Carciofi Siciliani Ripieni

Italian style stuffed artichokes
Photo credit: Don Zingale
Contributor: Don Zingale

Amici,
One of my favorite Italian-American cookbooks is “The Sopranos Cookbook” (but seriously, don’t let the book’s name scare you away)! Across this cookbook’s pages, I can relive my childhood at dinnertime—a great deal of which was spent at my grandmother’s home on Sackett Street in Brooklyn—just a few doors down from the Cammareri Bros. Bakery (yes, the same one as in the movie “Moonstruck”!)

I grew up on stuffed artichokes and could never get enough of my mom’s. Fortunately, we have the recipe. These artichokes are stuffed with a savory bread crumb and Romano and/or Pecorino cheese mixture, and we steam them for about one hour until cooked through and tender. To finish the cooking, we transfer them to a baking pan and put them under the oven broiler to ensure a golden crust on top …melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Just in case you don’t know, artichokes are low in fat and rich in fiber! Next time you’re tempted to take the mayo or butter route, make Sicilian stuffed artichokes, ala Zingale!
—Don Zingale

Cook’s notes: Always buy artichokes fresh, firm and without discoloration. Evenly cut off the stems and top. Then snip off the thorny leaf tips (they’re brutal) with kitchen shears!
Artichokes cook at varied rates, depending on size and freshness. If overcooked, the artichokes will fall apart and become soggy. Watch them and pull a test leaf to be sure.

Prep Time: 25 min
Cooking Time: 1 hr 5 min
Servings: 4
Ingredients

4 medium-large artichoke globes (about 14-ounces each).
1 cup Progresso Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3/4 cup fresh, finely grated Romano or Pecorino cheese 4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

To Begin
Fill a large bowl with cold water and immerse the artichokes for 10 minutes. Turn the artichokes upside down and drain. Smack the tips on a hard surface a few times to loosen the leaves. Remove the small outer leaves (on the bottom). Cut the stems off at the base so the chokes stand up on their own. Snip off the sharp leaf tips with a scissor.

Stuffing
In a medium-size bowl, mix the bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into four equal parts. Working in batches, partially pry-open an outer leaf of the artichoke with a teaspoon. Drop about 3⁄4 teaspoon of stuffing into the base of the larger leaves, working around the globe towards the center. Use about 1⁄2 teaspoon of stuffing for the smaller leaves. Workaround the globe towards the center, stuffing the leaves until they are too tight to pry open. Repeat with the remaining artichokes. Make sure that there is ample grated cheese in the mixture and that all spaces remaining at the top of the artichokes are filled with the stuffing.

To Cook
Place the artichokes one inch apart in a large pot, with at least 4-inches of headroom. If you have a rack, place it in the pot and set the artichokes on the rack. Add 1 1/2 inches of water with some lemon slices and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour…sometimes longer. Check the water level frequently and add more boiling water as needed to replenish the evaporated water (do not allow the water to evaporate completely). Be careful when you open the lid to check (the steam is very hot). Be sure to pull a test leaf from an artichoke, using a pair of tongs – if the leaf pulls away easily and is tender, it’s done. Carefully remove the artichokes with tongs and transfer to the baking pan for finishing in the oven to remove excess moisture. Cool for no more than 5 minutes before serving.

Wine Pairing Suggestion
Great with a medium-dry Reisling, dry Pinot Gris or even an oaky, dry Merlot if you prefer red wine.

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