TO GET the best out of any cuisine, you need to work with the seasons.

When you are cooking Italian dishes, this couldn’t be truer.

You have probably already noticed that spring is on the way. Those harsh, dark mornings are getting a little easier to bear, the snowdrops are in full bloom and it is possible to step outside without your coat without catching hypothermia.

Winter ingredients like cabbage, lentils and spinach are still great for cooking Italian, with the addition of broccoli and fennel, which both grow in abundance at this time of year.

As we get into March, though, a whole host of new ingredients in their prime can be thrown into the mix. March is a transitional month, with the snow melting away and the beautiful fields of Italy planted with spring and summer produce, before vegetable gardens burst into bloom.

Asparagus, artichokes, courgettes and different kinds of beans are all ‘in’ this season, but the seasonal ingredient I’ll be focusing on in this article is the leek. Leeks can be cooked in many different ways, appearing in several different dishes, which makes it a versatile spring ingredient.

Leeks are commonly grown in the Mediterranean, with different types being unique to particular areas.

Leeks, combined with other spring vegetables, make for a delicious seasonal pasta that will please everyone.

Not only can you make this dish vegetarian by leaving out the chicken (because the dish is packed so full of flavours you won’t miss the meat), but other elements (like peas) pack each plate with vital vitamins and minerals.

My pasta of choice for this dish is fettuccine. Fettuccine is made by rolling out an egg-based dough, which is then cut into thin ribbons, which is where it gets its name from – fettuccine means ‘little ribbons’ in Italian. The origin of fettuccine is not known, although it can be traced back quite far and is known as one of Italy’s oldest pastas. It is available all over the country and goes by a variety of different names, as is often the case when something has been around for a very long time.

One of the most popular fettuccine recipes is probably Fettuccine Alfredo. The story goes that chef Alfredo di Lelio was worried about his wife, who had lost her appetite shortly after giving birth.

He wanted to make something that would entice her back into eating, and created the simple recipe that involved tossing the cooked fettuccine in a mixture of butter and parmesan cheese. Not only did his wife love it, but when Chef Alfredo opened his own restaurant, he added it to the menu.

Not unlike Alfredo’s dish, my recipe for spring vegetable fettuccine with chicken does not really have a sauce either. The flavours come from the vegetables, which not only makes it a simple dish to cook, but it is much healthier, too.