Capellini (Angel Hair) with Fiddlehead Ferns

Capellini (Angel Hair) with Fiddlehead Ferns

Angel hairs nestle with violin scrolls – it sounds like a fairy-tale image. A rare and rather heavenly treat, this pasta lives up to the artfulness of its name.

Fiddleheads are actually something of a unicorn as far as produce is concerned. Very difficult to find, they make their appearance in grocery stores in some lucky  parts of the country for only a few short weeks in spring. Whenever I spy them, usually in a low, serve yourself basket on the bottom shelf in the lettuce section, I greedily snatch up as many as I can.

When I first heard out about fiddlehead ferns in the inspiring French Women cookbooks, I was lucky enough to be living in New England in the spring – basically the only place and time you can find fiddleheads in the states. They are not cultivated and are usually picked by individuals in rural area. You can only pick fewer than half of the fiddleheads on a particular plant or it will die, so they are truly a rare luxury.

Serves: 6-8
Prep time: 20 minutes
Adapted from
French Women for All Seasons


  • two large handfuls of fiddlehead ferns
  • one box of angel hair (capellini) pasta
  • one lemon
  • lemon pepper*
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt


  1. Set a covered pot with an inch of water over high heat.
  2. Fill a bowl with cool water and immerse the ferns, shaking them to remove any dirt or brown coating on the ferns. Change the water and repeat one or two times until the water remains clear.
  3. Once the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium and pop in a steamer tray with the ferns. Keep the lid on the pot.
  4. Chop two garlic cloves and add to a large saute pan with two tablespoons of olive oil. Set the heat to low.
  5. Set a large pot of water over high heat. This will be for the pasta, so use a tall pot that the long capellini sticks can comfortably fit into if you have one available.
  6. Squeeze the juice from one lemon and add it to your garlic olive oil along with a tablespoon of lemon pepper. Stir and simmer a minute to combine.
  7. Remove the ferns from the steamer; they should be vibrantly green. Quickly immerse them in ice cold water to shock them, then add to the pasta sauce, increasing the heat to medium-low.
  8. Add the pasta to the boiling water with a large dash of salt. If the pasta does not all fit in your pot, wait twenty to thirty seconds until the pasta that is immersed has softened, then twist and swirl it to move it down into the bottom of the pot and drag the rest of the pasta into the water.
  9. After the pasta has cooked for three minutes, strain and rinse it.
  10. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce (turn off the heat), and stir to coat thoroughly. If there is not enough room in your pan for all the pasta, add half or a third of it and transfer the rest to your serving bowl. Quickly mop up the sauce from the pan with this portion of pasta, and then add it to the serving bowl and continue mixing until all of the pasta is coated.


Note*: Lemon pepper is available in most grocery stores. They have a nice lemon pepper grinder at Trader Joe’s, but it is also easy to make at home. There are some simple instructions here. You can even make some in just ten or twenty minutes before cooking, if you don’t have any on hand and aren’t able to get to the store.