The first time I saw someone eating an artichoke, I was 16 and traveling in London with my parents. We must have seemed awfully provincial gawping at this poor man trying to enjoy his appetizer. It was years before I actually ate one. I was working in a theatre and the playwright whose play we were doing invited a few of us for dinner. Dinner consisted of a huge platter of artichokes and a big bowl of melted butter and lemon. It seemed wonderfully bohemian and sophisticated to my very young self.
 
Ever since then artichokes seem to have some kind of cachet for me, perhaps also because it is a vegetable that requires some effort, both in the cooking and the eating of them. I always feel that the result outweighs the effort and I happily peel away those tough outer leaves, leaving my fingertips dark purple and revealing the prize of the heart. If you are lucky enough to have baby artichokes, they will be tender and require less peeling, and chances are the choke will be small and easy to scrape off. I had to use slightly larger artichokes for this recipe, so slightly more peeling but it is still delicious nonetheless. This recipe calls for mint, which I left out because I find that it overshadows other ingredients. If you love mint, by all means keep it in.
 
This recipe is from The Financial Times.

Prep time: 35-40 minutes 

Total time: 50 minutes 

Yield: 6 servings

 
Rigatoni with Artichokes and Bacon

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 10 baby artichokes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 6 slices pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 6 servings Rigatoni
  • 15 mint leaves
  • Sprinkle of finely grated Pecorino, Romano or Parmesan cheese
Cooking directions
  1. Squeeze the lemons and dilute the strained juice with an equal amount of water. Taking a sharp knife, cut the artichokes across their diameter halfway up the leaves, removing the tops but leaving heart, choke and stem intact. If you are using larger artichokes, you will need to peel a few layers of the leaves off before cutting. Cut around the circumference of the remainder, removing the tops of the leaves and retaining the exposed heart. Using a potato peeler, run it up the stalk and under the heart. Cut the artichoke in half lengthways and remove the choke with a teaspoon. Slice the half artichoke thickly and leave to soak in the lemon juice and water.
  2. Peel and slice an onion. Heat half the olive oil in a saucepan and stew the onion for a couple of minutes before adding the finely chopped garlic. Add the drained artichokes, a good pinch of salt and the wine. Cover and stew the artichokes gently for 10 minutes or until just tender.
  3. Cut the pancetta into thin strips and stew them in a fresh pan with the remaining olive oil, letting them crisp slowly. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente.
  4. Lift the rigatoni into the artichoke mixture and stir, adding a little cooking water or olive oil if necessary. Add the crispy pancetta and serve immediately, with grated cheese on the side.

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