Another Green Recipe from a Militant Gardener

The word ‘green’ is associated with more connotations than most other colours, including immaturity, rawness, naivety, pale and sickly looking, envy, and the green environmental and political movement, just to name a few. Perhaps some of these concepts are inadvertently connected? As an offshoot of the green environmental movement, some cooking sites loudly proclaim to be ‘green’, a word that has become synonymous with healthy. A quick perusal of these sites will reveal recipes using all sorts of everyday ingredients that are neither ‘green’ nor  healthy. ‘Green’ food, just like that other odd term, superfood, has become another marketing tool. Maybe green is the new lite?

Pasta della settimana

As I suggested in a recent post on eating greens, I am enjoying taking the word back to its literal meaning, given that I have a vast array of garden greens to choose from. I can honestly say that most of the things I eat are unavailable in restaurants. I prefer to eat my own concoctions more than ever and have no time for flashy, restaurant styling or plating. I’m after big flavour, freshness and ease of production. My garden greens go in soups, pastas, risotti: they top pizzas, go in salads and stir fries, while the herbs flavour bland foods or star in their own right.

Growing our own food and eating with the seasons is a fifty year old habit, though I think we’ve become better at it with age and more time. My green stories are not meant to promote a romanticised view of country life. Far from it. It’s a lifestyle choice which comes with a fair amount of dedication and is not for the armchair tree changer, the naive or the time poor. The picture of country life, at least in the Italian context ( this blog does, after all, rely on a certain Italianità for content and inspiration) pictures a nonna making bread and preserves or a nonno making sausages and eating pecorino and fresh fava beans under an olive tree. There will be home pressed olive oil and maybe an outside fireplace to cook alla brace. This is the stereotypical view of Italian country life, a wonderful food marketing myth. The idyllic notions about cucina povera conveniently ignore the laborious and hard life of the peasant. Italian migration, especially after WW2, took place as a result of desperate poverty in Italy. We can forgive the modern-day Italian blogger who pretends, just a little bit, to be connected to the land and the seasons, writing from the comfort of her own modern apartment or suburban home via a trip to the nearby farmers’ market to check what’s in season. These stories make people feel that their food has authenticity, another marketing tool.

It’s not easy being green. It’s hard work living by the seasons, which involves making vast amounts of compost based on the layering of collected manure, grass clippings, oak leaves, and scraps, as well as saving seed, pruning, netting fruit crops, harvesting gluts of food and giving it away or preserving it, watering, mulching, and ensuring that the fences keep out unwanted pests such as rabbits. The food tastes good because it has been nurtured well.

If you are fortunate enough to have any small patch of land that accompanies your abode, grow herbs that suit your climate, plant some silverbeet (chard) in the flower garden- rainbow chard, with its yellow and red stems looks wonderful. Plant an annual crop of cavolo nero for winter soups. These tall dark green plants look statuesque in a garden bed next to lavender. Why not grow some artichokes in an unused corner of the yard? Their silver leaves are as ornamental as any other exotic plant and they grow like weeds. Pop in a row of radish every fortnight and some soft heading lettuce. Tend to them like children and learn what they need. The old cop-out, having a black thumb, is an excuse for not learning about your own environment or the needs of plants. Agitate to save an old growth forest from logging and learn to grow a few greens at the same time. 

The two pastas shown throughout this story both rely on the same base soffritto shown in the picture below.

As the spaghettini cooks in the pot of boiling salted water, chop some soffritto ingredients. I like to use anchovy fillets, garlic and dried chilli. Heat a good glug of EV olive oil in a wide and deep frying pan and add this mixture, stirring about to break up the anchovy. Add some greens to the pan- I like to use broccoli Calabrese, a side shooting broccoli that is even finer than broccolini and cooks in a minute, a few young leaves of cavolo nero and some immature zucchini cut into the same shape as the other greens. Toss these about for a few minutes, then add a ladleful or two of the pasta cooking water. Raise the heat to reduce the liquid a little. Once the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the pan of greens. Toss about and season with ground pepper. Serve in big bowls and dress with grated Parmigiano or more good oil, or leave it as is.

