Italian Salsa Verde and Homemade Farfalle

Ask any runner and I would say at least half of them run so they can eat well. You like good food?  You want an excuse to eat carbs?  You should be a runner. The best part of any long training schedule is the taper week right before a race when you are instructed and encouraged to "carbo-load."  That is a technical term meaning to eat pasta as frequently as possible as a legal performance enhancer.

I ran a half marathon a week or so ago.  How it went (NOT well) is another post for another day (actually, I wrote about it here if you want to check it out.) And the results of the race cannot and should not be directly related to the quality of the dish.  Never blame the pasta. Always a good motto to have. 

I have learned in the handful of longer endurance runs I have done that while consuming pasta of your choice, it is also important to go light the night before. Think less Grandma's Meat Lover's Lasagna and more dinner on the Mediterranean.  

Spring is an excellent time for lighter pasta sauces.  Herbs are plentiful.  And in the spring, they get a chance to be the star of a dish, rather than the supporting role. Herbs take advantage of the late arrivals of eggplant and tomatoes and squash (those attention whores) and beg you to take notice as they sprout up from your little pots on the back porch. 

Don't be confused by the name of this dish.  Salsa Verde in Italian gets its name (green sauce) from green herbs, usually parsley as the primary ingredient.  I gave new life to a bunch of limp carrot tops I had stashed in my veggie drawer.  Carrot tops look and taste remarkably like parsley.  Probably in the same family but I'm too lazy to look that up.  Another interesting element to salsa verde is the anchovy.  I hope you aren't afraid of these little guys. They bring remarkable flavor to any dish, not at all fishy. And there are so many fantastic health benefits to that little fish, if you are into that kind of thing (helps to balance out all that pasta you are about to toss it with.) I also love this sauce because I was able to use up whatever random assortment of leftover herbs I had or whatever was first popping up in my herb garden.  No rules. Anything goes.

All there is left to do after blending up this sauce is to whip up a batch of farfalle and toss it together.  I had never made farfalle before but it was so much fun.  I borrowed the pinking shears from my sewing basket (my mother is gasping right now) cut little rectangles, pinched them together and voila! The cutest little bow ties you ever did see!

Of course you don't HAVE to make your own pasta to go with this sauce.  But there truly isn't any bagged or boxed pasta out there that can ever come close to the freshly made kind.  And the time it takes to boil water, you can make your own pasta.  It's really that easy. I would include a recipe for that too, but the designated pasta maker in this house gave a rather incomplete recipe for me ("a little of this", "until it feels right" kind of explanation) so I am just going to leave that up to you.  If you make your own pasta already, you probably have a favorite recipe.  And if you don't and want to learn, our very own Chef Boyardee of the house would be happy to teach you.  He is already mentoring a little apprentice.  She takes it very seriously.   

The cooked pasta went into a pan of toasted bread crumbs, about a half cup of sauce (to taste) and a half cup of cooking water.  Toss together, top with paremesan cheese, eat, run, repeat as needed. 

Hey Sis, try this...

Italian Salsa Verde and Homemade Farfalle

Serves 2 hungry eaters or 4 first course servings

Salsa verde:

5 anchovy fillets

3 tablespoons capers, drained

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch carrot tops (about 3 cups coarsely chopped), washed well and chopped

3 Tablespoons fresh herbs (suggestions: rosemary, mint, dill, basil, thyme, chives, oregano)

1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Place the anchovies, capers, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the carrot tops, rosemary, oregano, thyme, red chile flakes, and lemon juice and process until finely chopped. With the processor running, gradually pour in the olive oil through the feed tube and puree until very smooth. Season to taste with pepper and more lemon juice, if you like. (The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for 2 days before serving.)

To Finish Pasta:

½ lb cooked pasta

2 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup fresh bread crumbs

½ cup reserved pasta cooking water

½ cup salsa verde (more or less to taste)

Cook pasta to al dente.  Drain.

Meanwhile, toast breadcrumbs in olive oil over medium heat in large skillet.  When finished, add pasta, pasta water, and salsa verde. Toss until sauce is well combined. 

You will have plenty of leftover sauce that didn't make it into the pasta dish.  Use this to top grilled vegetables or fish.