June 11th, 2013

Garlic Scape Pesto, and first impressions of Rome


Overseas flights haven’t gotten any easier over time and experience. On our overnight to Rome I slept a little. But I was ill-prepared for the shock of day as we emerged out of straight-jacket seats, stumbling bleary-eyed through the terminal, baggage and customs, and into a van that carted us off to our friends’ home in the north part of the city.

What I remember about those first few hours:

Poppies. So many poppies. Hosts of bright red growing wild along shoulders of highways, dotting fields, saturating hillside patches in scarlet brilliance.

Cooler springtime air. Blue sky jockeyed by dark clouds and a rumble of thunder, spit of rain.

Ancient pines trimmed and sculpted to make towering umbrellas. The surprise of tropicals: palms, lemon and orange trees.

Lush jasmine-like honeysuckle vines, tiny white blooms in thick patches of green that climbed up buildings, tumbled over balconies, made elegant trails from large stone urns.

Espresso. Dark with airy crema top, the sign of a proper pull. Smooth, with a slight bitter edge.

Taralli. ring-shaped fennel crackers from Puglia. Our friend Heather kept bags of these distinctive, delicious crisps around for snacking.

And, pasta. Oh, my. Our first lunch. Plates of fat rigatoni. Tagliatelle. Spaghetti. Bucatini. All fresh made egg pastas that were impossibly, deeply yellow in color. The type of flour, no doubt, and rich golden egg yolks must be the reason.

Over two weeks time, we ate a lot of pasta.


There are the Roman classics, such as
Cacio e Pepe–strands tumbled and coated in a generous shower of piquant Roman cacio cheese and black pepper–seductive and complex in its simplicity.
Spaghetti Carbonara–laced with guanciale and egg beaten so creamy that it both sauces and binds.
Bucatini all’Amatriciana—guanciale and tomato, (pork and tomato–wow) sparked with peppercino, and pecorino
Tonnarelli alle Vedure–a squared-off Roman spaghetti tossed in green: both light sauce and an array of springtime vegetables. (Artichokes, if you are lucky!)

I tried the tonnarelli with green at three different eateries over my two week adventure. The first was at De Cesare on Via del Casaletto, where I met Rachel and Luca for lunch. The Vignarola had braised spring onions, fava beans, artichokes, and peas. You could order it with guanciale or senza–without. It was divine.

Subsequent samplings yielded different but no less delicious results.


When I returned home, I vowed that I would try to replicate that deep yellow egg pasta and the fennel-flecked rings from Puglia. A little research–and I’ll get back with you on those projects.

In the meantime, I got a hold of an early June treat: Garlic Scapes.

You can find these fabulous loops at the farmers markets now. Tally May of Fresh Harvest Co-op is offering them now. They have a vibrant–but not sharp—garlicky taste. Think green garlic. The stem makes a marvelous pesto for dipping crudite, or swirling into a batch of hot pasta and spring vegetables.

The recipe has some other elements to boost its green nature, give it texture and body–and increased nutrition. I used a mix of arugula and spinach leaves, (but you may use one or the other) toasted walnuts, and cannellini beans. It’s a thick pesto, creamy and luscious.

As a dip or a green “vedure” like sauce, we have loved it both ways.


8-10 scapes, bloom cut off and discarded, cut into 2″ pieces
1 cup arugula leaves or baby spinach leaves, packed
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup cooked cannellini beans
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place scapes, walnuts, arugula, and cannellinis into a food processor bowl, fitted with the swivel blade. Pulse, chopping the scapes together with the other ingredients. Add lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes. Pulse. Slowly pour in the olive oil as you continue pulsing. The pesto will become a lush creamy green, with nice texture from the walnuts. Taste for salt.

Scrape pesto into a clean lidded jar and refrigerate. Flavors will develop and intensify over a few hours. Makes about 2 cups.



PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES AND GARLIC SCAPE PESTO (inspired by numerous “tonnarelli alle vedure” dishes dined on in Roma)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 green onions, chopped
4 young carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
1 bundle asparagus spears, cut into 2″ diagonal pieces
1/3 lb. sugar snap peas, strung

1/2 lb. paparadelle or linguine
1 + cup reserved pasta water
Recipe garlic scape pesto (1 1/2 cups at least)

Warm olive oil in a large deep skillet. Saute green onions, carrots, asparagus pieces and sugar snaps, cooking each vegetable for a couple of minutes as it becomes “tender-crisp” yet retains a bright color. Remove each successive saute from the pan.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, but set aside at least 1 cup of pasta water.

