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The markets stalls are neatly stacked with artichokes of all varieties and sizes during this time of the year in Italy. People gather around two and three deep to make their purchases and the vendors scrabble to keep up with the demand as people clamor to get their attention. Artichokes are in season – a vegetable with a lot of versatility.
A fresh artichoke salad with ribbons of parmesan cheese over the top and a lemon and olive oil dressing, a creamy soup, marinated in olive oil – Carciofi o carciofini sott’olio, boiled and served with a vinaigrette, Carciofi alla Giudia, Stuffed artichokes, Tagliata con carciofi – sautéed and spread over grilled meat or fish, are prepared at home and in restaurants all over Italy.
Artichokes take a little effort to clean, but once you know how to do it, it goes pretty fast and the effort is well worth the time. If you are lucky and live in Italy, you can find them in some markets already cleaned. When I find them this way, I buy enough to prepare meals for the week and get our fill of them as long as the season lasts. They can be bought frozen, marinated, or in cans, but they don’t compare to fresh artichokes.
Spaghetti con carciofi freschi or Fettuccine with fresh artichokes is a fast and easy dish to make. The artichokes have a delicate flavor and just using fresh tomatoes and a little wine results in a flavorful sauce that compliments the pasta. If you are willing to make fresh pasta, you will be rewarded with a wonderful dish you will prepare again and again.
Spaghetti con carciofi freschi
Prep Time: 30 minutes for fresh artichokes
Cook Time: 12-15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. spaghetti
16 small artichokes, cleaned and sliced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped or 10 cherry tomatoes cut in half
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup white wine
1 pepperoncino, broken in half
1/2 lemon plus juice
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped parsley, as garnish
Clean the artichokes by cutting the top off about 1/4” of the way down. Remove the outer leaves by pulling them down and snapping them off until you reach the white/yellow leaves. Remove the stem and cut around the bottom to remove any dark, hard or stringy part. Cut the choke in half and clean out the hay with a melon ball scoop or a small spoon. Cut the halves lengthwise into 1/8” thick slivers.
In a frying pan, add the olive oil, garlic, pepperoncino and sauté, add the artichokes for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and the chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes longer until the artichokes are slightly soft. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the speghetti or fettuccini and add it to the pan with the artichokes and finish the cooking adding a little pasta water as needed. Garnish the pasta with freshly chopped parsley.
Note: You can serve this dish with a little Parmesan cheese or a side dish of red pepper flakes. I prefer a little heat and no cheese, as I think the cheese overwhelms the flavor of the artichokes.