Grannies (& flowers) power! – The unknown spring contest inside Italian villages

For those who “rain water it’s more than enough to feed plants” (even in summer with 40° and first cloud at 10000 km!), for those who “only succulent has a chance to survive” (but the chances will be higher in the middle of the desert!), for those who had granny’s green thumb only while playing with skin paint,

okay, so…for those like me 🙂 …it’s the most wonderful time of the year! There are so many flowers and colors and plants that no one is gonna notice our gardening ineptitude!

appignano spring le marche

But is when the game gets hard…that the grannies start to play!

On time, from the 21st of March, starts a very funny (and not to be missed!) show among Le Marche villages’ sleepy alleys: it’s the competition for “the-best-garden-balcony-doorway-of-the-year”! Through the silent roads, the hardened grannies pull out crockery of every shape, iron pillars of every kind, watering cans and most of all, green plants and flowers hidden in the houses the whole winter!

spring in italian village le marche appignano grannies

And who needs a green thumb if you could enjoy such an amazing show?! It’s definitely far more fun being the silent judge of this imaginary colorful contest (that in the end is not imaginary at all!). Plus the fun of roaming around in tight alleys where no cars are allowed!

So enjoy the show kindly given by these amazing grannies and…may the best win! °v°

flowers grannies italian village spring le marche

villages le marche italian spring flowers

flowers amandola spring plants le marche

flowers italy le marche alleys village

sarnano le marche spring flowers competition plants

appignano flower le marche italy spring

Asparagus & artichokes pasta – Italian Spring is served!

recipe spring asparagus and artichokes

Who said that to conquer a girls’ heart you need flowers?!

You could make a great impression just with an asparagus and artchokes’ bouquet! Ok…add pasta & one sausage (if you are not vegetarian!) for a perfect result 🙂

artichokes and asparagus short pasta recipe

This is a very easy and tasty Spring recipe with two vegetables we simply adore and you can easily find in this period of the year. We choose a very big pasta shape called “ceppi” from Regina dei Sibillini, but you can also use other short shapes of pasta such as penne or mezze maniche.

Ingredients for 4/5 people:

500 gr of short pasta (moccolotti, penne, mezze maniche, fusilli), 4 artichokes, 2 sprigs of asparagus, 1 pork sausage, cloves of garlic, extravirgin olive oil, white wine, salt, 2 slices of lemon, parsley.

Preparation:

Start cleaning artchokes:

artichokes and asparagus pasta recipe

Put the artichokes in a pot with olive oil, garlic and crumbled parsley. Cover everything with white wine and let them cook till the wine is completely consumed.

pasta recipe le marche italy

Usually it takes forty five minutes, but check the artichokes: they should be tender enough. Otherwise add other wine and keep cooking!

While artichokes are cooking, it’s asparagus cleaning turn! Wash them, cut the upper part and, if they are tender enough, take also the first part of the stem making tiny pieces.

asparagus pasta recipe italy

Put asparagus in a nonstick pan with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and a little bit of water. Let them cook for twenty minutes.

Add one smashed sausage and when it is cooked, transfer in the same pan also the artichokes. Put salt as needed and blend everything adding olive oil.

artichokes and asparagus pasta italian recipe le marche

Now that the sauce is done, bung the pasta in boiling salted water. When is ready, drain it and pass it in the pan with the sauce. Melt it for two minutes at low flame for a tastier result!

PASTA DISH SPRING ITALIAN RECIPE ASPARAGUS

Now let’s see if this unconventional Spring bouquet brings the expected reaction on your guest!

Buon Appetito! °v°

Crescia bread with lard and wild herbs – Le Marche in appetizers

crescia

We made a spring wild herbs’ picking up tour with granny Elda, and as we know that a perfect trip always deserves a likewise amazing lunch, we introduce ourselves in pic-nic’s official season preparing this traditional Le Marche appetizer or finger food or salty snack…actually it is so quick and tasty, you can adapt it to a pic nic, an aperitivo or as a starter.

