They taste especially good with monk’s beard


This tempting herb grows on salt flats and is perfect with spaghetti

The monk’s beard is back! A nice change to our winter vegetables. Barba di frate awakens feelings of happiness and makes us happy always in a different preparation in the kitchen. A classic is spaghetti with ribs.

Every time the monk’s beard is finally bought back from us, there is a sense of satisfaction. It’s like an early spring awakening – sometimes when winter isn’t really gone and spring isn’t really here yet.

There always comes a time when even the most sophisticated recipes for savoy cabbage, carrots, parsnips and the like have run out. Then we are excited for other flavors. Then comes the typical but delicately flavored monk’s beard or – melodically beautiful – barba di frate. The name is probably once again a reference to the monastic skills and their enjoyment of fun – the latter not always based on all religious convictions.

Monk’s beard is found in “Italian”.

Monk’s beard, now in season in May, grows wild on the salt flats near the sea. It usually comes from Italy, where it is also grown. You can find it in weekly markets, for example in St.Gallen, in “Italian”, but now also in well-stocked supermarkets.

The herb looks like chickpeas, but the pods are fleshy. It comes out in groups. Barba di frate has an earthy-sour taste, which also has a salty note depending on its origin.

Claudio Del Principe, who should know, writes in his cookbook “a casa” (in Verlag): “Long live trendy beards! It’s a blessing that a niche product like Barba di frate suddenly gains popularity. Finally Agretti, as they are called, are now seen not only in Italian markets, but also here as a monk’s beard…”

Whether a niche product or a trendy herb, monk’s beard delights us in the kitchen in ever-changing preparations and in ever-changing combinations. A classic spaghetti or linguine with ribs, they have been a staple in our family menu for years.

The basic recipe is as simple as it is delicious: drained and rinsed monkfish is cooked and tossed with spaghetti for the last few minutes, then served with olive oil.

Fried fish, scallops or beef go very well with this. Elisabeth Bronfen, Professor of English Studies at the University of Zurich and avid cook, wrote in her inspirational cookbook “Besessen. Meine Kochmemoiren” (Echtzeit Verlag) that made the basic recipe slightly more sophisticated with a few additional ingredients:

Spaghetti with monkfish for 2 people

  • 250 grams of spaghetti
  • 250 g of monk’s beard
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • From the oil of 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp caper
  • some chicks
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Salt, pepper, oil, some cherry tomatoes


  • Prepare and wash the monk’s beard.
  • Cook the spaghetti al dente in salted water according to package directions, adding the monkfish 3 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Finally, put some of the cooking water aside, then pour the spaghetti with the monk’s beard and put it in the pan where the sauce was prepared in the meantime.
  • For the sauce, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the anchovies, add the lemon juice. Then briefly wash the garlic and kafir. Carefully add the chili flakes. Everything should be a creamy sauce.
  • When the spaghetti and shrimp are in the sauce, add a little of the reserved juice and a splash of oil. Mix well. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  • Garnish with cherry tomatoes, which have been heated separately in a small pan.

Vegetable dumplings are also delicious in and on top of risotto, in a frittata or quiche and last but not least as a vegetable or salad. Claudio Del Principe writes in “a casa” that he “prefers to prepare delicate vegetables as a warm salad, which is a very stimulating meal”.

It also cuts a nice figure as a vegetarian meal

It is also easy to prepare. The monk’s beard is tossed in heated olive oil to which has been added minced garlic, until it is slightly crispy but still has a bite to it. A plate seasoned with salt and pepper, and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar enhances the enjoyment of the dish. You can also serve monkfish as a vegetarian dish. Del Principe prepares it in the same way when it is mixed with spaghetti or linguine.

Monk’s beard salad for two

  • About 150 g monk’s beard, armed
  • 1 white and 1 small red chicory
  • some walnut kernels
  • 2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds
  • coconut oil
  • white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • Salt and pepper


  • prepare the salad.
  • Saute the monkfish in the heated olive oil for 4-5 minutes, until melted but still with bite. Let it cool a little.
  • Arrange the salads in a circle on a wide plate and in the middle of the monk’s beard.
  • Garnish with walnuts and pomegranate seeds.
  • Mix vinaigrette with coconut oil, balsamic vinegar, scallion, salt and pepper and toss with salad.

The festival of emotions begins with the installation

Before dealing with barb di frate, two things should be known. Its taste is earthy and peculiar, but also sensual. During its preparation, caution is recommended when adding strong flavors: never too much garlic or chili, never too much anchovies or lemon and the like. But really you should always go to work in the kitchen tactfully.

And before you can turn to these nuances, monk’s beard requires careful preparation – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the quality it contains. It is better to remove the root section first. Then you should also choose the thicker parts of the stem so that only the skins that can cook evenly remain.

All that remains is to wash the vegetables. Elisabeth Bronfen finds this procedure “somewhat tiresome,” but can also draw something good from it: “At the same time, this work has something sensual about it,” she writes in “Possessed,” “but the very smell The darkness of these flowers is already there.”

This is the beauty of food and eating: a feast for the senses. And it can certainly start with the preparation of vegetables – and hopefully end with a grand finale on the table.

Gourmet editor Urs Bader prepares spaghetti with monkfish.

Gourmet editor Urs Bader prepares spaghetti with monkfish.


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Text: Diana Hagmann-Bula, photo: Donato Caspari

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