Today a recipe with one of the most unknown and not much used legumes: the grass pea, known also as chickling vetch and several other names (in Italian cicerchia) 🙂
It’s a good legume first of all, and as all the legumes I like it. In the past it was very common and it was an ingredient popular between the poorest people, because it’s a very adaptable crop, famous for its ability to survive under extreme climatic conditions such as drought, water stagnation and heat stress (however, when eaten as a large part of the diet over a long enough period, for example during famine times, it can permanently paralyse adults from the knees down and cause brain damage in children, a disorder named lathyrism, of course there is no risk at all in a normal diet, so if you eat it sometimes and not every day!).
But then in the last 50-60 years, at least in Europe, it has been forgotten by many people and nowadays it’s a niche product, in Italy it is still produced in few areas of central and southern Italy (for example valued is the cicerchia of Serra de’ Conti, a village of Marche region).
Like almost all the legumes you need to soak them some hours long in water, but it is usually faster to boil compared to other legumes as the chickpeas for example, the grass peas I used (the type from Serra de’ Conti) were ready in only 40 minutes.
The most common recipes are about soups, but in Italy they are traditionally prepared also with pasta and now I’m going to show a recipe with it. I’m going to use only extra virgin olive oil, but a good alternative can be also adding some lardo or pancetta (in that case don’t use the anchovy fillets, don’t use them also in the case you want to make a vegan/vegetarian recipe).
INGREDIENTS (2 people):
- 120 g grass peas, dried
- 180 g pasta (short, in this types of recipes I like to use a mix of short types)
- 3-4 tomatoes
- 1 or 2 anchovies (salt-packed is the best choice, otherwise also the ones in olive oil are fine)
- half onion, or a shallot
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh parsley
- freshly grated Pecorino cheese (or Parmigiano Reggiano if you prefer)
- freshly grated black pepper
- First of all put the grass peas in a bowl with cold water, and let it soak for at least 8 hours.
- After this time throw away the soaking water and put the grass peas in a pot with about 1 liter cold water, the clove of garlic and the bay leaf, and start to boil. From the moment the water starts to boil count about 40 minutes (but is some cases it could take longer, read the package). Season with salt just after the first 30 minutes.
- After 20 minutes that the grass peas are boiling, take another pot and heat a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, then add the onion cut very small and the anchovies, and let it simmer until the onion is soft. Then add the tomatoes cut in pieces (but remove the seeds before), add a ladle of boiling water from the grass peas and let it simmer some minutes.
- Drain the grass peas (remove the garlic and the bay leaf but keep their boiling water) and add them to the tomatoes. Mix well together, add the pasta and cover with some of the water in which you have boiled the grass peas (just enough to cover the pasta). Set the heat on medium/high and keep stirring until the pasta is cooked. If needed add some water.
- When the pasta is cooked switch off the heat, add some freshly chopped parsley and freshly grated Pecorino cheese at you taste, mix all together.
- Serve it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and enjoy 🙂
Grass peas from Serra de’ Conti
Pasta: short pasta mix from “Pastificio Gentile”
Pecorino Romano cheese
Tomatoes from our garden 🙂
Extra virgin olive oil of my father 🙂