Few vegetables are as revered in Roman cuisine as the artichoke.  Late February marks the start of the artichoke season in Rome, and the lovely thistle vegetable makes its appearance in fruit and vegetable markets and on menus across the city.  The variety of artichoke found around Rome and throughout the region of Lazio is called the Romanesco, notable for it’s green and purple hues.  It is more tender than the artichokes we’ve been able to find here in the States, but we make due.

Photo from http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/carciofi-rome-artichokes-rome-delicious-recipe

Photo from http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/carciofi-rome-artichokes-rome-delicious-recipe

In Rome, artichokes are prepared in one of two ways: alla giudia, or Jewish-style; and alla romana, Roman-style.  In carciofi alla giudia, the artichoke is deep fried to a savory crispness.  Too cumbersome to do at home, carciofi alla giudia are on the menu of every Roman trattoria, especially those found in the historical Jewish ghetto neighborhood.

Photo from http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/05/in-season-and-delicious-artichokes-in-rome/

Photo from http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/05/in-season-and-delicious-artichokes-in-rome/

An easier recipe to prepare at home is carciofi alla romana.  In this recipe, the artichokes are cleaned, stuffed with a mixture of garlic, parsley, mint and breadcrumbs, and then braised in olive oil and water until tender.  Intended as a side dish, these roman-style artichokes steal the show every time.

Ingredients
4 globe artichokes
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons of flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons of mint, chopped
1 lemon
50 g (1/4 cup) Bread crumbs
1 dl (1/2 cup) olive oil, plus a few tablespoons extra.
Salt

Carciofi alla romanaCarciofi alla romanaDirections
Clean the artichokes by removing the tough, outer leaves until you get to the tender part of the artichoke, notable by the soft yellow coloring at the base of each leaf.

Carciofi alla romanaSlice off the top 1/3 of the artichoke.

Carciofi alla romanaOpen up the artichoke and remove the choke, or the fuzzy white part.  Chop off the longest part of the stem, leaving about 5 cm (2 inches) of it.  Use a paring knife to clean the remaining stem by stripping away its outer layers.

Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a bowl of cold water (the lemon keeps the artichokes from turning brown), and let the artichokes bathe.

carciofi alla giudia In the meanwhile, chop the garlic, mint and parsley.  Mix the garlic and herbs together with the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt.  Add just enough olive oil to form a paste.

Remove the artichokes from the water.  Using a small spoon, stuff the breadcrumb mixture into the center of each artichoke.

carciofi alla romanaSalt the outside of the artichokes.  Place each artichoke head down into a saucepan. Pour the olive oil over them, and let them cook for a few minutes over medium heat.  Add water until the artichoke bulbs are half-submerged.

Cover, and cook over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes.   Check them for tenderness by piercing them with a fork.  Allow them to cook a little longer if necessary.

carciofi alla romanaServe your carciofi alla romana with a little of the cooking liquid spooned over them.  A local wine, like Tenuta Pietra Porzia Regillo Frascati Superiore, pairs well with this regional artichoke dish without overpowering its nuanced flavors.

Carciofi alla romana

6 thoughts on “Carciofi alla romana

  1. How beautiful! I was in the market the other day and when I saw the artichokes. I always like it when they come in bringing their promise of Spring. What a lovingly written article, come sempre. Complimenti!

  2. Really nice how-to post, Due. Thanks for sharing. I so wish we had good artichokes around these parts. When we do find them they are prohibitively expensive (as in $4 apiece!). My mother made carciofi alla romana and sometimes that was our main course. She didn’t remove the outer leaves except for a very few on the bottom. Instead, she would stuff filling between the leaves and then cook them for a long time in a braising liquid of olive oil, water and wine. We would pull out the leaves and scrape off the stuffing with our teeth and then discard the leaves. The prize, of course, was the hidden artichoke bottom. Yours look so good I could probably demolish them in one bite.

  3. I am not the least bit jealous! It’s torture waiting til we get to Rome…sure hope they save us some! I plan on having them every day! Alla Guida is amazing, sprinkled with a bit of salt…I can taste it now!

  4. Every time I see artichokes here my heart sinks a bit: why couldn’t they pick them just a little sooner? they are obviously too old! But you managed to make them awesome!

  5. You make my mouth water more than usual, as artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables. I have tried a few times to cook our local artichokes: they look beautiful, but they don’t taste like the romanesco I grew up eating. And you are right: their tenderness! Sigh.

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