In Italy one finds two basic types of artichokes. One is purplish in color, with long, narrow, tapered leaves spiked at the tips. It is well worth looking out for if you are traveling in the northern and central part of Italy in the winter and spring because it is truly extraordinary in flavor and texture. However, it is not available here, so we will not discuss it further. The other type of artichoke is very common in the south, where is is called mammola. It has a stout, globe-like shape, it is green, and it is very similar to the artichokes found in this country. One of the most attractive and appetizing ways of preparing these artichokes is called alla romana, Roman style, and it is particularly well-suited to American artichokes.
Recipe and text excerpted from The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating by Marcella Hazan —Food52
- Serves 4
finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons
finely chopped garlic
crumbled mint leaves
- Artichokes alla romana are served with the stems attached, so be careful not to snap them off while trimming the artichokes. Begin preparing an artichoke by bending back and snapping off the outer leaves. Do not pull the leaves off all the way to the base, because the whitish bottom of the leaf is tender, and edible. As you get deeper into the artichoke, the leaves will snap off farther and farther from the base. Keep pulling off leaves until you expose the central cone of leaves that are green only at the tips and whose paler, whitish base is at least 1 ½ inches high.
- Slice at least an inch off the top of the entire central cone, eliminating all the green part. Don’t be afraid to trim too much—you are eliminating only the tough, inedible portions. Rub with the lemon half, squeezing juice over the cut portions of the artichoke so that they won’t discolor.
- You can now look into the center of the artichoke, where you will find at the bottom some very small, pale leaves with some prickly tips curving inward. Cut off all the little leaves and scrape away the fuzzy “choke” beneath them, being careful not to cut away any of the heart of the other tender parts (a rounded point on the knife can be helpful). Return to the outside of the artichoke and pare away the green parts of the leaves at the base, leaving only the white.
- All that is left to trim now is the outer part of the stem. Turning the artichoke upside down, you will note that from the bottom of the stem that the stem has a whitish core surrounded by a layer of green. Trim away all the green up to the base of the artichoke, keeping only the white part. Be careful not to detach the stem, and always rub the cut portions with lemon juice so that they will not discolor.
- In a bowl, mix the chopped parsley, the chopped garlic, the mint leaves, and the salt. Set aside one-third of the mixture and press the rest into the cavity of each artichoke, rubbing it well into the sides of the cavity.
- Choose a heavy-bottomed casserole just large enough to contain the artichokes, which are to go in standing, and provided with a tight-fitting lid. Place the artichokes, tops facing down and stems facing upward, in the casserole. Rub the rest of the parsley, garlic, and mint mixture on the outside of the artichokes. Add all the oil and enough water to cover one-third of the artichoke leaves, not the stems. Soak two thicknesses of paper towels in water (since the moist towels help to keep the steam that cooks the stems inside the pot, they must be wide enough to cover the casserole). Place the towels over the casserole and put the lid over the paper towels. Bend the corners of the paper towels back over the lid. Cook over medium heat for about 35 or 40 minutes, until tender and easily pierced by a fork. Cooking times vary according to freshness and tenderness of the artichokes. (If the artichokes are tough and take long to cook, you may have to add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water from time to time. If they cook rapidly and there is too much water left in the pot, uncover and boil it away rapidly. Do not worry if the edges of the leaves next to the bottom of the pot start to brown; it improves their flavor.)
- Transfer the artichokes to a serving platter, arranging them always with the stems pointing up (Bear in mind that the stems are not merely decorative. They have an excellent flavor and they are to be eaten along with the rest of the artichoke.). Reserve the oil and juices from the pot and pour them over the artichokes just before serving. They should be served either lukewarm or at room temperature. The ideal temperature at which to serve them, if you can arrange it, is when they are no longer hot, but haven’t quite completely cooled off.
- Try to prepare them the same day they are going to be eaten because, like most cooked greens, they lose part of their flavor when refrigerated.