We have arrived in the hilltop town of Scapezzano, where my grandfather grew up and our cousins still live, in the Marche region of Italy. Spring has arrived in full force here in Marche, and the vegetable stands are overflowing with every variety of spring delight! I’m determined to eat food grown as locally as possible—my one purchase, soon after we arrived, of tomatoes from Sicily and rapini from Puglia I will try to make my last. Local marchigiani food only, if possible, while we’re here!
And in Marche, at the moment, artichokes are the star—small, pointy, purple-tipped ones that aren’t easy to find in the United States—not the giant green globes you see in California. My cousin’s wife Maria made them for us baked with herbs and breadcrumbs—delicious! I asked her to get me some from the farm nearby and sure enough, the next day I had ten of these beauties to cook with. Maria suggested we make risotto and gave us the rough outline of a recipe.
So here goes! Maria’s artichoke risotto recipe. This will serve 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer.
- 10 small, baby sized artichokes
- olive oil
- 1 small onion, medium chop
- ½ lb risotto rice (we used carnaroli)
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 quart homemade chicken broth (we made ours with a capon quarter), kept simmering
- 1 tablespoon butter
- grated Parmesan cheese
- Prepare a water bath in a large bowl and squeeze the lemon into it - seeds and all. Leave the lemon floating in the water.
- Clean the artichokes by peeling back the thick green/purple leaves until you get to the pale yellow ones. Cut off the tip of the artichoke with a sharp knife. Peel off the thick green covering of the stem with a vegetable peeler. Place the artichokes back in the lemon bath as you go.
- Take each artichoke and cut down the middle lengthwise. Using a sharp-tipped knife, cut out the hairy choke of each half, and return to the lemon-water bath.
- In a medium sauce pan over low heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion with a little salt. Stir until the onion becomes translucent. While the onion is cooking, slice about ¾ of the artichokes into thin slices lengthwise (stem to tip). These will go into the risotto. Cut the remaining artichokes into quarters and add to the hot broth. They will cook in the broth and be used a a topping.
- Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until the rice becomes a little translucent on the edges, then add the wine.
- Cook until the wine almost evaporates.
- Add the sliced artichokes and stir into the rice. Add a ladle of chicken broth and stir into the rice. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Continue to add the broth each time the rice has absorbed the previous broth - about 30 minutes.
- Finally, add the butter and stir in to melt. Add parmesan cheese into the risotto (about 3-4 tablespoons) and stir to combine.
- Serve in individual bowls topped with the artichokes that have cooked in the broth.