Stuffed Artichokes (Carciofi Ripieni di Americo). A delightful recipe made with the spirit of my father. Artichokes wonderfully stuffed with good Italian ingredients and steamed to perfection. The best part is how much fun they are, and a surprising way to eat them!
Song of the day: “Whatever it Takes” by Imagine Dragons.
Stuffed Artichokes, (Carciofi Ripieni di Americo) takes us on a journey of immense flavor and texture. The stuffing having delightful notes of ingredients my father loved and through the cooking experience delivering an incredible meatiness to the leaves of this strange but oh-so packed-with-goodness vegetable!
Stuffed Artichokes was something I grew up with. I always knew when they were being prepared as the aroma of rich olive oil and a pepperiness were always in the air. My mother and father cooked together, sometimes together in the kitchen upstairs and sometimes my father would go to his kitchen downstairs where he could escape and be with himself and dive deep into his passion for what he loved, food!
Here in Canada, it is not strange that Italian families have two kitchens. To us, food is a serious business and having the space to create and in abundance, I may add, is essential and a must-have. You see, my parents never did things on a small scale, especially when it came to baked goods, homemade pasta, preserving vegetables, and one of my favorites, pizza night, where the table would be graced with many, and I mean many, pizzas. My mom Ilia and my dad Americo would make fresh pizza dough that would yield 8-10 pizzas. But there were times where a dinner serving was made and these Stuffed Artichokes (Carciofi Ripieni di Americo) would be made with one for each person as one would always be sufficient. I still see my father with that look on his face, a slight smile as he worked next to my mom creating the stuffing for this vegetable. He always looked fulfilled when he was cooking. Making the filling for these Stuffed Artichokes was purely a work of intuition as my father felt each ingredient. There was only one other time that I saw this expression, and it was when he was working. He owned his own company with two other partners. It was a stucco company and boy could my father spread cement on a wall. The laborers could not keep the cement coming fast enough and the echo of my father yelling mud! mud! (malta! malta!) would resound. He would not say it in a mean way; it felt more like a chant to evoke excitement and to feed my dad’s fulfillment that he was different than most and could do things that people thought were unbelievable. But people also knew another side of him, his generosity and willingness to help others, and one that he really enjoyed, feeding people and having friends over to share food, stories, good times, wonderful homemade wine, and a few of my dad’s famous rooster calls. He was definitely known for his cooking and people would not miss an opportunity to come and eat at our home. He was not one to express a desire to return to his homeland Italy. I don’t think that it was because there were no good memories as he shared many a story of farming, working, celebrating, and times with friends. I think it was that the other memories overrode the good ones and as he said Canada is my home now and never looked back with regret. The great thing is that my dad and mom brought back many recipes and traditions only known to that mountaintop in the countryside of Italy.
This Stuffed Artichoke (Carciofi Ripieni di Americo) is one of those recipes I feel so honored to share with you today. It is Family Day here in Canada and there is no better way to celebrate than with a classic family recipe! It is also artichoke season and we will be sharing a few with you in the next little while. You may be thinking artichoke season in our icy snowy wonderland, well thanks to air transport and Italy among other countries and its plentiful artichoke harvest, we can have them too, giving many thanks to the Italian Centre Shop also for carrying them.
Getting the ingredients together for Stuffed Artichokes (Carciofi Ripieni di Americo).
Artichokes are relatively easy to prepare. For me, I like to get all the ingredients together and with that being said, I gather up some few day old bread, breadcrumbs, cooked pork sausage meat, raisins, olives, onion, and garlic. These are the ingredients my father, Americo, used in this recipe. Well except the olives I bought these, he used to use olives that he and my mom made: crushed green olives salt-cured, packed in olive oil. I have to say they were incredibly tasty, however, I had none so the next best thing was a trip to the Italian store.
Cleaning and prepping the Artichokes!
So, as I said before, artichokes are easy to prepare. I just cut the top off getting rid of any of those pointed edges. I take off some of the exterior leaves that look bruised, and dry. I spread open the middle and remove some of the interior leaves to create a cavity for this wonderful stuffing to be nestled in. After I have prepped them, I place them in a bowl of water and lemon. This will keep them fresh and not allow the color to dissipate. While the artichokes are bathing, I whip up the stuffing. I have cooked up the pork sausage breaking it up as much as possible, and I also soaked the rustic bread after I had broken it up into some milk. Everything in the bowl for a quick mixing and some olive oil to provide some moisture to hold the stuffing together. That’s it. Now we are ready to fill the artichokes.
Let’s get stuffing!
