Il Cucchiaio Americano: carote in agrodolce

In order to practice my Italian, I bought a copy of Il Cucchiaio d’Argento, a hefty tome with over a thousand pages. I’d hesitate to say it’s definitive for Italian cuisine—they’ve managed to publish other volumes containing regional cuisine—but it’s something very close. I’ve been told it’s considered a little sciccoso: perfect.

Carote in agrodolce

I’ve made a few things out of it. Here’s carote in agrodolce: sweet and sour pickled carrots. Perhaps the most famous agrodolce dish is caponata. Unlike caponata, which cooks for some time and is served immediately, this recipe cooks quickly and then sits for nearly three weeks. I have to be frank: I have no idea how these carrots will come out—it says to wait twenty days. But this quick cooking will, I imagine, leave the carrots delightfully crispy and pickle-like. This recipe is “an optimal contour for mixed boiled meats”, so there’s that, too.

This recipe plays to my tastes, seeing as I’m a complete pickle pig. My New Year’s Resolution, however feeble, was to “pickle more things”. And also to use our champagne saber as often as possible, though that’s a different story. We almost made this as a contorno for dinner the other night, and then realized we’d be awfully hungry by the time it was ready next month. But I made it this morning, and I’m translating the recipe now, while the spirit moves me. If it’s no good, I’ll come back and say so later.

Recipe: Carote in agrodolce

Sweet-and-sour pickled carrots
Translated and adapted from Il Cucchiaio d’Argento, p. 398


  • 300g carrots
  • 300g white sugar
  • 100g raisins
  • 50g Italian pine nuts
  • 1 L white vinegar
  • pinch salt


Thoroughly clean a wide-mouth mason jar and lid. Peel and thickly julienne the carrots. Soak the raisins in water.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil. Boil the carrots for three minutes. Drain the carrots but strain and save the liquid.

Squeeze the raisins dry and then mix in the pine nuts. Fill the mason jar with alternating layers of carrots and the raisin mixture. Cover the contents of the jar with the cooking liquid, topping up with more vinegar as necessary. Seal the jar “absolutely hermetically” and let sit twenty days.


Preparation time:

The recipe doesn’t in fact specify peeling the carrots. Nor does say to strain the liquid, but I didn’t want the foam in the final product.

It is important to use real Italian pine nuts—the much cheaper Chinese pine nuts from a different species can seriously mess with some people’s palates. Just say “no” to pinemouth.

Also, don’t be misled by my super professional photo: I normally keep my jars on the windowsill, but in this case I’m worried about the fat in the pine nuts going rancid. It’s probably best to keep this jar in a cool, dark corner.

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