I was so excited to get back to Italy and hit the local street markets, and on my first trip to the market in Marsciano I spied baby spring artichokes at 25 for 5 euros. Of course I snapped them up but then had to make a decision on what I would do with them. Stringozzi is a typical Umbrian fresh pasta that we love and so I picked up a package of that, and then stopped off at our local butcher who makes the most amazing tasting sausages. Some day I am going to have to ask him his secret so I can make my own at home, but for now at least I can buy them from him whenever the craving hits. So, I had fresh pasta, homemade sausages, baby spring artichokes……throw in a bunch of fresh parsley, a little garlic, olive oil and some freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese and you have an easy, quick delicious pasta dish that would rival any found in a restaurant. This dish typifies what Italian cuisine is all about. Mix together a few really quality ingredients without too much fuss and you achieve greatness. (or pretty darn close!)
Now, I understand you may not have access to fresh baby artichokes, and therefore if you can’t find fresh artichokes of any kind, you could use frozen ones. I’d stay away from canned artichokes or those preserved in oil. For the sausage, try and buy a good quality brand or better yet, buy some that your local butcher makes in-house. For the pasta, any fresh pasta would work, such as fettuccine or even pappardelle. You can add in as much or as little fresh chopped parsley as you like although the freshness of this herb really adds to the dish. In place of the Pecorino Romano, grated Parmesan would work also.
To clean the artichokes: To start, fill a large bowl 3/4 full of water and add to that the juice of one lemon to prevent discoloration. With a sharp knife, trim off all but 1 inch of the stem of an artichoke. Next, break off and discard the older, tough outside leaves, and continue to do this until you reach the more tender, pale green leaves inside. Next, cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke and discard. You can now clean up the ragged areas along the stem with your knife. Unless your artichokes are very small, you’ll need to remove the choke, and can you do this by simply cutting the artichoke in half and scraping out the fuzzy center and prickly leaves. If you require the artichoke whole, or if you plan to stuff them, spread apart the center leaves and with a sharp edged spoon start to scrape out the choke. Continue until you have removed all the prickly, sharp, center leaves. Rinse your artichoke and place it in the lemon water until you are ready to use.
The Baby Artichokes (Carciofi) I Bought At Our Local Market
Deborah Mele 2011
- 1 Pound Fresh Artichokes, Trimmed & Steamed or Sauteed
- 4 Good Quality Sausage Links
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled And Minced
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/4 - 1/3 Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
- Freshly Grated Pecorino or Parmesan Cheese
- If you are using fresh artichokes, either steam them, or saute them until they are tender.
- If using frozen artichokes, thaw and saute, then cut the artichokes into bite sized pieces and set aside.
- Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
- Remove the sausage meat from it's casing, and in a heavy frying pan, heat the olive oil and then add the sausage meat.
- Cook until lightly browned, breaking the meat up with two forks as it cooks.
- Add the garlic and cook an additional couple of minutes.
- Add the artichokes to the frying pan and gently mix, then season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Cook the pasta until it is al dente, and drain, reserving a small cup of the pasta water.
- Return the pasta to the pot and add the sausage mixture and fresh chopped parsley.
- Toss to mix, adding a little of the pasta water as needed to moisten.
- Serve in individual pasta bowls, and offer the grated cheese at the table.