I drain the artichokes from the lemon water and open up the center a bit more and using my nicely washed hands begin to fill the center with the stuffing. I love that smell of the pepper and sausage as it presses into the artichoke. I have visions of my father and his hands lovingly filling this wonderful vegetable. I truly feel his spirit with me as I am doing this. I fill and press and remember my dad saying keep filling, press it down, get lots of stuffing in there, make a nice mountain on top! I have to say these look just like the ones he and my mom made and I am smiling as it fills me with so many aromas and visions of the past, the old kitchen, the creaking table…………
All that happens now is these stuffed artichokes go into a deep saute pan and in goes water, olive oil, salt and pepper with a lid sealing the deal and just time in between this preparation and the time to enjoy the fruits of our passionate labor.
The aroma is incredible, rich scents of olive oil and how it infused itself into the folds of the artichokes leaves. The stuffing with those peppery notes and that earthy aroma of the olives and sausage all nestled in that moist bread, a little hint of sweetness of the raisins. Those artichoke leaves look amazing, so plump on the inside, rich in color, and it beautifully frames the stuffing doesn’t it?
I have to go in to taste. I scoop a bit of stuffing and wow, so many levels! The bread softening the spiciness of the sausage both in texture and taste. The olives so earthy with slight acidity adds nice elements of surprise, and those raisins just explode in your mouth with a sweet-savory feel taking the edge off the black pepper and chilies in the sausage meat.
I just love this, it is so comforting and delicious and again I see my father at the table eating every once in a while looking up to see that everyone is enjoying the meal. Now for the best part, there is a succession that occurs when eating the Stuffed Artichokes (Carciafi Ripieni di Americo). First starting with the stuffing then tackling the leaves. This is where some skill comes into play. I grab a leaf and I place it flesh side on the edge of my top teeth. Then I slowly scrape the pulp off and this rich, moist, luxurious flavor and texture plays with my taste buds. I love this deep flavor profile. It is so much fun leaf by leaf scraping delightfully until there are none. You are left with the choke. It is the center of the artichoke. This part you do not eat. If you open it up it looks like a nestle of hair and my mom would always say don’t eat that you can choke on those hairs. Eating artichokes is an exercise in patience with a side of awareness and oneness. Each leaf gives me a story into my father’s past, the farming, winemaking, bread making, curing meats, the land and my father’s respect for it and how much he appreciated it and his artful way to create in its darkness. If you were to meet my father he would introduce himself as Americo saying it is like America except ending in o, and this cute smile, that’s how I remember him! Strong, proud, loyal, serene, a sage in his own right! He was not a man of many words but his actions spoke more than a thousand words…………..
Thank you, dad!
I miss you!
If you have never tried artichokes, I highly recommend making these Stuffed Artichokes (Carciofi Ripieni di Americo). I, as a child, I didn’t eat a lot of vegetables, but these I did as they were fun and delicious and never seen them as a veggie. It may be the thing that can get your kids to eat, to give them something so nutritious and delicious, not only for them but for us grownups and we too can have fun eating with them awakening that innocent childlike nature in us that is so precious and helpful!
From my Father Americo to you and your family!
Song of the day: “Whatever it Takes” by Imagine Dragons.Print
Stuffed Artichokes, (Carciofi Ripieni di Americo) takes us on a journey of immense flavor and texture. The stuffing having delightful notes of ingredients my father loved and through the cooking experience delivering an incredible meatiness to the leaves of this strange but oh-so-packed-with-goodness vegetable!
- 4 large fresh artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons evo oil
- 275 g Italian pork sausage meat
- 1 1/2 cups rustic bread
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup fine Italian style breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup green olives pitted and sliced
- 1/8 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- 1 clove garlic minced
- dash of sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Take artichokes, cut off top getting rid of any of the tips and creating a nice flat top.
- Remove any of the dry and bruised outer leaves, and spread open center removing some of the leaves to create a cavity for the stuffing. Rinse with cold water and place in a bowl of cold water and some lemon wedges.
- Break up rustic bread by hand and place in a bowl with the milk. Let soak for a few minutes.
- In a saute pan cook pork sausage meat breaking it up as much as possible. Cook for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Squeeze milk out of bread.
- In a large bowl combine sausage meat, bread, fine breadcrumbs, onions, garlic, raisins, olives, 1 tablespoon evo oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well with hands. Check to see that it can be formed; if it can’t, add a bit the milk from the bread, set aside.
- Take artichokes out of lemon water bath and let drain and dry.
- With your hands take the stuffing and start to fill the center of the artichoke and press in firmly. Continue this till the artichoke center and is mounded over the top. Continue until all artichokes are stuffed.
- In a deep saute pan place artichoke into pan. Fill with water until it comes halfway up the artichoke. Drizzle in 2 tablespoon evo oil, cover, and place on low heat. Bring to a simmer.
- Steam for 1 hour, turn off heat, let cool a bit and serve.
- This stuffing would be good even in a bell pepper.
- Leave the pan covered during cooking.
- When serving, spoon some of the steaming fluid over the top.