During a recent private cycling tour through Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region, we had the opportunity to learn about this region’s amazing cuisine under the guidance of Sudtirol chef Michael Seehauser. We gathered at a remote mountain rifugio north of Bolzano for a memorable evening.
Our menu was full of traditional fare, a barley soup, handmade gnocchi with tomato sauce, roasted roe deer with an elegant sauce, accompanied by honey roasted parsnips, and apple strudel for dessert. I’ll be sharing the recipes – and hopefully a bit of this wonderful experience – here on my blog.
Parsnips are root vegetables, white and similar in shape to a carrot, long and tapered. It is a relative of the carrot, as well as celery root and parsley root, with the taste a combination of the sweetness of a carrot and the herbal flavors of the celery and parsley roots. It is not a parsley root, but they are very similar in appearance and easily confused.
In ancient times in Italy, parsnips (pastinaca) were cultivated in Italy; Emperor Tiberius brought them to Rome from France and Germany. However, today parsnips are rarely found on Italian tables. They do need a cold spell to develop their sweetness, and only in Northern Italy does the weather cooperate. Here in mountains of Sudtirol we find that colder climate. They are cultivated as far south as Emilia Romagna, but rather than playing a role in the local cuisine, they are used as fodder for the pigs in Parma.
This is a very simple recipe, where the cleaned parsnips – no need to peel – are drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven, then topped with honey and a squeeze of lemon juice. Sudtirol produces some wonderful local honey, infused with the flavors of the local herbs and flowers, from dandelion to chestnut. This recipe would work with any root vegetable or a nice winter squash or sweet potato.
Honey Roasted Parsnips
8 medium sized parsnips, scrubbed clean (no need to peel)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Trim the stalk end of the parsnips and cut into halves, or quarters if on the large size. Drizzle with olive oil to coat, season with salt and pepper. Spread on a sheet pan. Place in oven and roast for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven, and drizzle with honey and lemon juice. Return to oven and roast for another 10 minutes, until liquid is gone.