Artichokes add spring flavor to holiday menus

Spring rings in refreshing celebrations such as Passover and Easter, and it is always a time for us to emerge from the winter blues and revisit exciting and memorable recipes for these upcoming holidays.Traditional Seder recipes include lamb shankbone, roasted egg and charoset, a sweet salad of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon.

For Easter, Christians celebrate with a Sunday dinner and usually serve a roast such as lamb or ham. A lot of trimmings are included, and on the tables of Italian families we will always find artichokes.

Artichokes come in more than one size and can be prepared in many ways. Smaller artichokes are ideal as an appetizer in the beginning of the meal. The hearts can be marinated or fried in a fluffy batter to golden perfection. For the end of the meal, we use larger artichokes. We fill them with a flavorful bread crumb stuffing and then steam them in white wine and garlic.

The recipe I am sharing in this week’s column falls into the middle slot of a traditional Italian Easter dinner, and it allows us to enjoy artichokes in a tomato sauce. The sauce will yield a rich and robust texture, and it will be laced with the flavor of artichokes. Top it over a long pasta such as fettuccine, and your Easter dinner will be a huge success!

I wish all my readers a Happy Spring and a wonderful holiday. May blessings, spiritual health and the beauty of this season be yours.


12 baby artichokes

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 vegetable stock

2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

1/2 pound Genoa salami, shredded

1 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded

1 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 egg, beaten

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Wash artichokes and cut off stems at base. Mince stems and reserve. Snip off top quarter of leaves. Spread artichokes and remove fuzzy centers with a spoon in order to create a hollow.

In a bowl, mix half the olive oil with vegetable stock, breadcrumbs, Genoa salami, mozzarella, Pecorino-Romano cheese and parsley. Firmly, fill the breadcrumb mixture into the center of each artichoke to the top. Dip the top of each artichoke into the egg.

In a large pot, warm remaining olive oil. Brown the tops of the artichokes, turning the breadcrumb side down, a few at a time. This will seal in the breadcrumbs.

Remove the artichokes from the pot and set aside on a dish. Add garlic and minced artichoke stems to olive oil and cook until tender. Place the artichokes standing up in the pot as the garlic and stems cook. Carefully and slowly, pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot over the artichokes. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer for one hour and fifteen minutes.

In a large pot, boil water for the fettuccine. When water begins to boil, add salt liberally. Let water return to a boil, and cook fettuccine until al dente. Drain fettuccine and plate with the artichokes. Sprinkle with Pecorino-Romano cheese. Garnish with parsley.

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