Like any vegetable that is only at its best for a few weeks a year, agretti (also known as Salsola Soda or Friar’s Beard) feels like a rare treat. This happens to coincide with the moment that the weather is warm enough to permit outdoor dining, further feeding the soul. Agretti is light and full of grassy flavour as well as being very easy to prepare.
400 grams of good quality spaghetti (if you can find it, try Rummo or Mancini as they retain a bite and are full of flavour)
A large bunch (about 300 grams) of agretti
1 clove of garlic
1 large spring onion, sliced
1 fresh chilli, sliced
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Montecalvi Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Begin by cleaning the agretti carefully, cutting the pink and red roots off and soaking the green strands in a large bowl (or the sink) of cold water, ideally accompanied by half a lemon. Then rinse under running water, checking whether there are any roots left to cut off or woody leaves.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil, which you will use both for the agretti and the spaghetti.
Gently fry the clove of garlic in the Montecalvi olive oil, until it starts to change colour, then remove the clove. Add the onions and cook on a low, slow heat until translucent (between 5-10 minutes), and then add the chilli. If the pan is beginning to dry out, take off the heat and add a little water from the pasta pot.
Timing is crucial now: check the pasta cooking time, then shave off 30 seconds, and put the spaghetti in. Once there are 5 minutes left on the clock, add the agretti and cook together, then drain (leaving aside 1/2 a cup of water from the pasta), and pour the spaghetti and agretti in to the onions. Saute for 30 seconds, tossing well, adding olive oil and a bit of the pasta water to mix. Take off the heat, add the lemon zest, then taste for seasoning and add a little more olive oil to serve.
This dish is the perfect partner for our Vermentino — bringing true Tuscan flavours of the early summer to your table.