Salsola Soda – agretti with roe, grated lemon rind and sour cream – a match made in heaven for pasta

IMG_0884In a recent post on a Southern Italian specialty: Erba di Mare – or rock samphire – an antipasto recipe     I initially identified the plant as salsola soda, which also grows by the seaside, is harvested mainly in Spring, is hard to find outside Italy and which looks similar to rock samphire. However, wanting to make sure I identify plants correctly I did some searching, which led me to discover agretti via a newspaper article:  Agretti the Italian Vegetable that chefs are fighting over Guardian May 2015

While the seeds were no longer available in May in the UK they were still on sale in continental Europe so I went ahead and ordered a packet. The plants are very pretty, which makes it hard for me to harvest them, the flavour of agretti is pleasantly grass-like, slightly salty and is has a nice crunch thanks to the succulent leaves. I grew mine on the balcony, as you can see they grew very well (seeds planted in May – photo of the plants from July 25th). I harvest the plants in snippets, this means the rest will likely grow tough and inedible, but they really are very pretty to look at.


I served the agretti with trout roe, grated lemon rind, sour cream and lots of black pepper on linguine, and it was a very pleasing combination.


I harvested the salsola soda, as you can see above right and blanched it in the water I was boiling for the pasta by putting the agretti in a sieve dipping it in the water, at a roiling boil, and watching it until it wilted. If you take too long doing this step you will lose the crunch and bite of the agretti, if you don’t do it, the leaves are too stiff to enjoy on the pasta, I left some leaves un-blanched to test and found the blanched ones better. As soon as you have finished blanching, run some cold water over the vegetable and set aside to dry on some paper towels.


Set out the rest of your ingredients so that when your pasta is ready you are ready to serve. Either boil a kettle so that you can warm your plates, or else use the pasta water once you have finished cooking the pasta to warm your plates.

  • Ingredients serves 2
  • 1 organically grown lemon grated rind and about 1/2 – 1 tablespoon juice
  • 1 handful freshly harvested agretti leaves not the stems, they are too tough. Blanched in boiling water then cooled with cold water and dried and set aside
  • 1  teaspoon black peppercorns (cracked and crushed by hand with a mortar and pestle for best consistency)
  • small pot of trout roe
  • about 1 tablespoon butter (I used french lightly salted)
  • sour cream about 1 tablespoon
  • linguine (75g – 100g per person depending on whether you are serving as a starter or main and how hungry you are)

Cook linguine as specified on the packet, prepare all the ingredients above while you wait, there is ample time to do this while the pasta cooks if you are adept in your kitchen. If not prep ahead. When the pasta is finished, warm the plates with the hot water from the pasta and dry them, put the cream in the bottom with some lemon juice (divided among the plates as well as some flakes of butter, put the linguine on top, dot the rest of the butter over the pasta, and decorate with lemon rind, agretti, trout roe and liberal sprinklings of crushed pepper corns. Guests mix their seasonings into the linguine after you serve them. Pretty isn’t it?







28 thoughts on “Salsola Soda – agretti with roe, grated lemon rind and sour cream – a match made in heaven for pasta

  1. I’m extremely impressed, Poli! Never heard of Agretti. Never tasted trout caviar and didn’t even know it exists (we are only using the salmon caviar). Would never ever think of adding caviar to the pasta! So yes, lots of new information for me. I’m pretty convinced, though, that we shouldn’t offer this dish for TDPC 🙂

    • Hello Anatoli 🙂 – thanks very much for your comments, they made me smile – happy that for once I have been able to introduce you to something new it has usually been the other way round 🙂 – agretti, only discovered it myself recently, trout caviar is smaller than salmon caviar (which is lovely but a bit big on pasta, so it slips off and sticks at the bottom of the plate and gets lost, trout caviar does too, but only if you use spaghetti) linguine are better anyway, the eggs stick better to them – the recipe is inspired by one I read many years ago (about 25 or so), so I cannot claim that adding the caviar to spaghetti was my own idea, but the agretti combo and sour cream etc. is. It is a very nice dish. Not ideal for TDPC – nobody would be able to source agretti.. there are some great ingredients I like to use, such as Berbere and Mekelesha – but the same applies to them! Ah well, there are lots of easily sourced ingredients too!

      • and the learning continues! Nver heard of Berbere and Mekelesha before – that is again sounds very cool. Mekelesha definitely sounds very interesting – I might have to find it. I think it would be great in a beef stew for the fall…. Yes, not for the TDPC, though.
        You seem to be very capable of finding new and unique ingredients – I think you need to considering starting a new project called “Adventures in Cooking” or something like that 🙂

      • Oh Anatoli – I like that idea 🙂 -it’s a hobby of mine, I will have a think! – Mekelesha is nice, you should be easily able to go have some Ethiopian food where you are, very different, but very interesting, give it a shot. I love to discover new ingredients; I bring back spices and herbs (and herb plants stowed away in plastic bottles in little humid air containers in tupperware in my suitcase) from all travels (I used to bring back cacti hidden in my clothes before I had more practical solutions – what I love about it is that although we may know many ingredients – and fusion cooking has come up with weird combinations, there are still so many discoveries out there – and sometimes combinations that we think sound straightforward are a new revelvation – like for example this Tibetan hot sauce (which for all I know you may know) (TIpen mardur) to go with mushroom dumplings – 1medum tomato, 3 tsp red chili flakes (I use urfa biber from Turkey, the colour is divine and I LOVE the flavour, 1 cup plain joghurt, 3 cloves finely minced garlic 1 tsp finely minced ginger 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (isnt’t that surprising? It surprised me, yoghurt and ginger and cilantro and tomato) and 1 tablespoon paprika – method boil tomato 2 minutes and then place in blender with yoghurt, ginger, garlic and pepper flakes – when blended, add paprika and cilantro and chill well before serving. serve with momo shapale steamed mushroom dumplings (source: Imperial Mongolian cooking Marc Cramer – a book that is a family history (escape from Russia to England) and a history of the mongolian empire mirrored in the foods – I love it.

      • No changes really he is 5 days into a new antibiotic after getting culture results they found he was on the wrong one. I wish o could say he has shown improvement but as of yesterday he had not. After a sleepless night I am waiting him to wake up and every day I
        Joe for some small change. Thank you!

      • will take a while I am guessing – hope the new antibiotic does what it is supposed to – but even then will take a while, fingers crossed .

    • Oh Stefan – a compliment from you! thank you – I am sure you could make it with samphire too, it also works really well with single cream instead of sour cream and chopped chives and the smaller fish roe eggs in black and red – if you want to be kitschy about it – the eggs are more grainy then rather that soft and sumptuous but work it does!

  2. This is my favorite post ever from you! So interesting! I’ve had samphire at a restaurant in London, but that’s it. I’ll never get to experience it or agretti as I don’t live on a rocky coast! sad. Beautiful photography.

    • Thank you very much Mimi – very lovely of you to say so. You too can grow agretti, – simply order seeds online, plant in a some soil and away you go wheeee 🙂 to surprise your friends and family members.

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