In the collective Italian imagination, spring represents the swallows arrival, the blossoming of trees, the days getting longer or the awakening of the senses. Not for me. For me spring goes hand in hand with s’cioppetin.
So many tender childhood memories: walking in the fields with my mother, my aunts and her friends to pick the beloved s’cioppetin, running on the meadows while they were selecting and washing the freshly picked s’cioppetin, the sun kissing your face, the delicious dishes prepared in the kitchen, the noisy and funny dinners at the end of the day.
I’ve always called them s’cioppetin, but they are called with different dialectal names: ciopeti, sclopit, scrissioi, capusseti, bubbolini, tagliatelle della Madonna, erba del cucco, erba sciopettina, s’ciochèt, carlini, sclops, grisulò. In Italian they are called strigoli. The scientific name is Silene Vulgaris.
What are the they? They are an edible herb that has been used since ancient times in popular recipes because they have a good taste and nutritional properties. They grow spontaneously and abundantly in meadows or fields, particularly in limestone soils that are not very fertile and not excessively grassy. The part of the Silene Vulgaris that is used is the green and soft leaf, about 5 cm long. It must be picked before the flowering period (end of spring) when a light violet-white flower blooms. Its shape resemble that of a hot-air balloon or of a dome. I remember that, during our childhood, my brother, our friends and I enjoyed making them s’cioppar (to pop, in our dialect) on the palm of our hands. Perhaps this is the reason why they are called s’cioppetin.
They are used to prepare soups, omelettes, savoury pies and risottos. I associate s’cioppetin mainly with risotto because my mother used to prepare it for all of us. And her risotto is delicious!
You can find the recipe below. It is my mother’s original recipe. So, please, be understanding: she uses the kitchen scale only in rare cases. That means the indication of the quantities of each ingredient is often creative or open to free interpretation.
Ingredients (for four people)
Rice: about 8 fistfuls, depending on the level of hunger of each person, plus a fistful for the pot
S’cioppetin: to taste, according to the intensity of flavour you want to obtain
Olive oil: 1 ½ tablespoons
White wine: half a glass
Vegetable broth: until the risotto is ready
Grana cheese: just enough
Salt and pepper: just enough
1) Wash the s’cioppetin.
2) Chop the onion and brown it in olive oil.
3) When the onion is golden and soft, add the s’cioppetin and cook them over a low heat for about ten minutes.
4) Add the rice, let it toast for a couple of minutes and then add white wine.
5) When the wine is adsorbed, cover the rice with the broth.
6) Cook the rice for about 20 minutes (or for the time necessary depending on the type of rice you use) adding salt and pepper and, if needed, more broth.
7) When the rice is cooked, before serving, add the grated grana cheese and mix carefully.
Enjoy your risotto with s’cioppetin!