Add pasta water and garlic scape pesto to the skillet. Add all the vegetables and toss to coat. Add the pasta and continue tossing to coat all the strands. Add more pesto if you like.

Mound into warm bowls. Dollop with more pesto and serve. Makes 2 large or 4 regular servings.


The view from Heather’s kitchen window–honeysuckle vines, palm tree…

IMG_0049 IMG_0050

The Colosseum, one moment stormy, one moment blue.

Posted in Pastas, Recipes, Sauces, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

18 Responses to “Garlic Scape Pesto, and first impressions of Rome”
  1. JP & Lynn Evans Says:

    Thanks for taking us along Nancy, we get to enjoy the trip without the jet-lag. That looks so delicious and is such a treat for the eyes. Come back safely and keep sharing your adventures!

  2. Beth Says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful trip! There’s nothing quite like Italian food, is there? I loved your descriptions, especially of the poppies. Just beautiful.

  3. ernestine lawson Says:

    Thank you for sharing
    I love this kind of food.
    When a teenager my best friend was Italian
    and still to this day have never tasted food
    like her mama prepared.
    I love poppie and so glad you are
    safely home…

  4. Teresa, food on fifth Says:

    Beautiful description of your first impressions of Rome. Too bad we cannot just be put to sleep like in science fiction space travel…to wake up refreshed and bright-eyed upon our arrival at our new “planet”?
    Beautiful green pesto made with garlic scapes….which by the way are rather other-worldly looking.
    Cannot wait to get an in-person telling of your trip.

  5. Heather Says:

    I can’t wait to try this, I’ve never had scapes! Thank you Nancy.

  6. Kath Says:

    I wondered what scapes were, but they are the top of the garlic before it flowers, is that right? You wouldn’t be able to buy scapes here, but as we grow garlic I will try them. Your trip to Rome sounds lovely, spending time with friends and eating plenty. I am with you on the pain of travel. If only we could transport ourselves there in an instant.

  7. fluffy Says:

    when in roma do as the Latins do!
    lotsa pasta

  8. Juliana Says:

    Garlic scape pesto sounds delicious, both as a dip or in the pasta…and the color is just amazing Nancy.
    Beautiful shots of the Colosseum…hope you are having a fun week :D

  9. goodfoodmatters Says:

    It is good to be home—in a way! I have always experienced that, after two weeks, I get in the groove of either traveling, or being somewhere new and different. And thoughts of home vanish!

    Kath, the scape is the long stem before it flowers, and when trimmed young is incredibly delicious. When my daughter lived in China, a platter of stir-fried scapes was one of her favorite dishes.

  10. Patrick O'Rourke Says:

    Suona come un grande viaggio. Benvenuti a casa.

  11. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Grazie, P.O.!

  12. Kath Says:

    Scapes it will be then. x

  13. Barbara Says:

    I hope I can find some, Nancy. How delicious your pesto looks! Will check my market this weekend.

  14. Rach Says:

    The marvelous pasta cooking water. I love this respaonce to all the green pasta you had in Rome. That soft, pale, creamy green is my favourite colour. I’ve so enjoyed reading Ailmentum. Rxx

  15. Marilyn Singer Says:

    The timing of this recipe was perfect. I had beautiful garlic scapes in my CSA bag this week. Last year I put them into omelets but felt I was wasting their potential. I made the pesto for dinner tonight and it was wonderful. Thank you.

  16. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Marilyn–I’m so glad that the timing was right and you got to enjoy this recipe. Thank you for letting me know!
    We are still enjoying our pesto–tonight spread on crackers topped with the first Sungold cherry tomatoes of the season.

  17. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Such beautiful memories from a bleary-eyed tourist.

  18. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    All the descriptions of the dishes you had in Rome have made me hungry. Good thing I’m going out for an early dinner this evening. Hopefully there will be something as tempting on the menu as what you describe.

Comment on This Post: