To reveal the second mystery from yesterday’s post is to reveal that what you saw were garlic “scapes” aka the ‘spring’ shoots of the garlic plant. Where garlic is commercially cultivated, these fine morsels are often just clipped and discarded and never see the market. The scape is the young stem and budding “flower” of the garlic and, in many home window boxes, gardeners often just let the garlic flower and naturally die back. For those with green thumbs in the crowd, you know that removing the “flower” of any plant forces the energy back into plant and the roots — and when it comes to garlic, by removing the “shoots,” you energize the production of bigger garlic. The “scapes,” once seen as a discardable byproduct are increasingly being seen as an ephemeral harvest in and of itself … and for good reason, CSA providers seem clearly committed to a whole-food-whole-food-use cultivation, so though scapes rare in your grocery store, they are common place in most CSA July shares.
A scan of My Recipe Page shows that I love pasta carbonara — both traditional carbonara and doing nontraditional things with it as well. From salmon carbonara to sweet-pea carbonara, I love, I adore, I worship this particular pasta dish. I love this dish because it has all the richness of a cream dish — without the cream — and it is fresh, light, and packed with flavour. It’s defined by a few consistent ingredients: bacon/pancetta, some garlic, parmigiano reggiano, a bit of oil, and the eggs that create the clingy/creamy consistency the just makes me weak in knees.
While making pesto with scapes is a pretty common way to use fresh scapes, I chose to then use this flavourful pesto in the carbonara itself … and, in so doing, essentially substitute the pesto for the common garlic necessary in the sauce. The result was, oh-la-la divine and if this dish had legs, I might even think of having an affair with it. It certainly has a sexiness to it and, steeped in the flavours of new garlic, this is a dish which will ensure vampires aren’t in your kitchen anytime soon.
Cooking Note: Now for an interesting twist on scape pesto … and a definite twist on your typical pesto. In contrast to a traditional pesto which has basil as the bulk and garlic as the accent, the scape pesto relies on the garlic shoot for both. So in a bid to add some flavour depth and to soften the bite of the garlic while preserving the flavour, I decided to grill/roast half the scapes as well. I had never done this before, but it seemed like a worthwhile experiment to see if roasting the scapes would have the same benefit achieved by roasting garlic. It was an experiment which worked. My only lesson is that I’d probably remove the flowery tops before grilling next time as these had a tendency to wander below the grates and burn and then be disposed of needlessly anyway. Also, choose the largest of the scapes, the thickest around, as these are the stronger and will also not burn as easily.
Finally, as you’ll see, the recipe will produce plenty of pesto … which I like to call not a “problem” but a desired outcome. What you’ll end up with is 5 “parts” — you’ll use one in the recipe below. Freeze the other 4 parts individually for future recipes and uses. Trust me, you’ll be glad you have this as the summer and fall progress.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
Fettuccine Carbonara with Grilled Garlic Scape Pesto
Grilled Garlic Scape Pesto
- 1 pound (450g) garlic scapes (16-18 scapes), washed and divided
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, removed from stems
- 2/3 cup high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup (1 ounce) parmigiano reggiano, grated
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 3/4 pound (375 grams) high-quality fettuccine (I use dried)
- 4 ounces (8 thick slices) double-smoked bacon
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon of chilli paste (or a pinch of dried chillies)
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup of pasta water
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (divided) Grilled Scape Pesto from above
- Preheat barbecue grill to 350ºF (175ºC).
- Wash the scapes under cold water and separate the largest half of the scapes out separately. When grill is to temperature, oil the grates and carefully place the scapes on the grill — grilling for 5 minutes one side …
… then another 5 minutes the other side, careful they don’t burn.
Remove from grill when scapes are lightly charred and tender to the tooth.
- Add pine nuts to a medium frying pan and toast over medium heat — about 5 minutes — until lightly golden, stirring regularly to prevent burning.
- Meanwhile, chop the remaining scapes in 1/2-inch (1-cm) pieces and toss them in a food processor.
Remove the parsley leaves and add them as well.
Chop the grilled scapes …
… and add them along with salt and pepper to the food processor …
… and process for about 60 seconds until a fine paste is created. Drizzle in the olive oil now …
… and continue to process until the natural speed of the blades pulls the pesto together. The goal is to use just enough oil to bring it together — so add a bit more if you want to avoid clumping of the ingredients.
Squeeze in the lemon juice and pulse for 30 seconds more.Add the parmigiano now and pulse until lightly blended.
Taste for salt and pepper and when done. Measure out 1/2-cup of pesto and freeze remaining pesto in smaller freezer bags or containers. You should yield another 4 half-cup portions that you can freeze for another time.
- Now, prepare the carbonara. Heat a large pasta pot of water and toss in a teaspoon of salt. The carbonara sauce will take only about 10 minutes to create, so time your pasta accordingly. You want the pasta to be done shortly after the sauce is ready below.
- Coarsely chop the double-smoked bacon and add it to a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.
Fry until bacon over medium-high heat until it is cooked, but not ‘crisp,’ for roughly 5 minutes.
When done, lower the heat and add the wine and quickly stir it around. Then add the cream and the chili paste.
Simmer for about 3-5 minutes then stir-in the reserved 1/2-cup of scape pesto.
- If you haven’t already put your pasta in the pot, add to the boiling water now, and follow cooking instructions until fettuccine is cooked al dente: approximately 5 minutes for fresh; longer for dried.
- Meanwhile, break the eggs into a large bowl (you’ll be adding the pasta and all ingredients to this eventually so make sure it is large enough) and lightly season with salt and pepper and beat with wire whisk until frothy. Set aside.
- Remove pasta from water and drain well and toss directly into the bowl with beaten eggs. Do Not Rinse and DO NOT throw away the water.
→ Reserve a cup of pasta water.
Immediately toss the pasta and egg together and quickly stir in the bacon-cream-wine sauce. Don’t worry — the heat of the pasta will cook the eggs. This is why the pasta needs to come directly from heat. Stir quickly to ensure the eggs don’t cook unevenly and turn into “scrambled eggs” and pasta.
Taste for seasoning. If too dry, add a few tablespoons at a time of reserved pasta water until a light ‘creamy’ sauce clings to the fettuccine.
- Serve into pasta bowls and top with Parmesan and scape tops and, if you’d like, an extra teaspoon of scape pesto on top.Wine Pairing: Serve with with an off-dry Riesling that has reasonable acidity.