I have decided to share with you the recipes that did not make it into my first cookbook “My Calabria”. I had tested and submitted too many recipes and at the end many had to be cut so the book didn’t go over 400 pages. Here is the first recipe that I would like to share with you, Spaghetti with Fresh Artichokes. This is a simple recipe that I prepare during this time of the year when you can find the small artichokes that are used in this dish. This sauce works well with long or short pasta and especially well with homemade pasta.
The small artichokes required for this dish are entirely edible once you remove the tough outer leaves. They don’t have a fuzzy choke inside like the softball-size artichokes. Nevertheless, they are from the same plant, and although they are often called “baby” artichokes, they are fully mature. They remain small because of their position on the plant, tucked down among the leaves where they don’t get much sun. They should weigh about an ounce or more each and feel firm when you squeeze them.
Be ruthless when trimming the artichokes, removing all the leaves down to the pale heart, or your sauce may be fibrous. If properly trimmed, the artichokes will soften fully when braised, becoming creamy and offering no resistance to the tooth.
To trim the artichokes, peel back the outer leaves until they break at the base. Keep removing leaves until you reach the pale green heart. Cut across the top of the heart to remove the pointed leaf tips. If the stem is still attached, cut it down to 1/2 inch (12 millimeters), then trim the stem and base to remove any dark green or brown parts. When all the artichokes are trimmed, cut them in half lengthwise and slice thinly. Place the slices in lemon water to keep them from turning brown.
Making the sauce is very simple. Saute the garlic with some olive oil and add the sliced artichokes along with some chopped parsley. You cook it for few minutes to infuse the artichokes with the seasonings and then add water and braise the artichokes until they are soft and creamy.
Drain the pasta and transfer it to the skillet with the artichokes. Add more parsley and toss well, moistening if necessary with some of the reserved pasta water. Sprinkle with grated pecorino to taste and toss again. Simple and tasty!
Spaghetti con carciofi (Spaghetti with fresh artichokes)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 pound (450 grams) small artichokes (about 16)
- 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
- 6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 6 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1.5 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Ground hot red pepper, optional
- 1 pound (450 grams) spaghetti, bucatini, or orecchiette
- Freshly grated pecorino cheese
Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the juice of the lemon. Reserve the lemon halves.
To trim the artichokes, peel back the outer leaves until they break at the base. Keep removing leaves until you reach the pale green heart. Cut across the top of the heart to remove the pointed leaf tips. If the stem is still attached, cut it down to 1/2 inch (12 millimeters), then trim the stem and base to remove any dark green or brown parts. Immediately rub the trimmed artichoke with one of the lemon halves, then drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water to prevent browning. When all the artichokes are trimmed, cut them in half lengthwise and slice thinly. Return the slices to the lemon water.
Warm the olive oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it sizzles, but do not let it brown. Drain the sliced artichokes and add them to the skillet along with 4 tablespoons parsley. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes to infuse the artichokes with the seasonings. Add enough warm water to come just to the top of the artichokes, about 1 cup (250 milliliters). Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently until the artichokes are soft, about 25 minutes. If all the water evaporates before the artichokes are done, add a little more water 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) at a time. Stir in hot pepper to taste, if using.
Bring 5 quarts (5 liters) of water to a boil in an 8-quart (8-liter) pot over high heat. Add 1/4 cup (35 grams) kosher salt, then add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes.
Set aside 1 cup (250 milliliters) of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and transfer it to the skillet with the artichoke sauce. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and toss well, moistening if necessary with some of the reserved pasta water. Sprinkle with grated pecorino to taste and toss again. Serve at once.
Serves 4 to 6