I don’t know about you, but I love artichokes. I was inspired to use them in a less than common way in this Arichoke Risotto with Gremolata.
I prefer large artichokes for stuffing and steaming whole, and baby artichokes for most other recipes. If you can’t find baby artichokes, however, large artichokes can be cleaned in basically the same way as the babies and used interchangeably. It will taste just the same.
My inspiration for this recipe, as silly as it may sound, was an episode of Top Chef. One of the competitors made an artichoke risotto that the judges couldn’t stop raving about. Now, I might not be at the level of the Top Chefs, but I knew I wanted to make a really good artichoke risotto. And I think I did a pretty good job of that.
With some trial and error, I figured out a good method to make artichoke risotto. The most important things in my book are, proper cooking of the vegetables and rice, a tasty broth and prepping as much as possible in advance. See my key tips below.
1. Give the artichokes a head start on cooking before you add the rice.
2. You don’t need to stir rice for 20 minutes to make perfect risotto. I learned a great method from an Italian chef. See recipe for details.
3. If you make your own broth, make sure it’s SEASONED. Bland broth makes for bland risotto.
4. Plan ahead to save time. See recipe for details on what can be prepped ahead.
Most of the time that I make risotto, I have to admit I use store bought boxed broth. There is nothing wrong with that. I also cheat and sometimes buy homemade refrigerated broth from Eataly. That’s okay too. But you have to admit, there’s something about making a homemade broth.
If you have time to make an awesome chicken broth, go for it. If you’re vegetarian or just don’t have 5 hours, try out my easy vegetable broth recipe. In the time the broth cooks, you can prep all of your other ingredients and be ready to go. Just make sure you season the broth with plenty of salt or your rice will be bland. Of course you can always add more salt at the end (which I needed to do the first time I made this), but it isn’t totally the same. I think the salt gets absorbed better when its gradually added through the broth during the cooking process.
Straight up artichoke risotto would have been a perfectly fine dish, but I wanted to make this a little special. Gremolata can be used to garnish all different types of risotto and I think it works very well here. The zesty lemon rind, garlic and parsley combo really compliment the earthy artichokes well. For an added crispy texture, I topped it off with fried artichoke slices. I simply sliced a couple artichokes super thin on a mandolin, dredged them in flour and shallow-fried them for a few minutes. I think it makes for a really fun topping or snack, but this step is completely optional.
Did I mention this recipe is vegetarian and gluten free? That just makes it that much better.
- 1lb baby artichokes, divided (7-8 artichokes)
- 2 lemons
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp butter, divided
- ½ medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 3-4 cups homemade broth per recipe, or store-bought vegetable or chicken broth
- ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated
- Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
- All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ½ medium onion
- 2 carrots, cut into 2 inch lengths
- 2 stalks celery, cut into 2 inch lengths
- 2 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
- 5-6 slices dried mushrooms, such as porcini (optional)
- 3-4 sprigs fresh parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 whole cloves
- ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 clove garlic
- Kosher Salt
- Clean the artichokes: Fill a medium sized bowl with cold water. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest of 1 lemon in wide strips and reserve for gremolata. Slice lemons in half. Squeeze juice of all lemons into water, reserving some juice in 1 lemon half. Place 3 lemon halves in the water. Set aside 2 of the artichokes to clean separately later for frying. Using a paring knife, remove leaves of the artichoke until you reach the light yellow center leaves. Trim bottom of stem and peel outer layer of stem. Cut off top ¼ of artichoke. Rub top and bottom of artichoke into reserved lemon half and add to lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes. This can be done 1 day in advance and stored in lemon water.
- Make the broth: Heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add oil followed by onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Stir in cloves and peppercorns. Pour in 5 cups of water. Add in dried mushrooms, parsley and bay leaves. Add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain and season with salt to taste. You can eat the boiled vegetables from the broth. If the remaining liquid is less than 3 cups, add enough water to make 3 cups. Transfer back to pot and keep warm. Broth can be made several days in advance.
- Make gremolata: While broth is cooking, slice reserved strips of lemon zest into very thin, long strips. Cut in opposite direction to finely mince. Slice garlic into thin rounds. Slice into very thin strips. Cut in opposite direction to finely mince. Stir together chopped parsley, lemon and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt. Cover and store in fridge until ready to use. Gremolata can be made 1 day in advance.
- Sauté onions, artichokes & rice: While broth continues to cook, heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add oil, followed by chopped onions. Season with salt. Sauté about 15 minutes or until softened and sweet, lowering heat as needed to prevent browning. Remove artichokes from water. Slice in quarters lengthwise. Add to onions along with 2 tablespoons of butter. Season with salt. Sauté over medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes or until tender but not completely cooked through. Add rice and toast over medium heat for about 3 minutes. This step can be done a couple hours in advance and kept on the stove top covered at room temperature.
- Fry artichokes: Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a small pot over medium heat. Line a large plate with paper towels. Add a few tablespoons of flour to a small plate. Peel and trim remaining 2 artichokes. Do not soak in lemon water. Immediately, slice thinly on mandolin. Lightly dredge in flour. Fry in preheated oil for about 2-4 minutes or until crispy and browned. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Season with salt. Cook in batches as needed. Do this right before adding liquid to rice or while risotto is cooking, but no earlier.
- Cook risotto: Bring stock to a simmer. Add wine to artichoke/rice mixture and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Add in a couple ladlefuls of stock or enough to just cover the rice. Stir every 4-5 minutes, adding additional stock as needed. Cook for a total of 14-18 minutes or until rice is tender with a slight bite.
- Finish & serve: Off the heat, add cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir vigorously while quickly rotating the pan in a circular motion. Add additional stock, as needed, and continue to stir until mixture is creamy and emulsified. The risotto should be somewhat loose. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed. Divide risotto among serving dishes. Garnish with gremolata and fried artichoke slices. Enjoy.