I can see how they got their name!;)
    This pasta definitely looked like a comfort food eh?;)ReplyCancel

  • June 2, 2011 - 11:26 am

    Chef Dennis - hi Brian

    I am with you on wondering where spring went! It went from winter to ungodly hot….sigh
    I love spring, so sad that we didn’t get to enjoy it…..
    Your salad looks very good, love those fiddleheads, I have to look for them at our market, which finally opened a few weeks ago…wow…has it been crowded!

    hope all is well my friend, sorry I haven’t been around very much lately….just having a year from hell!


  • June 2, 2011 - 7:04 pm

    Nelly Rodriguez - Love the simplicity of this! Confession: I’ve never had a fiddlefernhead! 😛ReplyCancel

  • June 2, 2011 - 8:24 pm

    Mike@The Culinary Lens - Strange thing I was thinking the same thing as Nelly. Never had Fiddleheads,, I also love your photo styleReplyCancel

  • June 2, 2011 - 9:05 pm

    torviewtoronto - this looks good I haven’t had like this
    lovely picturesReplyCancel

  • June 3, 2011 - 3:13 pm
  • June 3, 2011 - 3:29 pm

    Kimberley - Those first images look like pastoral heaven. We don’t really get a summer in San Francisco, so I’ll be spending the next three months envying everyone else’s, or getting my fill in short, intense bursts. Love your pasta, too. Wish I’d done a fiddlehead pasta this year.ReplyCancel

  • June 4, 2011 - 1:28 pm

    Baking Serendipity - This pasta looks fantastic! Spring dishes might be the only source of spring left in my world too. I live in Phoenix and it’s hot, hot, hot already! Wishing you a fantastic summer weekend!ReplyCancel

  • June 6, 2011 - 1:03 am

    Andrew Frishman - Mmmm. . . I LOVES me some fiddleheads.

    Voila ≠ Viola ≠ fiddleheads.ReplyCancel

  • June 8, 2011 - 4:13 pm

    Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence - Looking good Brian! I failed to try fiddlehead ferns again this year. I need to definitely put them on the top of my to do list next spring.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2012 - 11:25 am

    4 fresh and easy spring pasta recipes | Pure Natural Mom - […] A Thought for Food’s Spring Pasta […]ReplyCancel

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