Stuffed Artichokes

April 20, 2015

By Anna Varriano

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This is one of my favourite ‘comfort foods’ from my childhood. I don’t remember anyone but my mom making this. This is a bit of a spin on one of my mom’s classics. She never uses recipes, so trying to duplicate her meals is impossible! If you blink, you’ll miss her throwing in a pinch of this or that. With some practice, this dish is pretty close to mom’s. I think the missing ingredient is a sprinkle of her love and unique energy! I made 2 stuffed artichokes with this recipe.

From a nutritional perspective, artichokes have been shown to offer numerous health benefits, including improving digestive health, lowering bad cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, and supporting detoxification and liver function.

I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as I do!

Step 1: Prep

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Cut off the stem and enough of the top part of the artichoke to get rid of the spikey leaf tips. Spread the leaves apart, starting from the outside layers and working your way in. Leave the lighter more delicate ones in the centre intact. They make up the artichoke ‘heart’

stuffed leavesIn a separate bowl, make a meatball-like mixture. I used about 1/2 kg of ground chicken (pastured is best) and mixed in: 1 TBSP freshly chopped parsley, 3 TBSP of oats, 1 egg, 2 TBSP freshly grated parmesan cheese, and whatever seasoning you like. I like Herbamare. Mix it all together. You’re now going to stuff a bit of the mixture in between as many of the spaces between the leaves as possible, still leaving the centre delicate leaves alone!

IMG_0455You should end up with something that looks like this. I had extra meat, which I rolled into meatballs. Gently pat the meat down into the artichokes and also give them a very gentle squeeze to make sure everything’s all in place!

 Step 2:  Cooking

Put a couple of TBSP of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil, one TBSP of butter, and a few (as many as you like!) slightly crushed cloves of garlic into a stove top casserole (or any pot you can cover and simmer something in) and turn the heat on low for a minute or two, just to gently warm the oil and butter up a bit and get some of that yummy garlic flavour infused into them.

IMG_0457Put the artichokes in the casserole (stem side down) with the oil, butter, and garlic, and add about 1.5 cups of canned tomatoes. I am lucky to have a stash of homemade canned tomatoes from my mom and dad’s garden. Add about 1/4 cup of another liquid – water or chicken broth or even white wine. Add a few leaves of fresh basil, and a stem or two of fresh parsley. If you made meatballs with any left over meat, put them in the pot too. Season as you like. I used Herbamare again.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer, covered, for about an hour. Check the artichokes a few times to make sure the liquid isn’t drying out – add more if it is. I also like to baste them with the tomatoey liquid developing in the pot when I check on them. To check for ‘done-ness’ I like to gently turn them so I can access and pierce the bottom of the heart (where the stem was cut off) with a fork. It should be very soft/mushy.

Step 3: Presentation & Serving

IMG_0460 - CopyWhen the artichokes are done, take them out and place them in the middle of a pasta dish. Then take a hand held blender, and puree the tomato sauce in the pot (or pour it into a blender and puree it). Pour the sauce around the artichoke, and grate fresh parmesan cheese over it all (if you wish). To eat it, start pulling off the leaves from the outside-in. Eat the meat that you find between the leaves, and also ‘pull’ the leaves through your teeth, scraping off their soft inner portion, which you’ll find more of as you work your way towards the centre. Dip the chunks of meat in the sauce…and the leaves too if you wish. So delicious! I’m sure you’ll find some way to enjoy the bonus meatballs…if you had any! Enjoy!

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