Last Sunday we had Stuffed Artichokes, Made Sicilian Style. This is one of the tastiest ways to make this uniquely wonderful vegetable. The stuffing is primarily made up of onions, bread crumbs and pecorino romano cheese and topped off with a pinch of dried mint. The combination really brings out the sweetness in the artichoke. We were literally licking our fingers by the time we finished eating.
To many people artichokes are a bit intimidating to eat let alone prepare. In reality they are easy to cook and yes they are a little messy to eat…but they are so worth the effort and extra napkins!
What is an artichoke?
The artichoke is part of the thistle family. It has been cultivated from another Italian favorite, the cardoon (which we will cook on another day). Varieties of artichokes were cultivated in Sicily and then shared with the northern Italian regions, France and Spain. The artichoke itself is actually the flower bud of the plant before the flower blooms.
This special vegetable is revered in Italy, especially in Sicily. To Italians artichoke season is the best time of the year. They are most abundant during the spring months. We were lucky enough to have been in Sicily during the spring of 2019 and enjoyed eating some of the largest artichokes I have ever seen.
How to Make Stuffed Artichokes
Ingredients you need
Artichokes: Make sure that the artichokes are nice and green and that the leaves are not dry or shriveled.
Pecorino Romano cheese is my favorite to use, but you can substitute Parmesan or a combination of the two. The cheese bring a nutty saltiness to the filling.
Bread Crumbs: Either seasoned or plain will work fine.
Olive Oil: Use your favorite olive oil. The olive oil will add flavor and adds moisture to the filling so I do think that it is a good idea to use a brand that you like.
Lemon: You will use this to rub on the artichokes so they don’t discolor before cooking.
How to prepare them
- Remove the two outer layers of leaves as these are the toughest.
- Lay the artichoke on it side and using a sharp knife, cut the top 1-1 1/2″ of the artichoke off. Now using scissors trim the tops off any remaining leaves that have needles on them.
- Rub it on the exposed parts of the leaves of the artichoke with the lemon half to keep it from turning brown.
- Now lay the artichoke on it’s side again and trim off the stem as close to the bottom of the artichoke as possible. You want to have a flat bottom so that the artichoke can sit flat in your pan and plate.
- Spread the leaves as far apart as you can without breaking them off. They will bounce back into place but it will make it easier to get your ingredients between the leaves when you start to stuff them.
- Repeat this with the remaining artichokes.
How to cook them
- Salt and pepper the artichokes, spreading the leaves out as much as your can to get the seasoning evenly distributed.
- Spread the leaves out and stuff onion, breadcrumbs, cheese and mint between them. Drizzle with olive oil and top with more grated cheese.
- Place your artichokes in a sauce pan big enough to fit them but not so big that they will fall over when you add water.
- Fill the pan with water about 2/3 of the way up the artichoke. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water.
- Cook covered over medium heat for 30-40 minutes.
- The artichokes are done when you can easily insert a knife into the center and the heart is tender.
Artichokes are in season and their tastiest in the spring. There is a smaller artichoke season again in early fall.
Try to select artichokes that are about the same size so that they cook evenly and are done at the same time.
Start by rinsing them off in cold water. I like to spread the leaves out a bit and let water run between them. Just be careful because the needles at the top of the leaves are sharp. Then hold them upside down to drain any trapped water out of them.
Stuff the Artichokes on a cutting board or a rimmed baking sheet so that you can reuse any stuffing that falls out as you are preparing them.
Watch the artichokes as they cook as the water may start to evaporate and you may need to add more.
The edible parts of an artichoke are the tender meaty ends at the bottom of the leaves, the center or the heart and the stalk. Starting with the leaves, bite down on the bottom part of the leaf and pull off the tender portion.
As you get closer to the center the leaves will become softer and more of it will be edible. Once you get to the center you will find the choke which is the fuzzy filament of the artichoke and covers the heart. The choke is not edible in a mature artichoke, so go ahead and spoon it out. Now you have reached the heart, which is your prize for all the work you did to get this far. It is tender and sweet and well worth the effort!
Fresh artichokes will be a nice green color with firm leaves. If the artichokes have dark or dry looking leaves then it is past it’s prime. You can still eat it as long as you remove all of the dark outer leaves before cooking it.
These stuffed beauties can be served as an appetizer or as a side. They go great with a dipping sauce or dressing, but they don’t need it. Artichokes are a tasty accompaniment for chicken, fish, pork or steak.
Other recipes you will enjoy
Artichokes Made Sicilian Style Stuffed with Onion and Cheese
- 4 Artichokes
- 1 slice lemon
- ½ Onion diced
- 1½ tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper ground
- ½ cup Bread crumbs
- ¾ cup Pecorino Romano Cheese grated, reserve 1/4 cup for the topping
- 4 pinches Mint dried
- 3 tsp Olive oil
- Remove the two outer layers of leaves and cut the stems off at the very base of the artichokes, then cut the top third of the leaves off.
- Rub the lemon on the exposed top of the artichokes.
- Spread the leaves apart and stuff each artichoke with the diced onion, pushing the onion into the artichoke. You may have to spread the leaves out again as you add the ingredients.
- Pour two tablespoons of the olive oil on top of the artichokes. Dividing it equally among the 4 artichokes.
- Add pepper, a pinch of mint to each artichoke. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt.
- Sprinkle the bread crumbs and grated cheese over each artichoke and between the leaves and top them with the additional 1/4 cup of cheese, place them into a medium saucepan. Fill with water so that the water comes 2/3 of the way up on the artichokes.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt and the slice of lemon to the water. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the artichoke easily cuts through to the bottom.