Salsa Verde, Italian Style

Salsa verde. Photos by Keri White

I had the good fortune to travel to Italy recently and, of course, ate my way up and down the peninsula.

I took a private cooking class with a Piedmontese chef, Goele Colonna, who mans the kitchen at Trattoria Risorgimento, his family-owned restaurant in Trieso.

This versatile sauce is good on pretty much everything — except pasta. Colonna was adamant, “You can put this on anything except pasta — cheese, bread, fish, meat, vegetables, but not pasta.” It was not clear why this was such a taboo; I asked and he looked at me as if I just offered him a used toothbrush, so I let it go.

The sauce is much better than the sum of its parts and, despite the strong taste of some of the ingredients (anchovies, hard-boiled egg), it delivers a fresh, umami flavor that is pretty fabulous. It also changes and melds over time; when we first pureed it, the sauce was dominated by parsley, but after an hour or so in the fridge, it mellowed and came together beautifully.

The use of anchovies is common in the Piedmont region and has an interesting history.

Salt, which was extremely valuable and expensive in early times —  it’s the origin of the word “salary” — was brought across the “Salt Road” from the Ligurian coast, about 40 miles away. Because of the high taxes on salt, traders (i.e. smugglers) would conceal salt in their barrels; they would fill them ¾ of the way with salt and top them with anchovies, a much cheaper commodity, and claim that they were transporting just anchovies. This reduced their duty and brought a lot of anchovies to the Piedmont region.

This green sauce, along with “bagna cauda,” a hot, anchovy-based dip, is ubiquitous in the region as a result.

Salsa Verde
Makes about 6 appetizer servings

Chef served this as a condiment with some local, soft cheese and stuffed in a cherry tomato as a lovely appetizer.

1 large bunch parsley, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons white vinegar
Generous sprinkle of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 hard-boiled egg, completely cooled
1 tablespoon capers with their liquid
2-3 anchovy filets

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor. Chill it for several hours and serve as desired.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here