It seems like the artichoke was designed for stuffing. That huge cavity in the middle surrounded by all those layered leaves make it a perfect receptacle for all sort of savories. No wonder there is an almost endless variety of stuffed artichoke recipes.
Here is the way that Angelina made her stuffed artichokes: as always, her recipe was as straightforward as they come, with a simple stuffing of bread crumbs, garlic, grated cheese and parsley, bound with a bit of egg. The artichoke is boiled, stuffed and then baked until golden brown on top. It’s a technique that really lets the flavor of the artichoke itself shine through.
Serves 4 as a antipasto or vegetarian secondo
- 4 large globe artichokes
- 1 lemon
For the stuffing:
- 100g (4 oz) bread crumbs (or crumbed crustless bread)
- 50g (2 oz.) grated cheese (parmesan and/or pecorino)
- 1 small clove of garlic, finely minced
- A few stalks of fresh parsley, finely minced
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Artichoke stems, peeled and finely chopped (optional)
For the baking:
- Water or white wine
- Olive oil, q.b.
- Salt and pepper
Trim off the stem of the artichoke so it can ‘sit’ without rolling over. Then tear off the toughest outer leaves, but leave most of the leaves on. Cut off the top 2-3 cm (1 inch) of the tip of the artichoke and, using a pair of scissors, trim off the pointed tips of the remaining outer leaves. Bang the artichoke against a hard surface and use your hands to loosen the leaves a bit. As you work, rub the artichoke with the cut end of half a lemon. After you treat each artichoke this way, place it in a bowl of water that you will have acidulated with the other half of the lemon.
Bring a large pot filled with salted water to the boil. Toss in the trimmed artichokes (as well as the stems, if you want to include them in the stuffing) and parboil them until they are slightly underdone, about 10-15 minutes or perhaps a bit more, depending on the size and freshness of the vegetables. (You can poke the bottom with a paring knife to test doneness.)
While the artichokes are cooking, you can make your stuffing by mixing together all the ingredients listed in a large bowl until they are well amalgamated into a smooth paste. (If using the stems, fish them out of the water, drain them out of the water and chop them finely before adding them to the mixture before stuffing the artichokes.)
When the artichokes are done, fish them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and let them cool off a bit, placed upside down so they can drain well. Then, using a paring knife or spoon, dig out the ‘choke’ (the collection of fibers and inedible small leaves at the core of the vegetable) to create a cavity to hold the stuffing.
Using a spoon (or your hands!) stuff the center of the artichoke and the spaces between the leaves as well. Place the stuffed artichokes on a baking dish. (They can be left this way until you are ready to cook.)
Pour over a small glassful of water or white wine. Drizzle them with a generous amount of olive oil, season them with salt and pepper, and place them in a preheated oven (200C/400F). Let them bake for about about 30 minutes, or until they are nicely browned on top. Baste them from time to time during as they bake with the cooking juices in the bottom of the baking dish.
Remove and let them cool, serve warm or at room temperature.
As mentioned in the intro, there are endless variations on the basic stuffing that Angelina liked to use. It can be enriched with small cubes of caciocavallo, provolone, Emmenthal, mozzarella or any meltable cheese that strikes you fancy, and/or little bits of cured meat like ham, prosciutto, salame or pancetta. Or you can go in an entirely different direction, adding some capers and anchovies (and mozzarella, which goes well with this combination). Many recipes omit the egg, which makes for a softer stuffing. [NB: There are also stuffings that go in an entirely different direction, like stuffings based on ground meat, but those merit their own posts.]
The technique also changes among recipes. If you don’t want to use your oven, you can make these stuffed artichokes in padella: stuff them raw, snuggle them together tightly in a pot, then add water almost up to the top. Drizzle them with olive oil, season, then cover the pot tightly and simmer the artichokes until they are very tender and almost all of the liquid has evaporated. (See this video for a nice demonstration.)
There are also different ways to stuff the artichoke. Especially if you are using smaller artichokes, you can dispense with trying to get any stuffing between the leaves and just stuff the center. In some recipes, you slice the artichoke down the center and top up the exposed center with the stuffing. In these variations, you often trim the artichoke in the more usual Italian way, removing all the tough outer leaves, leaving only the edible bits (see this post for basic instructions).
Stuffed artichokes make a great antipasto, but they are substantial enough—especially if you enrich the stuffing—to serve as a nice vegetarian secondo or even a piatto unico for a light supper. Don’t serve them straight out of the oven; they delicate flavors are best enjoyed either warm or at room temperature.