Pasta with Young Poppy Leaves (le Rosole)

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It’s not the same, but almost. And mind-blowing good.

In Santarcangelo, where legend has it the Sangiovese grape gets its name, my wife and I have lunch and dinner at Trattoria del Passatore. We go there for many things, chief among them ravioli served with a rosole sauce.

Rosole, also known as papavero in Italian, are young poppy leaves. You see fields of poppies in Italy, with their brilliant red flowers. The leaves are harvested and used in a pasta sauce, well before the plant flowers.


This recipe attempts to get at the color, consistency, and taste of the Passatore sauce.

What we have in abundance in the States is good spinach. Fresh spinach, frozen spinach; whole leaf, chopped, and cut spinach. Spinach is a staple at our table. At our table, if we’re lucky, there’s a little left over when the meal is eaten

So I substitute spinach for rosole.

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The base of the sauce is diced onion, carrot, and celery. I like the give this base a long slow sauté in olive oil. Later, a pad of butter will do no wrong. My goal is to cook the crunch out of the carrot. In olive oil, on low heat, this will take 15 minutes or so. Once I see the onion going transparent, I cover the pan, keep the heat low, and continue the cook for another 5-10 minutes.

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Leftover spinach, chopped, with a little garlic seasoning and oil of their own, now join the mix.

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And then about 3/4 cup of tomato purée. Not seasoned tomato. Never seasoned.

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Cooking time from here on depends on the look and feel of the sauce. I don’t want it to wet. I want the sauce to thicken a little. About 20 minutes, once you’ve added the tomato. Butter colors the sauce, adds its goodness.

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The sauce is good with penne. It’s good with garganelli. Below you see tagliatelle con le rosole.

Adriana, at Passatore, would say, Nope, that’s not my rosole sauce at all. And I would have to agree. But jumping Jove is it good. Especially with a glass of Sangiovese or whatever red you have lying around.

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