Browned Artichoke Pasta Salad
Spring is here! And that means fresh artichokes everywhere I go from the grocery store to the farmer’s markets. The best fresh artichoke is one that is young and tender and a lighter green color versus the darker green with the larges outer leaves. And the good news with those is there is less of a prickly center to remove, too. But get what you can find and this pasta recipe will help you deliver all the best flavor through blanching and then sautéing the artichoke hearts in butter and lemon and garlic until they are golden and delicious. Yum! I have to admit that fresh artichokes is one of those ingredients that really intimidated me until I’d worked with them a few times. All that peeling back of the leaves and removing of the thistle. I think it took me twenty minutes the first one I tried. But oh my is it worth it. And once you get the hang of the whole process it only takes a couple of minutes to do several. The key thing to remember, especially if you are new to this, is to have your lemon water handy because the acid in the lemons will keep the artichoke from browning before we want them to. And believe me they brown quickly. We are going to sauté them to create flavor later but you don’t want them to brown due to oxidation. I actually like to take a half a lemon and rub it lightly over the tender parts of the artichoke as soon as I cut it and expose that inner flesh and then put it in the lemon water while I work on the others.
A couple of key tips on this dish:
- Uses a small, sharp pairing knife when you get down past the outside leaves. I used a chef’s knife to cut the artichoke in half once the outside leaves are off and then a pairing knife to do the trimming.
- A small spoon is helpful to scoop out that fibrous thistle.
- Be sure to add the fresh spinach to the hot pasta right after you drain it because that will help wilt the spinach.
- It’s important to season the pasta after it’s cooked too. A little bit of sea salt and pepper is recommended. Not too much but it will make a difference.
- Don’t skimp on the cheese. It’s really a lot of the flavor and helps create a coating to the pasta.
- This pasta is great made ahead and refrigerated but let the ingredients come to almost room temp before you serve.
- The fresh dill really makes a difference. If that’s not something you have on hand or if you don’t like dill then use basil. If using dried herbs use less.
- 3 whole artichokes
- 3 large lemons, plus zest of 2 lemons (divided -see recipe)
- 8 oz orecchiette pasta or favorite pasta
- 5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach
- 1/4 cup shallot, diced
- 3/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano, freshly grated
- 3 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped (optional)
- Salt & Pepper
- Prepare iced lemon water with 2 lemons cut into quarters in a medium bowl filled with ice and water. Snap off the outer leaves of the artichoke and cut off the stem at the base. Then cut the artichoke into half length wise. Scoop out the inside thistle carefully. Trim the remaining artichoke with a pairing knife until until only the tender inside heart remains. Rub with lemon half and place immediately in the lemon water bath.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Remove the artichoke hearts from the lemon water and place into the salt water. Simmer for 3-5 minutes until just tender. Drain on paper towels.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (per insructions on the box). Drain and place into a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add in the spinach and Parmesan cheese right away. Add in 4 Tablespoons of olive oil and zest and juice of 1 lemon. Toss gently and let cool.
- In a medium sautee pan add in 1 Tablespon of olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the whole clove of garlic and zest of 1 lemon. Move the garlic clove around so it doesn't burn and remove as soon as it turns golden brown. Saute the artichoke hearts in the mixture until golden brown on all sides. Remove to a plate or bowl and reserve the mixture in the pan.
- Toss the pasta with the browned artichoke hearts, mixture from the pan, tomatoes, dill and reserved browned garlic (dices). Season with more salt and pepper if needed and fresh dill or basil of using. Add extra lemon zest and Parmesan for garnish.