Girlfriends: Alici al forno con Carciofi

April 12, 2011 / Food & Wine
aliciforno1Ne era ghiotto, era uno dei suoi piatti preferiti. Si mangiava tutta la teglia quando gliele facevo.
(He had a weakness for them, it was one of his favorite dishes. He would finish the entire pan whenever I made them for him.)

While she might have been sharing the recipe with me, it was obvious that she was actually reminiscing about her late husband in an entirely intimate and affectionate way… through his favorite food. Apart from the experience itself, nothing is quite as tangible as a memory associated with taste and smell.

Honored to have been privy to her memories (and culinary knowledge!), I decided to give it a stab. Incidentally, as usual no measurements were given, so I prepared the dish as best as possible according to her description and what made sense. My final result was good, but not excellent (I used too much oil, and too little salt, garlic, breadcrumbs, and parsley). Next time around I’ll know and it should be better, while usually by the third time I manage to get things right and so hope to do honor to her recipe.

aliciforno2Here goes:

– Figure half a pound of fresh anchovies and one artichoke per person. (The romanesco artichoke is a local variety found here, that you can eat – choke and all – after removing the tougher leaves and outer fibrous part of the stem.)

– Clean the anchovies of head and spine, and lay them out skin side down in an oil lined baking pan that has been dusted with bread crumbs. Dress with salt, parsley, finely chopped garlic. Add a layer of thinly sliced artichokes, dust again with bread crumbs, and un filo (a string) of olive oil.

– Repeat the above paragraph again to create two layers of the anchovies/artichokes with dressing and breadcrumbs.

aliciforno3– Put in oven at medium heat, about 325-350 deg F (160-180 C) for about 20 minutes, and serve immediately.

This morning Bruno (vegetable stall) who sold me the artichokes asked how it went.

Ma, cosi cosi. Fatto sta’ che ho finito comunque tutta la teglia,” I answered. (“So-so. That said, I finished the whole pan.”)

I might have never met her husband, but I can safely say we would have agreed on this dish for sure.

Here are the search results from plugging in the word “girlfriends” in the search box on the website. Enjoy!”


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

17 Responses to “Girlfriends: Alici al forno con Carciofi”

  1. My mouth is watering!! I just wish we could get anchovies like the ones in Italy. I know just what you mean about getting the recipes – whenever I would ask how something was prepared they would just say “Facile!” (It’s easy) Aglio, olio, pepperoncini!

  2. jojo

    Hai toccato il mio cuore !
    This is the type of life story that most reaches the inner soul, how touching and typical of Italians to relate life with food.
    And as far as the recipe, you probably will never do it as well, allora.
    grazie !

  3. My mouth was also watering. Artichokes and anchovies are two of my
    favorite food items, but alas, I have diverticuli and cannot partake
    of it. Buono appetit

  4. joann ugolini

    OK. we are in the piazza just opposite the pescheria. I have printed out the recipe for Donato. We will try it subito. Grazie GB

  5. Clearmont

    Sounds fantastico! Is 20 minutes actually enough time to cook i carciofi or they pre-cooked?

  6. hebegb

    These carciofi, the romaneschi variety, once “shucked”, become quite small. You are essentially cooking just the tender inside part, so 20 mins should be enough especially given that they are cut into thin slices, cooking even sooner. If you use another variety of carciofo cooking time may need to be adjusted.
    Buon appetito!

  7. Greetings from Tuscany!
    I made this today for lunch..used fresh sardines instead and regular artichokes that I bought at the market this morning. I cooked for 25 min at around 325 and the artichokes were fine. When serving a squeeze of lemon and another drizzle of olive oil brought it together. Wonderful.

  8. Paula (Giangreco) Cullison

    WOW … I am on the A team, as also love anchovies and artichokes.
    I am wondering if it would be OK to use canned pre-cooked artichokes hearts and canned anchovies. Maybe I better not even ask.

  9. Opps, Paula. Sorry, I don’t think that would fly. Some things are worth waiting for!

  10. umberto

    GB i love all italian food with very few exceptions but anchovie and artichokes ‘al forno’ are one of my most favorite-i remmber my grandmother ,then my mother and then my wife always making these delicious dishes that u are always discribing and now that i am alone i miss them even more—will u be my ‘girlfriend ?’

  11. maryann del

    When we were in Sorrento, Italy, we had grilled whole artichokes. They were dressed in garlic and oil. Does anyone know how to make them?


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