Artichokes are the bogeyman of the vegetable world, and their tiny cat-claw thorns are as terrifying as cobra fangs. But there is no more powerful harbinger to spring than the regal artichoke, which has been enjoyed since ancient Roman times. Learn to prep them and open yourself up to a great delicacy.
Technique tip: Bring the pasta water to a boil before you start prepping the artichokes; that way you can cook the pasta while the artichokes are braising.
Swap option: This is an aglio e olio sauce with artichokes cooked into it. The same process will work with roughly 2 cups chopped broccoli, cauliflower, thin green beans, or diced butternut squash instead of the artichokes. Any other long pasta can be used, such as bucatini or linguine, or use a large tube like rigatoni or paccheri.
- 2 lemons, halved
- 3 large artichokes
- Kosher salt
- 10 cloves garlic (about 1 head), smashed
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley leaves, divided
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Crushed red pepper flakes, for serving
- Grated Parmigiano, for serving
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water, squeeze in juice from 2 lemon halves, then drop squeezed-out halves into water (this is acidulated water, and it will prevent the artichokes from oxidizing and turning brown as they soak).
2. Working with one artichoke at a time, use a serrated knife to trim stem, leaving as much of it intact as possible. Rub cut end with a lemon half. Snap off outermost leaves, then use knife to cut off top two-thirds of pointed end, exposing fuzzy choke. If choke is not visible, slice off 1/2-inch thick slices until it reveals itself. Rub cut edges with lemon. Working your way around, continue to snap off leaves until you get down to the tender, pale green-yellow ones. Use a paring knife to shave off the rough bits where the leaves were attached to base, then use a vegetable peeler to peel the stem to expose the light green layer. Rub lemon all over the stem.
3. You'll now be holding a coupe-shaped artichoke, with the heart and trimmed inner leaves perched atop a length of stem. Cut artichoke lengthwise into quarters, or sixths if large, then use a paring knife to cut out choke (the bristly fine leaves that sit on top of the saucer-shaped heart). Drop trimmed quarters into lemon water and repeat with remaining artichokes.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Place garlic in a deep, wide skillet or small Dutch oven and add oil. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until oil is sizzling around garlic, about 2 minutes. Season with a big pinch of salt and many cranks of black pepper and cook, using a spoon to break garlic into smaller pieces, until it is pale golden and very fragrant, about 3 minutes.
5. Lift out artichoke pieces and shake off excess water. Carefully add to pan with oil and garlic; the liquid may sputter, so watch your wrists. Add half of the parsley, season with salt, and stir to coat with oil. Cook until artichokes are vibrant green, about 2 minutes. Add wine, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer until wine is reduced by half. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until a cake tester slides easily into thickest part of artichoke, about 5 minutes.
6. Add spaghetti to the boiling water and set a timer for 2-3 minutes less than package instructions (it should be very al dente and will finish cooking in the sauce).
7. Using a mesh spider or tongs, transfer spaghetti directly to artichoke mixture (still over medium heat). Gently toss pasta into sauce, adding splashes of pasta water as needed to generously coat spaghetti. Simmer, tossing constantly but without breaking artichokes into pieces, until it looks plenty saucy in bottom of pan, 2-3 minutes. Add remaining parsley and squeeze in juice from remaining lemon half and toss to combine. Serve pasta with crushed red pepper and Parmigiano.