this time I will talk about a dish my granny use to make, hence I believe it has a Calabrian origin, but I’m not completely sure because I couldn’t find any affinity among my sources. Anyway, the plate in question is ARTICHOKES FILLED WITH ITALIAN STUFFING!
For this recipe, I’ve used the Roman artichoke, a choice made due to the belonging to Rome, place where I was born and because it’s shape is perfect for filling.
The artichoke indeed is very appreciated by the folks within the Lazio region and, among the variety of this alimony, the Romano (round artichoke) is the preferred one. It grows mostly between Rome and Civitavecchia, particularly in the fields of Cerveteri and Ladispoli where a feast of “Carciofo Romano” take place every second decade of April. The artichoke is the star at the center of the celebrations and it’s used also to dress up the stalls in the main town square other than being cooked on the street into enormous saucepans or on the barbie to satisfy a large number of visitors. A street market enhances the fiery selling for a convenient price bunches of 10 artichokes with the classic leaves tuft in the middle.
First tip of the post: the secret to obtaining an artichoke to enjoy at full consist in peel it properly, for which rid of all the harder leaves, otherwise, as it said in Rome, “ciancichi e sputi (chew and spit)”. Later I will explain how to do this step by step.
Serves 4 people
- 4 carciofi Romani (round artichokes)
- 1 large onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bottle of tomato passata or polpa rustica
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 200g smoked pancetta (my secret ingredient)
- 2 tbsp of tomato puree
For the stuffing
- 250g pork fatty large mince
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 egg
- 2 slice of sourdough thickly cut
- 1 a handful of each, parsley and basil
- nutmeg, salt and black pepper just enough
- A generous grate of Parmesan and Pecorino
Let’s start with preparing the tomato sauce as you will need it to be piping hot to seal subsequently the filled artichoke.
- Blitz the 2 garlic cloves and the red onion into a saucepan pre-heated with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil; season with salt.
- Add the chopped cherry tomatoes and the tomato sauce as soon as the onion softened. A good pinch of salt and cover with a lid. Bring a simmer over a medium heat.
- Now we reached the part of preparing the artichoke. First peel the skin off the stalks previously taken apart from the head. Secondly, for a good result, keep intact the tops as much as possible removing the outsider ruined leaves (tip 2: take off at least 2 layers of leaves; after it’ll be easier to pull). With a knife remove the fuzz from the inner part and all the most prickly leaves. Place them all in a bowl with cold water and a squeezed lemon to avoid the oxidation. Leave aside.
- The tomato sauce is cooking, the artichoke chilling, let’s prepare the stuffing! In a large bowl mix with your hands the mince with the egg, grated garlic, parmesan, pecorino, salt, black pepper, 1 tbsp of nutmeg, finely cut parsley, basil and the soggy bread (squeeze completely the water off the slices for gain a compact result). Amalgamate well.
- Drain the artichokes and gently open 1 top at the time being careful on don’t break it because your next move will consist in filling them up with the stuff (tip 3: I use to make some meatballs with the leftover filling to add to the sauce).
- Join the smoked pancetta (it can be diced or sliced, it depends from your preference) to the tomato sauce and after a vigorous stir, add the stalks and the artichoke with the filled part facing up. Turn the heat down, simmer and cover for 45 minutes.
- By then, the stuffing would have become solid, which means the tops are ready to be handled. Approach the pot and, with all the delicacy you have in your body, rotate clockwise the artichokes with a wooden spatula to impede them from sticking.
- Simmer over low heat for at least 2/3 hours, shifting the tops at regular intervals. Past this time, do the fork test to check if the artichoke and the stalks are softened. If successful, it means the sauce is about to be thoroughly cooked. Therefore add a spring of basil and parsley (easy to remove after), turn off the heat, let it cool down a bit and your meal is ready to be served.
I’ve made some fresh fettuccine, just like my nonna used to make, in order to have the classic primo, secondo and contorno, but you can enjoy them by their own as a main dish with loooots of bread.