I found it almost impossible to gather all the ingredients for this recipe, but I managed.
The main ingredients for this classic Roman vegetable stew include: fresh artichokes, fresh fava beans and peas, preferably in the pod. I couldn’t wait to make this, and unfortunately, in this part of the world, fresh peas are not yet available. They will be soon though. For this recipe, I was forced to use frozen peas, but it worked very well.
At its simplest expression, you can make this stew using only three ingredients: artichokes, fava beans and peas, a combination almost exclusively available in spring. The person who thought of combining these is a culinary genius, to say the least. By adding other vegetables on hand, you can make this recipe entirely yours. Isn’t it what Italian cooking is all about? Making the most of what is available. You could also decide to add asparagus, another fine spring vegetable, or add the perfumes of fresh mint and lemon juice if such is your desire.
Feel free to make this completely vegetarian, or even vegan. Probably half the recipes I saw used pancetta or guanciale as a base, but other omit meat completely. As this dish is a Roman dish, if you want to serve it cheese, then Pecorino Romano is your best choice.
This Roman spring vegetable stew is called “La Vignarola”, for taking its origins in the vineyards. Apparently, the vegetables used in this dish were cultivated between vine rows, and all were available in spring. In other parts of Italy, namely in Umbria, the same stew is called “scafata”, a term meaning “shelled beans”. I find that, if using young fava beans, you don’t need to remove the skin that can sometimes be tough.
You can serve this dish as an appetizer or as a side dish. It is the perfect accompaniment to grilled meats. It is absolutely wonderful on its own with a poached egg on top, or simply, with a slice of crusty bread. If you have leftovers, add a few cups of homemade chicken broth, and serve it as a soup.
Serve soon after it is cooked, as it rapidly changes colour and lingers between shades of olive-green and grey. It is still divine, and I will make this again very soon. Bon appétit!
Here are tips on how to prepare an artichoke.
1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium artichokes, trimmed and cut in 1 cm slices
75 g (3 oz) pancetta, diced (optional)
1 medium red onion, thickly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
450 g (1 pound) fresh or frozen fava beans
1/2 fennel, sliced
1 red potato, peeled and thinly sliced
a few leaves escarole, sliced (about 2 cups)
225 g (1/2 pound) fresh or frozen peas
3 to 4 cups vegetable broth or water
salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino Romano cheese, to serve (optional)
1. In a dutch oven over medium-low heat, cook the pancetta in the olive oil for a few minutes, until it starts to crisp up.
2. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, until the onion starts to wilt.
3. Add the fava beans, fennel, escarole and potato and stir for a few minutes so the flavours combine.
4. Add just enough broth to barely cover the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, cover partially, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.
5. If using fresh peas, add them after 15 minutes. If using frozen peas, add them 5 minutes before the end. Taste and adjust seasonings.
6. Serve as an appetizer, a side dish or a soup, or as a main, with crusty bread. Garnish with olive oil, and if desired, pecorino romano cheese.