San Francisco: The Farmers' Market Lightning Round & A Bowl of Pappardelle

The other weekend, my mom made plans with my Auntie Mel to go into the city and shop around the farmers' market.

When I caught wind of this, obviously, I couldn't let her go without me. That would just be crazy.

It ended up being San Francisco: The Farmers' Market Lightning Round. I tagged along with my my parents, aunt, and uncle, and we hit not just one, but three markets that day! You can call me crazy, but I have no problem getting up at 6 on a Saturday morning for a farmers' market. And you know what? It was absolutely worth it. Gorgeous weather, gorgeous views, gorgeous produce, and a gorgeous bowl of pasta at the end of the day? Check, check, check, and check. Using all market-bought ingredients, I came up with an extremely simple and easy recipe for Romanesco & Pappardelle! It was a perfect way to end a day of walking around the city, shopping, and soaking up the sunshine.

There's a running joke in San Francisco about Karl, The Fog. So if warm weather decides to show up in February, anyone in/around the City by the Bay should take it as a sign and immediately head outdoors. (Seriously, though, the traffic leading to Stinson Beach was insane.) There was nothing but bright blue sky in the forecast last Saturday, but I'll have more on that later...

First, before the sun was completely up, we were on our way to stop #1: Alemany Farmers' Market. Baby carrots, orchids (because my dad just could not help himself), romanesco, and watermelon radishes were a few of the items that I came away with that morning. Numerous farms put their beautiful, fresh produce out for sale, tucked underneath mural-painted stalls. Alemany's is actually the oldest farmers' market in San Francisco and has been around since the 1940's. When we got there around 7:30, the parking lot was already full and there was a good-sized crowd perusing the day's produce. No frills or sticker-shock prices here, just a casual atmosphere and amazing products!

We also ventured South to Daly City, to the Daly City Farmers' Market at Serramonte Center. Since it didn't open until 9 AM, it was our second stop. It's considerably smaller, but the two stands that caught my eye were the ones selling pastries. Brioche Bakery had linen-lined tables with trays and trays of French pastries. Chocolate croissants, fruit and cheese danishes... It was one of those "I want one of everything, please" moments. Then, I noticed an elderly woman also selling pastries. She turned out to be a nun from a local church, and like the sign says, all the pastries were handmade by the Sisters to benefit their Missions. I bought a fruit tart with mangoes, blueberries, and strawberries. The pate sucree (pastry dough) was delicious and so buttery! I could have easily eaten two or three of those fruit tarts.

Our last destination was the Ferry Building. Since we parked a couple of blocks away, we went on a short walk down Market Street. (Totally appropriate, right?) My dad and I even reminisced about the Giants' Championship parade. (Halloween. Bochy's car breaking down. Awesome.)

Once we got to the Ferry Building, we bypassed most of the produce and instead went straight to all of the artisanal goodies. Lattes from Blue Bottle Coffee, fresh pastas from The Pasta Shop (They even had fresh squid ink linguine!), and cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery... There are so many places to choose from, and the market's backdrop is nothing but cool blue water and the iconic Bay Bridge. You could easily get lost in here for hours. (Lost in the good way.)

But after a busy morning, it was time to slow down, sit back, and relax. We literally took a drive down memory lane...past Van Ness, where my grandparents used to manage the St. Clare Hotel in the early 70's, past Galileo High, where my dad attended (Class of '76!), and ultimately into the Marina District. Just steps away from Marina Middle School, where my dad also attended, so many beautiful homes line the Marina Green. The beach next to St. Francis Yacht Club is also great for people watching.

On this particular day, everyone was jogging, walking over to Fort Mason, or bringing their dogs out for some fresh air. It was a great day for sail-watching, as well. It seemed like hundreds of boats were out on the water, and all of their colorful sails gliding by were simply stunning.

When we finally got back to my Auntie Mel's house, it was time to put all of my market goodies together. It's like my own private episode of Chopped every time I bring new or strange ingredients into the kitchen. This time around, I played the "What to do? What to do?!" game with romanesco and baby carrots. The fresh pappardelle that I also picked up, though, was a no-brainer. It would be my blank canvas that pulled everything together.

The romanesco broccoli is an almost-neon green color and has such a unique, spiral-like design. It looks like it could fit right in with a floral arrangement. 

I didn't want to alter this natural shape, so I just quartered each bunch of romanesco. Then, I cut out the cores from each piece to let the individual florets break off on their own.

I peeled and cut the baby carrots, then tossed the vegetables with grated lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. The addition of the lemon zest really brightens up the dish and pairs well with the natural sweetness of these vegetables.

After 12-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven, the vegetables were tender and caramelized.

Pasta & cheese is a match made in culinary heaven, and it hardly requires an explanation. But just on a quick note, the parmigiano-reggiano that I bought from Cowgirl Creamery is from Emilia-Romagna. (Unless the cheese is made in certain provinces, under Italian law, that cheese cannot bear the "Parmigiano-Reggiano" name.) It's always a nice treat to have authentic Italian cheese cut right from the wheel.

I grated some for garnish, but then I decided to crumble the rest with a fork. The texture and flavor of the cheese especially stands out when you can bite down on a nice nugget of parmigiano-reggiano.

The fresh pappardelle was the last item that I prepared because fresh pasta cooks so quickly. It only needed about 1 minute in a pot of salted, boiling water.

After draining the pasta, I heated some extra virgin olive oil and half a stick of butter in a pan. I sauteed whole, smashed garlic cloves in this mixture for about 1 minute. Then, I simply removed the garlic cloves and added the pappardelle to the pan. I turned off the heat and seasoned the pasta with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Once the romanesco and carrots were done roasting, I added the vegetables and the parmigiano-reggiano right into the pasta and lightly tossed everything together. You can serve the pasta, family-style on a nice big platter or in individual bowls, alongside even more grated cheese for guests to sprinkle on as much as they'd like.

This recipe has such a short list of ingredients and cooks up very quickly, but it's rich in flavor and comforting as well. It's a balance between fresh, light, and hearty. Roasted Romanesco, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Fresh Pappardelle...I hope this inspires you to explore a local farmers' market, to find seasonal ingredients, and to create your own simple and satisfying dishes!

Roasted Romanesco & Pappardelle

Print Recipe
2 lbs Romanesco, washed
2 dozen Baby Carrots, peeled (4-5 in. in length)
2 tsp Finely Grated Lemon Zest
1 lb Fresh Pappardelle
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 Garlic Cloves, whole & smashed
1 1/2 cups Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnishgarnish
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Quarter each romanesco, then cut out the core of each quarter. The romanesco florets will break off individually. Slice the peeled baby carrots diagonally ("on the bias"). Place the vegetables on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet, and season with the grated lemon zest, sea salt, and black pepper. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, then toss everything together. Roast the vegetables at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until tender and lightly browned. 
  3. Cook the fresh pappardelle, in the pot of salted boiling water, for 1 minute. Drain.
  4. In a pan over medium-high heat, melt the unsalted butter with the extra virgin olive oil. Saute the garlic cloves in this mixture for 1 minute, until aromatic, then remove from the pan. Add the pappardelle to the pan, and lightly toss with  the garlic-flavored olive oil/melted butter. Season the pasta with sea salt and black pepper, then turn off the heat. 
  5. Add the roasted vegetables and grated cheese. Gently toss everything together until evenly combined.
  6. Serve immediately, in bowls or family-style, with even more grated cheese on top. Enjoy!