Updated: May 8, 2022
The area known as Borso, around Stefano's hometown is famed regionally for its peas, the 'Biso de Borso'
Grown with traditional agronomic techniques, without the use of pesticides, synthetic chemical fertilizers and forcing techniques, they have a delicate taste, a particular tenderness and balanced sweetness that has established a unique and refined product. They are enjoyed for being larger than average pea, almost like a small broad bean. The climate, exposure, position and type of loose, slightly alkaline soil play a fundamental role. Sowing takes place in February-March ready for a harvest at the beginning of June. They can be eaten freshly picked at the markets at this time whilst their nutritional value is at its height, rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium, vitamin C and carotenoids.
The pea is considered a symbol of fortune and prosperity, in ancient times its flowers were used to make wreathes to be offered to brides. Their origin in Italy is traced back to the time of the Serenissima, when the pea was brought from Asia to the Doge for the festival of Saint Mark, in order to prepare a dish of 'Risi e Bisi' (rice and peas). Servants in the houses of nobles and landowners were said to have then brought these rare first vegetables back with them to their local communities.
As well as prepared with rice, 'Biso del Borso' is at its best served as a starter, in soups and sauces, in salads and as side-dishes accompanying fish and meat dishes. We love the dish of Crostini con Piselli.
Crostini means "little toasts," and they can be made really quickly with a range of seasonal toppings for the perfect accompaniment to a gathering or picnic. The bread should ideally be warm and a little crunchy.
Many recipes make a cream or puree of the peas for the topping, which is also lovely but our favourite is this method, also used by Eataly.
Crostini con Piselli - Pea Crostini with Ricotta and Mint
350g shelled green peas zest of 2 lemons 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil a few pinches of sea salt 8 torn mint leaves slices of bread, fresh is great but this is also a good way to use up the last of a loaf 4 tbsp ricotta
Optional: Asparagus (prepare in the same way as the peas)
1. Boil water in a medium pan and add a handful of salt. Whilst bringing the water to boil, prepare an ice bath for the peas.
2. Blanch the peas in the boiling water for around 30 seconds. Remove, transfer to the ice bath then strain. Set aside to cool. You can do this part up to 24 hours in advance and then store in the fridge until ready to use.
3. Dress the peas with the lemon zest, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, and torn mint leaves, tossing everything together gently until well-coated.
4. Toast slices of bread.
5. When ready to serve spread about one tablespoon of ricotta on each slice and spoon the peas on top.
6 Garnish with mint, a drizzle of oil and a pinch of sea salt.
These look beautiful served with a mix of other crostini. We love to be creative with different toppings and colours. What toppings would be your favourite?