All Italian American families from the East Coast have Stuffed Artichokes as part of their repertoire, typically for special occasions. The stuffing is generally bread based and seasoned with parsley, garlic, and of course a generous splash of olive oil. Stuffed Artichokes might include a bit of anchovy, Parmigiano or Pecorino depending upon the coveted family recipe.
California produces 100% of the artichokes in the United States, with Castroville in Monterey County only a one hour drive for us, we have an abundant supply of the thorny thistles. Still a special dish, they appear much more frequently on the menu here than they did in the northeast as the cost is far less.
Stuffed Artichokes are not difficult to prepare, but do require a bit of time to trim and clean. Oh, how I long for the the Italian outdoor markets where cleaned artichokes are prepared each day by the fruttivendola (greengrocer) to take home and cook.
I always soak the whole artichokes in cold water with fresh lemon before beginning the trimming process. They are rather buoyant, so I suggest placing a heavy plate on top of the artichokes to submerge them in the water. Fresh lemon is definitely your friend when working with artichokes as they tend to discolor. You may want to wear rubber gloves when trimming and cleaning as your fingers will begin to look like you have been working in the fields.
Honestly, once you clean up the artichokes there is really little left to fuss about. The chokes may be stuffed, cooked and served immediately or perhaps cooled down, refrigerated and reheated the next day. Stuffed Artichokes make a dramatic first course or substantial main course. Once you pull away one of the tender leaves topped with the aromatic breadcrumbs, thoughts of trimming and cleaning will slip away from your memory.
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- 2 large fresh artichokes
- 1 fresh lemon
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 2 plump cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- 4 Tbs. Italian parsley leaves chopped
- 2 Tbs. Extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for cooking & garnishing
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Lemon slices for garnish
- Place the fresh artichokes in a large bowl of cold water. Cut the lemon into halves and squeeze one of the halves into the bowl with the artichokes, placing the lemon half in the bowl afterwards. Place a heavy plate on top of the artichokes to weight them down, allow them to soak for about 1 hour.
- Prepare the artichokes, one at a time by first removing some the lower outer leaves. Trim the bottom of the artichoke's stem so there is a base for it to rest, reserve the stem. Place the artichoke on its side on a cutting board and trim the top using a sharp knife. Open the choke with your fingers and pull out any of the inner thorny leaves. Take a small spoon and scoop out the bristly inside portion which sits on top of the artichoke heart. Using a kitchen shears, trim the top of artichoke's leaves. Rinse the cleaned artichokes under cool water and return to the acidulated water.
- Remove any remaining tough outer fiber from the stem, reserving the stem by returning it back to the acidulated water. Repeat the process with the second artichoke.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until warm, add the minced garlic and sauté until lightly golden. Add the fresh breadcrumbs, stirring well to toast until golden. The breadcrumbs should be monitored and stirred frequently as they can burn easily. Once they are ready, remove from the heat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow the breadcrumbs to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 375º.
- Add the grated Pecorino and chopped parsley leaves to the breadcrumb mixture, stir well to combine.
- Remove the artichokes from the acidulated water, draining them of any excess liquid. Open the center of each of the artichokes to provide a space for some of the stuffing, pull back the leaves to create openings to tuck some of the breadcrumb mixture into.
- Using a small spoon or your fingers, loosely fill the centers of each artichoke with the stuffing. Continue by loosely packing the breadcrumb mixture in between the leaves of the artichokes. Once you have used all of the breadcrumbs place both of the prepared artichokes into a heavy duty saucepan with a tight fitting lid in which they fit snugly. Add about 1 inch of fresh water to the pan, squeeze the remaining lemon half over the artichokes, placing the juiced half into the pan along with the trimmed stems. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the artichokes, cover the pan and place into the preheated oven.
- After 45 minutes careful remove the top of the pan and using a long fork, pierce the center of the artichoke into the heart. If the artichoke heart is easy pierced, it is cooked, remove from the oven.
- The artichokes may be served immediately or within an hour. Carefully remove from the pan and place on a serving plate. Spoon some of the cooking water over the chokes along with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a slice of fresh lemon. Serve immediately. The artichokes may be cooled completely, stored in the refrigerator and gently reheated the next day over a low flame on the top of the stove, serve warm and garnish as described.