Artichokes are one of those vegetables that have always frightened me a bit. They look so beautiful, but what the hell do you do with them? For years, I would only eat artichokes in restaurants, awkwardly sucking out the tasty flesh of the leaves, but last year at a farmers’ market in Oceanside, California, I fell in love with the cutest little baby artichokes that I had to buy. We brought that back to Vegas in a cooler bag and learned how to trim them so we could saute them up for a pizza topping. They were delicious and surprisingly easier to trim than we both thought. Artichokes are currently in season and this Mario Batali pasta recipe highlights their delicious taste with a little bit of pancetta thrown in there to add some extra flavour. This recipe makes enough for 6 at $1.17 per serving.
Spaghetti with Artichokes and Pancetta, from Mario Batali in Food & Wine, April 2010
1 lemon, halved
8 baby artichokes or 2 large artichokes (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon halves, then add the lemon halves to the water. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, peel off the dark green outer leaves. Cut off the top fourth of the artichoke; peel and trim the stem. Slice the artichoke lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick slices and drop them into the lemon water. Repeat with the remaining artichokes. If you need help figuring out how to trim artichokes, check out this great tutorial.
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and pancetta and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain the artichokes; discard the lemon. Add the artichokes to the saucepan, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add the white wine, cover and simmer over moderately low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta and the reserved cooking water to the artichokes and toss over moderate heat for 1 minute. Remove the pasta from the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve the pasta with grated cheese to top.