This dish is worth trying with fresh artichokes.
I love artichokes. So much. I never had them until seventeen years ago when I moved to Italy and I still remember the first time I tried them after my mother-in-law cooked and laid them on the table. She sautèed them in garlic, lemon, and white wine and I thought they were the most delicious vegetable I have ever had. Until now. It was such a delicious opening to a big world of genuine Italian cuisine, and I realized how different the interpretation is outside the country. My only knowledge of pasta before can be counted with the fingers of one hand. Instead, Italian cuisine can be from traditional to innovative with one some important characteristics to keep in mind. Simple, healthy and using quality ingredients.
Creating pasta dishes is fun especially when there are so many ingredients that I can put together. Having some fresh artichokes, adding some fresh shrimp and toasted bits of pancetta for the final punch of taste create a simple and really delicious pasta dish. It’s something that needs to be remembered and cooked again and again. The recipe asks for fresh artichokes, not the preserved ones because they taste different.
- 6 medium-size fresh artichokes
- 2 lemons
- 5 ounces pancetta or bacon diced small
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 pound shrimp shelled and deveined
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 14 ounces paccheri or other kind of pasta, like penne, rigatoni, farfalle
- Fresh parsley coarsely chopped
- Prepare a bowl of about 4 cups of water with 1 lemon squeezed into it and the other lemon sliced, and leave them in the bowl. Set aside.
- Clean the artichokes by cutting off most of the stem, leaving about 1/2 inch from the base. Slice off the top, and discard. Tear away the tough outer leaves by snapping them backward 1 at a time (you should feel the crispness when they are fresh). With a paring knife, trim the sides to make it even. With a spoon, dig inside the central part of the artichoke to remove the choke (hairy part). Put the cleaned artichoke in the bowl of lemon water, and repeat with the other artichokes.
- Over medium-high heat, bring a big pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
- While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the sauce. In a large, dry saucepan over low-medium heat, fry the pancetta. Transfer to a plate, and discard the grease from the pancetta.
- While waiting for the pancetta to cook, prepare the artichokes by draining and then slicing them into smaller pieces.
- In the same saucepan over medium heat, sauté the garlic in olive oil. When the garlic is fragrant, add the artichokes, and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the 1/3 cup of water, cover, and simmer until the water evaporates.
- Add the shrimp, and toss with the artichokes. When the shrimp change color, pour in the wine. Let the wine evaporate. Season with salt and lots of pepper. Turn off the heat, and cover when the liquid is reduced.
- In the meantime, if the water for the pasta is boiling, add some salt, and cook the pasta following the package directions. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, but leave about a cup of the water used during cooking just in case it is needed.
- Warm up the sauce on low heat, and add the pasta, pancetta and parsley. Mix well. Add a little bit of the water you set aside if it is needed. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve while hot.
Rowena Dumlao - Giardina is the author and photographer of Apron and Sneakers and The Chosen Table. Besides her blog, she's also a recipe developer and a travel writer for other food and travel sites.