This excerpt is from Alan Bergo’s new book The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora: Recipes and Techniques for Edible Plants from Garden, Field, and Forest (Chelsea Green Publishing, June 2021) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.
This pasta dish is one of the first things I made with milkweed, and a good example of how even the tough leaves can be put to work. Here the leaves are used to color the pasta dough, while the buds are tossed in at the end with a few scrapes of lemon zest and a good knob of butter. It’s a great way to enjoy the buds by themselves and celebrate the season.
- 2–3 ounces (55–85 g) small, firm milkweed buds
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 4 tablespoons shallots, in 1/4-inch (6 mm) dice
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup (135 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 recipe Milkweed Leaf Pasta Dough (follows)
- 1/8 cup (30 ml) water from the pasta pot
- 2 teaspoons fresh-grated lemon zest
- 4 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, or other domestic Parmesan, plus more for serving
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Blanch the milkweed buds in the boiling water for a minute, then refresh in cold water. Drain the milkweed buds thoroughly and reserve.
In a large sauté pan, melt half of the butter and add the diced shallots. Cook the shallots on medium until they are translucent and soft, about 2 to 3 minutes, then season with a good pinch of salt. Add the stock and cook until reduced by half, then turn off the heat.
Make the pasta, then add half the recipe (8 ounces / 225 g) of it to the boiling water and cook until done, about 1 minute. Drain, reserving 1/8 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the stock and shallots, then add the cooking liquid, the reserved milkweed buds, the remaining butter, and the lemon zest. Cook for another minute or two, swirling the pan until the liquid is thickened slightly and creamy. Add 4 tablespoons of Parmesan and toss to coat, then divide the pasta among four heated bowls and serve immediately. Pass additional Parmesan at the table.