The bitter truth
When I was young my parents would fix and eat dandelion greens. As a kid I didn’t eat them, not much liking their bitter taste. I only thought twice about the fact we were having weeds for dinner when my friends were over and would question some of the meal choices going on in our kitchen. Growing up in a traditional Italian household does that sometimes. Instead of meals like casseroles or sloppy Joe’s (reserved for dinner every now-and-then), my family would serve things like octopus, dandelion greens, squash blossoms, and lentils. These things could seem strange to others.
I loved those healthy and tasty meals – with the exception of the dandelion greens! I’m happy to see many of the familiar dishes I ate growing up (and still do) are now recognized as being part of a healthy Mediterranean diet.
I must admit that I probably haven’t had dandelion greens since I was young, but I thought I’d give them a whirl, now that I’ve grown up. Since it’s springtime and dandelion greens are in full force, I decided to try bucatini with wilted dandelion greens and anchovy sauce.
The subject matter expert I contacted (my mom) for instructions on how to cook the greens said that the trick is to first blanch them before you sauté them. This helps remove the overwhelming bitterness of the greens.
Keep in mind that these greens will shrink a lot when you cook them, much like spinach does. At first I didn’t include enough of the greens in my dish, and had to adjust. The anchovy-garlic sauce in this pasta dish balances the slightly bitter greens. The garlic isn’t too strong since it’s roasted, and the anchovies add a nice saltiness.
You should give these weeds a try! The combination of flavors in bucatini with wilted dandelion greens and anchovy sauce is a delight!
Recipe for Bucatini with Wilted Dandelion Greens and Anchovy Sauce
Bucatini with Wilted Dandelion Greens and Anchovy Sauce
- 8 ounces bucatini, cooked according to package directions (reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water when finished)
- 1 large bunch dandelion greens
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2, 2-ounce tins of canned anchovy fillets
- 4 cloves garlic (mince one of the cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Roast 3 cloves of garlic by placing the unpeeled cloves in a small pan and drizzling them with a bit of olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes.
- When the garlic is finished roasting, squeeze them out of their skins and into a small bowl along with the drained anchovy fillets and 1 teaspoon of the anchovy oil. Mash the garlic and anchovies together to form a paste. Set aside.
- Cook the bucatini according to the package directions, and drain when finished. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- During the second half of cooking the pasta, wash and trim the ends from the dandelion greens. Blanch them in boiling water for just about 3-4 minutes, until the dandelions turn bright green. Immediately rinse them under cold running water for a minute. Drain them in a colander and squeeze out any remaining moisture.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the dandelion greens and cook for about a minute. Add the minced garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and mix well. Add the anchovy paste to the mixture, along with the cooked pasta and a bit of the pasta water (add 1/4 cup at a time). Mix so everything is well coated and the water has evaporated.
- Add about 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese to the mixture and stir it again.
- Add the mixture to a large serving bowl and serve warm.