No quantities are mentioned in the recipe. It’s entirely up to you and what greens you use. This recipe only works because the greens in question were picked 20 minutes beforehand. Herbs work well. Lettuce, chicory, chard, shaved young artichoke- whatever you can find or forage.

Simply pink. A few stray small garlic before cleaning. I’ll use this lot while young and ‘green’.


  • Brocollini Calabrese seeds can be bought from Eden seeds. Sow these directly into the ground in April ( or towards the end of Autumn). I pick side shoots every second day.
  • Sunny brand anchovies come in 750 gr cans. I buy these at Gervasi supermarket in Brunswick, Melbourne. I haven’t seen them anywhere else in my travels. They are very good and last well, packed under oil.
  • If you grow too many chillies, dry them out and grind them in a spice grinder for the year. You can then decide on your own level of heat. They last in sealed jars forever.


13 thoughts on “Another Green Recipe from a Militant Gardener”

  1. Although I hold you totally responsible for my born-again pasta addiction, I’m finding you recipes just far too easy and filling. I’ve been experimenting with cold pasta dishes seconded from and plagiarised from this very site. Fresh local marinara, tartare sauce, garlic chives, parsley, mint, broccolini. Made the night before, chilled and ready for a lunch for lunch by the creek, served with a pure, fresh icy SSB. even I want to come for lunch at my place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peter, I’ll have to take your word for it. I can;t really imagine cold pasta dishes but then, its bloody hot up there at present so who would want a hot dish. I would be happy, more than happy, in fact deliriously so, to come up there and just eat el tropicano and drink G& T in the rainforest.


  2. I’ve been enjoying your posts and the photos that accompany them. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I can imagine the taste of the ingredients. Sitting in the middle of a city of over 20 millions, I have my work cut out just be able to take the time out to scout the local farmer’s market. Blogs are a nice way to connect and see that there are people who lead different lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou. That;s the best compliment you could gibe me- that you can imagine tasting the food. A city of over 20 million – now that would be a challenge but it is good to know that you can find some farmers markets there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So well written and full of truth. When I had a large kitchen garden such as yours, people would say that they wished they could grow a garden like mine. My comment back was always, you can, all it takes is seeds, sweat, love, sun and time. Your plates of pasta look wonderful and are prepared in a simple way which honors the green.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, then you know all about it Ron, and the work that goes into it. I think that post was a reaction to some of the ‘fake’ posts out there in blogland, those who rave about fresh seasonal produce but have no idea how it happens.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gardening for food is definitely hard work. I try to grow herbs at least (which are fairly easy) and some veg, but rely on our weekly market for seasonal produce. I’m sure that plenty of backbreaking labour went into producing those greens in your pasta, starting with keeping your soil healthy, planting those seeds, weeding, watering, etc…. I think it’s worth it in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is worth it Debi. I think that post was in response to an annoying blog I read. sometimes I don’t even know where my rants come from. Nice that you have a weekly market. We also have a weekly market near us ( a 700 metere walk) but its sells everything else as well as food, and so is often as busy as the Royal Melbourne Show and attracts too many tourists, so I stay away,

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Every neighbourhood here in Athens has a weekly market, some larger than others. Ours is only a few steps away and about 2 and a half blocks long and sells souvlaki (at a portable grill), fresh fish, sweets and nuts, trashy market clothing, cheap kitchen things, but mostly fruit and veg. Tourists sometimes show up in the summer – you can spot them by their cameras or phones and NO bags of produce. Seems rude to me to photograph the place without asking permission and without buying anything. I usually photograph the things I buy and always ask first.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful post, the photos statement enough but even better the rolling commentary on a real green life. Since our move I have learned how much work cucina povera really is, and we aren’t anywhere as efficient and productive as you. We make jokes about how expensive our simple lifestyle is, what it costs us in foregone city incomes but we richer in life.


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