Little Ears with Fiddleheads, Gorgonzola and Walnuts


Although orecchiette (little ears) are traditionally served with some type of bitter green such as cime di rape, I also like combining this interesting pasta shape with tender fiddlehead ferns. Fiddleheads appear in the grocery store for a short time in spring.

Although this recipe is a departure from the traditional Pugliese types, the addition of leeks, Gorgonzola cheese, and walnuts makes this dish a delight to make and enjoy as cucina nuova (new cooking).


  • ¾ pound fiddlehead ferns
  • 4 cups water
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 large leeks, green tops discarded and root ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ pound Italian Gorgonzola cheese, cut into small pieces
  • Grinding of black pepper
  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts


  1. Fill a bowl with cold water and soak the fiddleheads for a few minutes. Then drain them and set aside. Bring the 4 cups water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the fiddleheads and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook the fiddleheads, uncovered, just until the stems are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain them in a colander and set aside.
  2. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then wash them well under running water to remove any sand. Cut the leeks into slices and set aside. There should be about 2 cups.
  3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, combine the butter and olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the leeks and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Add the fiddleheads and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to high and pour in the wine. Allow the wine to evaporate. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the cheese, and stir until it melts. Stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the pepper. Keep the sauce warm while the orecchiette are cooking.
  4. Cook the orecchiette according to the directions. Drain them, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the orecchiette to the pot with the water. Stir in the fiddlehead mixture over low heat, combining the mixture well.
  5. Transfer the orecchiette and fiddlehead sauce to a platter and sprinkle the nuts over the top. Serve immediately.
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