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Pasta with Dandelion greens
Spaghetti con Cicoria (Spaghetti with dandelions/ Pasta with dandelion greens)
Originated from: Terlizzi, Puglia, Italy
Occasion: Any time (in the spring)
Contributed by: Gemma Forliano (her grandmother's recipe)

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Cicoria (Dandelion greens)
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 pepperoncino [hot dried red pepper], crushed (optional)

For cooking spaghetti and dandelion greens
1 large pot of water
about 1 tablespoon of salt


o To pick dandelions you have to be able to distinguish which vegetation growing wild in the woods or in one's own backyard are dandelions and which are not. This is quite easy to do as dandelions have a characteristic-shaped leaf. Dandelion greens do not need to be newly-grown for them to be edible.

o To make a pasta dish with dandelions one can pick older dandelions that have flowered -- of course the flowers and their stems are removed, as are the roots. However, in Canada the older dandelions are only good until the end of May. After May the second crop of dandelions are too bitter to make a good dish.

o After the spring dandelions have been dug out and their roots and flower stems have been cut off, remove any other type of vegetation that might be attached to it.

o Separate the leaves, one by one, making sure there are no flower stems, grass or other types of vegetation attached to them (Do this prior to washing the dandelions, as everything is more visible at this time).

o Wash the dandelion leaves under running water over and over -- 4 or 5 times.

o Soak the dandelion leaves for 10 minutes or so.

o Re-wash the dandelion leaves.

o When one is completely sure the dandelion leaves are clean, drain well.

o Chop the dandelion leaves (about 2 inches long each).

o Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt.

o Add the spaghetti and dandelion greens and cook until the spaghetti are ready.

o Drain the spaghetti and dandelion greens.

o Toss the spaghetti and dandelion greens with extra virgin oil.

o Add garlic.

o Add crushed pepperoncino (optional). Toss well.

o Serve in individual bowls.


Gemma Forliano noted to friend, Mary Melfi (The lady who took the photo and is writing this text) that her late grandmother who grew up in Terlizzi, Puglia often went out into the woods to pick chicoria, dandelions. Back then, in the 1930s, her grandmother, as well as other residents in her town, did so because they were poor and were on the look out for free food. Of all the foods in the world that can be considered to be "poor people's food" surely chicoria has to top the list. The obvious reason for this is that chicoria grows wild while other foods which are also thought of as poor people's foods (e.g., beans) have to be grown and that, of course, incurs cost. In Puglia home cooks came up with a variety of recipes for cooking chicoria, but it seems to be (Or, it seems to me anyway) that in some other regions of Italy (e.g. Molise) chicoria was so looked down upon that home cooks avoided its use. My own mother was shocked to learn that people in Puglia made pasta with chicoria. When I told her of how my friend's grandmother prepared chicoria she said and I quote, "Was she so poor that she had to eat chicoria with pasta?" I assured her that while the dish may have originally been made to save money, it is nonetheless, quite flavorful. It's hard to believe that chicoria, dandelions, North America's most hated vegetation, can, if nicely cooked, be pleasant to the palate (Actually, it tastes just like spinach -- no better, no worse.). In fact, Gemma Forliano whose grandmother's recipe is presented in this entry, loves chicoria so much that she prepares them any and every which way she can. From April to late May she digs out her dandelions from her backyard (which, incidentally, is located in a prestigious area in Montreal) and makes very good use of them.

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