Italian Stuffed Artichokes
Dear Mom, I miss you. I miss your wit, I miss your wisdom, and I wholeheartedly miss just having you here. I miss buying you flowers and I really miss our daily lunch dates. But what I miss most is being able to call you on a moment’s notice and get advice. Things only you knew, like, “How many minutes should I boil these artichokes?” This year, Mom, my love letter is in artichoke form.
When I told my family I’d be making artichokes for dinner, they all put the date on their calendars. It created such a hot buzz that in the days that followed, it was all anyone could talk about. Italian Stuffed Artichokes are a big deal dinner. The kind everyone waits for and looks forward to all year. They are not something you throw together quickly. They are a labor-intensive labor of love. And I had some extra work to do this time, because as with most family recipes, there is no recipe. We would make these together, my mom and I, working side by side, cutting, boiling, stuffing, in the same way, year after year. When my kids were old enough, they would pitch in, too.
My mom would serve these for Sunday dinner with a big bowl of pasta, extra sauce, crusty bread and a crisp green salad. She would also be ready with bowls of melted butter seasoned with a little garlic salt, which is delicious to dip the hearts in at the end. We would stuff one for each person, that would be 10 or more of us on most Sundays, and she would always buy extras, just in case anyone could eat more. Invariably, a few would end up unstuffed, because we either ran out of filling or we just couldn’t stuff anymore. She would leave these plainly boiled or stuff them with breadcrumbs. No one wanted these.
The stuffing is just like what you mix together for meatballs, but you haven’t lived until you try it baked inside of an artichoke. The larger outside petals are the perfect dual-purpose vessel, first holding the meat while it cooks, and then acting as a vehicle to transport the excitement to your mouth. Each artichoke ends up holding quite a bit of meat, the exact right amount extending beyond the top of the petal, overfilling it just a bit so that it’s visible. I needed to stuff 9 artichokes, so I tripled the filling recipe below and it made enough to fill the leaves generously and still have some left over to make about 12 meatballs.
Now it’s time to eat! The edible part is at the base of the petal. To eat, pull a petal out, eat the meat filling first, then put petal between teeth and pull. The petals will get thinner and thinner and that’s when to stop. Use a sharp knife to remove the remaining thin petals from your artichoke. This will expose the fuzzy hair layer referred to as the “choke”. This part of the artichoke is not edible. Remove the choke by using a spoon to scoop it out, then cut the heart into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!
I found bags with 4 artichokes at Costco that were much less expensive than it was to buy them individually at the grocery. The leaves were tightly packed and they were firm to squeeze, both things you should look for when buying an artichoke. You will also need a very sharp knife, a pair of kitchen shears or scissors, a large bowl, large stockpot, and a big roasting dish (the bigger the better).
So, pull out all the stops – these will be a huge hit no matter when you make them. To all the mom’s out there, a very happy Mother’s Day.
Italian Stuffed Artichokes
- 1/2 lemon
- 4 large artichokes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs or panko
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup finely diced or grated onion, or 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 pound ground beef (at least 15% fat), or other ground meat
- marinara or meat sauce
Fill a large bowl with cold water and the juice from half of a lemon. Rinse artichokes well under running water. Working one artichoke at a time, use a very sharp knife to slice off about 1 1/2 inches from the stem. Next, cut anywhere from 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inches from the top portion, enough to remove the prickly part and leave a nice flat area. Using scissors, remove the prickly part off of each of the petals by cutting straight across, so that they are all trimmed; place artichokes in bowl of water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
Fill a large stockpot about two-thirds full of water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, cover, and bring to a rapid boil. Add artichokes to fit in a single layer, 3 or 4 at a time, depending on the size of your pot. A portion of each artichoke will extend above the waterline. Reduce heat and cover. Cook at a low boil letting simmer about 15 minutes, until artichokes are soft enough that you can pull the leaves back easily. Remove from water and drain. Let sit until cool enough to handle. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
Combine Italian bread crumbs and milk in a large mixing bowl. Stir together, then set aside while preparing other ingredients, allowing to sit at least 10 minutes. Add onion, garlic powder, egg, salt, black pepper, Parmesan cheese and parsley to the breadcrumb mixture and stir together. Break the ground beef up into small chunks as you add it to the mixing bowl then mix everything together with clean hands. Do not over mix.
Preheat oven to 350º F. Using clean hands, pinch a small amount of filling and press it inside one of the petals. Fill each petal with the fillings until all of the outer ones are well packed. Set artichokes into a large roasting pan. Spoon several spoonfuls of sauce over the top of each artichoke, then loosely cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake until artichokes are soft and filling is no longer pink and fully cooked, about 30 minutes or longer.