De li sparaci – Asparagus with saffron

Togli li sparaci e falli bollire; e quando sieno bulliti, ponli a cocere con oglio, cipolle, sale e zaffarano, espezie trite, o senza.


Serves 4

  • about 450 g green asparagus
  • 1,5 dl water
  • olive oil
  • 2 spring onions (or 1 common onion)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of saffron
  • pinch of ground spices: cinnamon, ginger, cloves

Snap off the dry ends of asparagus and carefully peel the asparagus ends if needed (if they are very thick and woody, usually not necessary in my opinion). Place the asparagus on a large frying pan and add about 1,5 dl water and let it simmer for about 5 mins. Be careful not to overcook. Pour the reminding water away and add oil, chopped spring onions and spices. Fry 6-10 minutes or before they are done. Serve warm.

Comments: The original recipe tells to use onion which is most likely common onion. Scallions are mentioned twice in the source. In one recipe the scallions are mentioned with onions. So most likely the common onion is what was meant for this dish. I was rebellious and wanted to use spring onion because they were available.

The original recipe doesn’t specify what kind of ground spices to use. The recipe only suggest to use ground spices or not to use them. It is up to you. There is 184 recipes in the source and I quickly counted that there is about a bit over 70 recipes that does not specify what kind of ground spices (good spices, fine spices, some spices..) are used in the dish. Pepper and saffron were most commonly mentioned separately (sometimes with other “spices” and sometimes without). Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom were mentioned couple times. Also seeds like mustard, anise, fennel, cumin and coriander were mentioned. Some herbs too but those I did not count this time. I choose to use some most common spices.

Serve this dish for 4 people as an appetizer or with other main course dish.

Source:Libro della cocina, Anonimo Toscano around the end of the 14th century and beginning of the 15th century