Artichokes are Spring

Fried, pickled, in salad or alla romana, artichokes are irresistable however they are prepared

Artichoke alla Romana! (Da Oio A Casa Mia - Testaccio)

I’ve always loved artichokes – even when I was a picky eater, who shunned vegetables, despised “wet meat” and was convinced that cookies tasted worse when they were broken. Artichokes were one of the few typically Italian foods we ate in a very un-Italian way. My mom rinsed them, cut off all but a few inches of the stalks, and boiled them in water with a couple of cloves of garlic and some lemon slices, until the stalks were tender. Then, we would strip off each leaf, dipping it into melted butter, or, if I was really lucky, a sauce made from mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice and dill, before scraping off the tender pulp with our teeth. It was a vegetarian equivalent to oysters on the half shell.

I’ve never seen anyone dip veggies in melted butter in Italy, although food traditions are so varied here in the dairy lands in the North of the Boot, someone might be doing it. And, dill (“aneto”) was impossible to find here until just a few years ago. I presume that the influx of people from Eastern Europe must be changing this. Come to think of it, the lack of dill must also explain why those wonderful, king-sized pickles they sold at Italian markets in the US when I was young can’t be found in Italy.

In Rome, artichokes are king. They are everywhere, especially in spring. Carciofi alla Giudea – entire deep-fried artichokes most famous in the Ghetto, and in Trastevere, but popular everywhere are among my favorite. They sure know how to use a deep-fryer in the Eternal City! Linda, my mother-in-law has a talent for artichoke wedges fried in her special batter. They are a mainstay at our Easter Monday picnics. Silvia simmers artichokes, chopped up and mixed in with potatoes, for hours. And, diced pickled artichoke can make the difference between a tuna salad sandwich and an elegant carciofo e tonno tramezzino.

If you want to capture the essence of artichokes in Rome – or anywhere, for that matter– try one of the many variations on “carciofi alla romana”. There are many recipes out there – even my friends in L’Aquila have slightly different ways of preparing them. So, once again, I’m turning to Marcella Hazan, whose cookbook The Classic Italian Cook Book, first published in the early seventies, saved my culinary life when I moved to Italy in 1989 – and many times afterwards. The following recipe – reprinted by Elaine of  “The Italian Dish” (, one of the best Italian food blogs I’ve ever seen – is simple in both ingredients and description. I strongly suggest reading Elaine’s article before trying it. In part because she wrote a wonderful introduction to Marcella Hazan and how these artichokes were part of the perfect Roman lunch, but mostly because the photos she has included make it almost impossible to mess anything up.

Roman Style Artichokes – 4 servings

  • 4 large globe artichokes with stems attached
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Bend back and snap off tough outer leaves from artichokes, pulling off enough leaves until you expose the central part of the artichoke with whiter leaves at the base.  Slice off tops and then squeeze some lemon juice over the cut parts, so they don’t turn so brown.  Using a paring knife, cut out the hairy choke inside the artichoke.  Trim the sides of the artichokes of any tough green parts.  Trim the end off stem and then, using the knife, trim the tough green outer part of the stem.  Rub with lemon.

In a bowl, combine the parsley, mint, garlic and salt and pepper.  Rub the mixture into the artichokes and over the outsides of the artichokes.  Set the artichokes, topside down with stems facing up, into a pot with a lid.  Add oil and enough water to come one third up the sides of the leaves (not the stems).

Cook over medium heat until artichokes are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.  Transfer artichokes, stems up, to a serving platter, reserving juices.  .  Let cool to warm or room temperature.  To serve, drizzle the pan juices over artichokes.”

The article and the crisp photos that walk you through it all can be found here:

In the end, carciofi alla romana (Roman-style artichokes) are easier done than said. Most classic Italian food is much easier than you would expect; the hard part is finding the best ingredients outside of Italy.

Carciofi alla romana can be served both warm or at room temperature, as a contorno (vegetable dish) or as an antipasto.

– Joshua Lawrence

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on

Artichoke on FoodistaArtichoke

18 responses to “Artichokes are Spring

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Artichokes are Spring « Carbonara's Weblog --

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  3. your recipe reminds me my good old times in Rome thanks !! Pierre de Paris

  4. I’ve never gotten very advanced in my artichoke prep, but I think that’s going to change! Thanks.

  5. I had a good time with these recipes. Thanks for reminding me old days. I love Italian food.

  6. GREAT!!!! you make one of the most perfect recipe of carbonara.great italian carbonara. Only something to midufy.

  7. Perfect recipe, I think that’s going to change! Thanks.

  8. Place the artichokes, garlic, spring onions, and mayonnaise in a food processor or blender and process to form a smooth purée.;)

  9. I’ve never gotten very advanced in my artichoke prep, but I think that’s going to change! Thanks for sharinh.

  10. One of my favorite parts of Spring is that artichokes are in season! Not only are they delicious to eat (we’ll get to that later!), but they can also make for fabulous decorations in your home, or accessories on your table. Thanks for the post.

  11. thank you soooo much! here in Perú we have really delicious artichokes but I never dare to buy some because I didn’t know how to prep them…so easy! You REALLY have a heart for cooking, God bless you!

  12. I too love artichokes but, I put them in the microwave. I use a cassorole dish with a cover, Put water half way up , wash and prepare your artichoke(s) stick slivers of garlic between the leaves and also in the water. Nuke about 5 mins per choke. Drizzle with olive oil and garlic powder.

  13. Nuking is kind of akin to using a pressure cooker. Most large restaurants use similar methods. I’d rather put a clove of garlic in with it all than use garlic powder, wich tends to exaggerate the smell of garic against the fuller flavour of garlik simmering in artichoke water or olive oil.

  14. I have nothing against microwaves, and often with veggies that take time to cook otherwise they can be even better. Microwaved potatoes hold more of the potatoe flavour than boiled ones.

  15. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I am really happy I’ve been here in your blog. Great post!

  16. My artichoke plants has been producing some nice looking artichokes over the last few weeks but how do I know when they are ready to be picked off the plant? I planted back in March and bought the plant from Home Depot so it was already started when I bought it. Only one of the artichokes are really nice size the others are still small

  17. Three stars for being quick, easy, and filling! I needed to get dinner ready fast and this worked well. It wasn’t knock your socks off wonderful though. It also made a lot, even though I only used one package of pasta (I used fresh cheese tortelini).

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