Carciofi, Artichokes

May 2, 2012 / Food & Wine
Rome, Lazio

Yes, ’tis the season for artichokes. The market abounds with them, everyone is eating them, and if you want to decorate the home with them you can even buy them in bouquet form. Quite different from the ones available outside of Italy, these can be eaten whole (stem, “choke” and all) without the need to scrape them through your teeth, a gesture that Italians find most uncivilized!

In the euphoria of the sudden carciofo abundance I buy some at the market and figure I could use a reminder on how to prep them. So before entering my apartment building I decide to ask my girlfriends, sitting at their usual table at the café, for some advice . .

“Vai su, pia’n cortello e’n limone e torna giu’ co’ du’ carciofi.” (Roman dialect for “Go upstairs, grab a knife and a lemon and come back down with two artichokes.”)

We have un caffé together, hands messy with lemon juice to keep them from turning black from the artichokes. And the hands-on refresher course I get on how to prep and cook carciofi is…

1. Rinse. Prepare a bowl of cold water with half a lemon squeezed into it.

2. Cut and peel stems, placing them in the lemony water.

3. Bending leaves back one by one, snap off midway on the leaf, and discard top part. Continue until all the dark green leaves have been broken off, and then cut off the top third, whittling away the dark green from the base and the chewy tips of the leaves. Place in lemony water.

4. Shove some chopped garlic, a few breadcrumbs, mint, salt and pepper into the center of the artichoke, and place in a pan with bottom generously covered in a 50/50 water / olive oil mixture, at medium heat . . .

5. . . . and (girlfriends’ secret!) tear a paper bag open and cover the entire pan with it before fitting the lid on. Tear off the excess paper that sticks out so it doesn’t catch fire! The idea here is to trap the steam inside so the artichokes cook evenly. Serve when soft to the fork.

Buon appetito!


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

21 Responses to “Carciofi, Artichokes”

    • GB

      Valid question, Vicki.
      The asnwer? Until soft to fork tongs!
      Why the non-quantifiable answer? Because it will depending on the size of the artichoke, variety, and what point of the season you’ve reached (i.e. toughness), etc…
      Cooking time generally tends to run about 15-20 mins, though.

  1. Toni DeBella

    In the US we stupidly throw away the stems, which in Umbria are cooked and considered the best part – so tender and delicious. My grandmother made her stuffed artichokes in almost the same way as but she shoved pieces of garlic in between the leaves, poured olive oil, salt, pepper and bread crumbs into the artichoke,then steamed them. The mushy mixture is soooo good. Thanks GB, your girlfriend is right! toni

  2. Oh how I love le ragazze and maybe someday you will video one of these classic conversations with them and post on the site?? Or are they camera shy?

  3. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks, GB..enjoyed!
    Here in Umbria, we head for the fields for wild mint / mentuccia/ – perfect addition to carciofi…..and also to marinated zucchini..
    And the farmwomen – like Peppa – will tell you “rinfresca pure” (“it freshens you up – inside, too” / rough translation!)

    Glad IN is back!

  4. Hi, love the descriptions here! Would really like to post this link over on my food blog…is that OK with you? Always like to ask first before doing!



  5. GB, I think I screwed up…I went to the site to “unsubscribe from the comments” and I think I may have unsubcribed from ALL the Notebook…can you check for me? Thanks, and let me know if I need to resubscribe to the emails…!


  6. Nancy

    I love the Roman artichokes, but have a question about preparation. Here in the States, we have to remove the choke before boiling, but I notice that’s not the case in Italy. Is that because it’s a different variety, the cooking technique, or what?

    • GB

      Hi Nancy, you’re right, eaten choke and all here in Rome. It’s the variety, not sure how far the growing area extends, but I know they’re from central Italy, or at least Lazio.

  7. Carciofi, come mi piacciono, mi ricordano mia cara nonna,
    mi hai fatto venire la voglia!!! ; Io mai gli ho preparato, 
    proverò la tua ricetta, di sicuro saranno buone. 
    Tante grazie.

  8. Barbara

    Sure wish we could get this kind of artichokes here in America. Sure missed your note the past couple of weeks–was so glad to get this one.

  9. Stephanie

    Yes, this is exactly how I make my caciofi, and we are fortunate for a cousin of ours works at the main fruit distributors and we get them fresh and at a steal. The only thinkg that I add to my caciofi is slivers of parmasan cheese, oh so good. Next time I make them I will try the paper bag on top, sounds good.

  10. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Bravo GB. We love the wise and feisty girlfriends. Grazie!

  11. Benissimo! I like the breadcrumbs tip and the paper bag. They’re good grilled too, but this I MUST try this season!

  12. Rosalie

    I make them the same way my grandmother did , stuffed with a meat mixture, and baked with a tomato sauce over the top. I so love them anyway they are prepared .


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