When one hears “parmigiana” in the title of a dish, one automatically thinks of Eggplant Parmesan. Though using eggplants is probably one of the most typical ways to prepare this traditional cheesy vegetable dish, you can use many other vegetables such as zucchini, fennel, and even artichokes. We are now back “home” in Umbria, and after working hard for a few days to open up our house, we decided to take last Saturday off and headed over to the Perugia market and then to Montefalco for lunch.
We booked our meal at our favorite Montefalco restaurant, L’Alchimista, and after wandering around the town and drooling over all the local food products for sale in the many stores there, we headed off to lunch. One of the reasons I love L’Alchimista is that they stay true to their Umbrian roots, always try to incorporate seasonal ingredients into their menu items, but add a unique twist to many of their dishes.
We started off our meal with an artichoke soufflé along with artichoke parmesan. Although the soufflé was lovely and light, the other dish covered in a vibrant tomato sauce and lots of cheese stole my heart.
This dish is best made with fresh artichokes, but if you absolutely cannot find them locally, I’d suggest using frozen artichokes, not canned or ones from a jar. Definitely stay away from marinated artichokes for this dish.
I had some buffalo mozzarella unhand that we had bought on our way home from the airport that I decided to use, and of course, you’ll need a good quality Parmesan cheese.
I find it is always better to buy a chunk of Parmesan and to grate it as you need it rather than cheese already grated sold in bags. Because this dish uses only a few ingredients, it is essential to use the best. For most of my tomato sauces, I use only Mutti brand chopped tomatoes, but any variety of San Marzano tomatoes are okay.
I find Mutti brand tomatoes have a fresh, pure tomato flavor that is rich and vibrant. Some canned tomatoes are watery and have a sour aftertaste that is just unpleasant. If you have your own favorite homemade tomato sauce, feel free to use it in this dish, but I will include my version used in this recipe.
Many folks are a little nervous about cleaning fresh artichokes, but honestly, once you get the hang of it, it can be accomplished quickly. You can see how easy it is by looking at my How To Clean An Artichoke tutorial. Once cleaned, do keep the artichokes in a citrus water bath to prevent discoloration. Fresh artichokes need to be cooked before assembling this dish, but you can skip that step if using frozen artichokes.
- 10 Medium Artichokes, Cleaned & Quartered (See Notes Above)
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Onion
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
- 1 (14 Ounce Can) Imported Diced Italian Tomatoes (I Use Mutti Brand)
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Basil
- Dash Of Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
- 8 Ounces Mozzarella Cheese, Cut Into Small Dice
- 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- For the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, and add the onion and garlic.
- As soon as the onions and garlic begin to sizzle, but before it takes on color, add the tomatoes.
- Turn the heat to high, and as soon as the sauce begins to bubble, turn back down to medium low.
- Season with salt and pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes if you are using them, and add the basil.
- Cook for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the prepared artichokes until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Drain, and allow to dry at room temperature.
- In an 8 x 8 inch oven-proof casserole dish, first spoon a little sauce over the bottom, then arrange the artichoke pieces to cover.
- Push the diced mozzarella cheese in between the artichokes, then sprinkle with about half the grated cheese.
- Spoon the rest of the sauce over the artichokes, then top with the remaining cheese.
- The dish can be assembled to this step and then refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
- When ready to cook, place the casserole dish in a preheated 400 degree F. oven and bake until bubbly and lightly browned, about 35 to 40 minutes.'
- Let the dish rest for 10 minutes, then serve and enjoy.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 511Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 1062mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 18gSugar: 5gProtein: 29g