Of course wild herbs are protagonists 🙂

wild herbs crescia from le marche

Ingredients (for 6 people)

For the dough:

1 kg flour, 50 g brewer’s yeast, 2 pinches of salt, 1 glass of olive oil, water as needed for kneading.

For the filling:

Mixed wild herbs (see how to pick them up!) or spinach, 1 pork sausage, chili pepper, cloves of garlic (as much as you like it!), pig lard.

Preparation:

Start cleaning wild herbs: cut the lower part of the trunk (the one usually stick to the ground), discard ruined leaves and wash everything in cold water. Let them dry.

In the meanwhile start preparing the dough: arrange the flour on the wooden table making a mountain shape. Make a hole on the top of your flour-mountain (creating a volcano!). Put in the hole salt and olive oil. Add brewer’s yeast melted in a glass of warm water. Knead all the ingredients adding water as necessary.

crescia recipe flat bread

Wrap up the dough in a rag and let it rest and rise for an hour. Divide it in parts: the size depends on how you want your crescia to be big, but not bigger than a regular pizza. Now spread out each one making a round shape. You can help yourselves using the rolling pin.

crescia recipe le marche

Be careful: crescia dough must stay high! At least higher than a pizza! Because it is more similar to a focaccia bread and it is more traditional. Put the cresce on a griddle and bite them with a fork on  the surface. Turn them frequently. When they turn golden they are ready!

You can cook them “at-the-moment” or even prepare them before and serve cold.

For the filling, start boiling wild herbs in hot salted water. In the meanwhile, put the garlic’s cloves in a non-stick pan and sauté them with olive oil. In another pan cook the sausage. It is better if you squashed the sausage with a little bit of water before cooking it. Now dry the boiled herbs, cut them a little bit, put them in the pan with the garlic and “drag” them in the pan with the sausage and chili pepper till they become tasty!

strascinare le marche typical recipe

Now take one crescia and rub the lard on the surface. It will melt a little bit. Now end putting over the herbs with the sausage (“erbe strascinate”). Buon Appetito 🙂

crescia and wild herbs le marche recipe

Let’s explore some more options & have fun creating a Crescia-bar to surprise your guests:

crescia bar le marche

Getting serious in spontaneous herbs picking! – A picking-tour through Le Marche fields

le marche spring

Seems that finally first bursts of spring are making their way in our Italian middle-earth!

We are winter-addicted but beside snow, it’s a fact that colors and warm breezes always melt the heart! Plus: it’s the perfect season for Picus expeditions! First stop: an outing to Le Marche countryside looking for spontaneous herbs!

grass le marche italian herbs

As grass picking is a serious thing around here, whose secrets and habits has been passed on generations, we called an expert! Meet Elda: 80-something years old & super sprint granny raised up during the Second World War in San Paterniano (Ancona), when grass picking did not mean just fun and health but was sometimes the only remedy against poverty. ”Especially in a country family with 5 daughters” she pointed out.

italian grandma picking herbs

So we have the expert but we actually do not know where to start!

Unless you do not have a favourite secret field, the first step is wandering and wandering looking for an abandoned or uncultivated field, perfect environment for spontaneous grasses’ growth (also because there are no pesticides).

Otherwise, you can take advantage for next year buying some seeds and spreading them in your field or garden….next year you will have an amazing & natural harvest! As this plants are spontaneous you do not even need to cultivate them, just sow the seeds accidentally and leave some of plants flowering, that’s all!

Of course for us the field’s quest is part of the fun! Along with the straw hat 🙂

pick herbs up le marche italy

Consider that not in all fields you can find the same herbs: there are some kinds we did not find in our picking-tour as for example the borage or “Borragine” (but this is just a great excuse for making a second round! 🙂 )

So here is what we had in our baskets at the end of the day and a brief guide on how-to-recognize these wild herbs:

spontaneous herbs le marche italy

Elda also gave us her mother’s favourite recipe with these spontaneous plants…so make sure you’ll be here for our next cooking-post! °v°