In Spring we get broad beans and fresh peas. Artichokes (one name for them is cannolicchi in Sicilian) are also available and the combination of these three vegetables is very common in Italian (includes Sicilian) Spring recipes.
The recipe and the name of this dish is taken from the menu of one of Sicily’s outstanding restaurants the Charleston, found in Mondello on the outskirts of Palermo. I do not know why the restaurant is called by this name, but speculate that its size and grandeur is reminiscent of the popular, dance halls of the twenties. It is a lively, glamorous restaurant on the water, with top food and reputed to be frequented by pezzi grossi (slang for people who mean business).
The Charleston is a popular restaurant and the menu represents the best of Sicilian traditional dishes, wines and quality produce. Each traditional dish is modern in its presentation and very different to Sicilian food one generally eats in Sicily.
Using tubular pasta will help to trap the sauce and cannolicchi are suggested in the recipe. These are cylindrical shaped, hollow pasta ranging from 50-60 mm in length with a smooth surface; other large tubular pasta can be used.
The vegetables are cooked very quickly. The softer centre and the fondi of the artichokes (the tender, fleshy parts at the base) are used in this dish, so you can purchase the larger, fleshy, artichokes which are very common in the Queen Victoria Market.
The pasta dish is similar to a warm salad. I make the sauce while the pasta is cooking to better preserve the colours of the vegetables (the different shades of the colour green).
In my recipe I add herbs at the end of cooking – mint or fennel fronds (cut finely) or fresh basil (not yet in season). I also like to include a spoonful of fresh ricotta on each person’s plate.
The following recipe is for 6 people
pasta, 400g cannolicchi or other tubular pasta
artichokes, the fondi (bases)-depending on the size of the artichokes I usually buy 5 large artichokes and use the stalk as well.
lemon, 1 for acidulated water.
broad beans, young, 1kg.
peas, young, 1kg.
onion, 1 large white, fresh (fresh onion are sweeter in taste ) sliced,
pecorino, 100g freshly grated
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil, 3/4 cup
Shell the peas and broad beans. (Many remove the outer light green peel of the broad beans – I only buy young broad beans and only remove the skin of the larger beans)
Prepare the artichokes by first removing all of the leaves and only keeping the tender centre and its fleshy base. Remove the choke if there is one. The peeled stalks and the artichokes should be sliced finely. Keep in acidulated water until ready to use.
Boil the water, add salt and cook the pasta and make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
Heat the oil and add the onion. Stir gently until golden and softened.
Add the vegetables and toss till they begin to change colour and have softened (about 7-10 mins). Add salt during cooking.
Add fresh, finely chopped herbs before the end of cooking..
Drain the pasta, add the sauce and toss gently.
Present it with grated pecorino and black pepper.
I hope to eat at the Charleston again (I arrive in Palermo within the next few days). Because it will be autumn, these will not be on the menu, but I am pretty certain that whatever I eat will be seasonal and fabulous.