This is definetely not a city girl's fancy salad! I am harvesting my olives in Tuscany and it's hard work, from 8 am to 7 pm. At midday, the church bells ring and we know it's time to walk up the hill home. Lunch has to be quick because we need all the daylight we can manage. We can only pick until 5 pm, again the church bells ring to let us know it's time to pack things up. Then we still have 2 hours to tidy up and put the olives away, cleaning as many leaves as possible and laying them in big trays in the cellar. It's really cold out there and you need something to warm you up so, before I left home, I put some vegetables in a very low oven and let them roast really slowly. At midday, my husband cooked some pasta and I mixed everything. Both the mushrooms and the Nepitella (the herb I used for the salad, we picked in the olive grove. The beetroot and the radicchio is pretty much what we have left in the vegetable garden. Nepitella, the herb I used is Calamint in English. It has a flavour of mint and grows all year around and as the Italians say, "Mushrooms and Nepitella, to dye for!" —Maria Teresa Jorge
big wild mushrooms (about 2 cups of mushrooms cleaned and sliced)
squash with no skin
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for roasted vegetables
parmesan cut in thick slices
Calamint or mint f you can't find it
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. and put 2 racks in the oven. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Peel and deseed the squash and cut in small slices. Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth and a brush, cut in slices. Put both in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cut the beetroot in small cubes, drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cut the baby tomatoes in half, put in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, add a pinch of brown sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper.
In one tray put the squash and mushrooms. In the other tray put the beetroot on one side and the baby tomatoes on the other side. Allow to cook in the oven for 3 to 4 hours. The vegetables will cook and become sweet and mellow.
Wash and dry the radicchio and baby spinach. If the radicchio leaves are very big cut in smaller pieces.
Put a pot of water over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and add the pasta. Cook al dente. Drain and put in a serving bowl.
Add the squash, mushrooms, 2/3 of the tomatoes and mix. Add the radicchio, baby spinach, 2/3 of the calamint, the vinaigrette (see recipe below) and toss gently. Check the seasoning.
Add the beetroot, toss gently so it doesn't stain the pasta and other vegetables. Finish on top with the remainder tomatoes, parmesan, the sunflower seeds and the rest and sprinkle with the remainder calamint. Serve while still warm.
Simple Vinaigrette: Whisk into an emulsion the olive oil, the Balsamic vinegar, the mustard and season with salt and pepper.