A Simple Italian Favorite Best Served to Good Friends

In Italy, everyone is family and family dining is all about platters of delicious food, passed around the table to loud kudos and sighs of delight. This is one of those dishes.

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes for a book I am working on with my friend, Susan Fazio – who also happens to be a painter. She’s painted a series of scenes from fresh markets all over the world. I pair my farmer’s market recipes with her pictures and… well…there’s a book concept there!

Sue and her husband, Tom Fazio (he’s a golf course architect) visited recently, and I pulled out the stops, creating an evening in Italy. The menu featured a basket of antipasti, home baked focaccia bread, Caprese salad, lasagna Bolognese, home-made gelato and fresh baked hazelnut biscotti. Sounds yumm, right? But, the star of the meal was my tomato braised veggie dish. The recipe stars artichokes, which I designed as a first course. But, for this meal, I added baby zucchini and yellow squash. Let, me tell you, I was very popular by the end of the evening.

Here it is for you to critique! Let me know what you think!!

Tomato Braised Artichokes with Pesto Rub

Serves 8 as an Appy, 4 as a Main Dish

90 Minute Cuisine

In Italy, everyone is family and family dining is all about platters of delicious food, passed around the table to loud kudos and sighs of delight. This is one of those dishes. Artichokes are an Italian staple. Trimming the artichoke takes some time, but after that, this dish is all about infusing flavors. These artichokes are covered in a salty, rich pesto and then simmered in a tomato-wine broth. They take on the flavors that they swim in. Serve these in a large, shallow bowl with the resulting juices spooned over the top. Everyone rolls up their sleeves, and pulls the leaves through their teeth. When you get down to the artichoke heart…. life is just a bowl of goodness!

For sauce

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups homemade vegetable stock, or prepared low sodium vegetable broth

¼ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For pesto

1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillets of anchovies, packed in oil

1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

½ cup olive oil

For artichokes

4 large artichokes

2 lemons, halved

Pour the tomatoes, wine, chicken broth and ½ cup olive oil into a large roasting pan. Season with some of the salt and crushed red pepper. Set the pan on the counter while you move on to make the rub.

Place the anchovies, garlic and basil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the bowl running, slowly pour in ½ cup olive oil to make a thick paste.

Trim the artichokes by first pulling the thick, dark green outer leaves, leaving the tender green leaves in place. You’ll lose about half of the leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough partial leaves from the bottom of the artichoke and the stem. Cut off the tough end of the stem, leaving about 3 to 4 inches. Cut off the top third of the artichoke leaves. With every cut or peel that you make, rub lemon over the cut ends. Slice the artichokes in half. Use a spoon to remove the spiny choke from the center. Pull out the spiky inner leaves. Place the trimmed artichoke into a bowl of cold water with lemon slices. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Remove the artichokes from the lemony water one at a time. Brush anchovy pesto on both sides of the artichoke and place cut-side down into the pan with tomato sauce. Place the pan on the stove top, and bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a lid (or aluminum foil). Simmer the artichokes low and slow (over low heat and for a long time). Turn the artichokes in the sauce several times to coat while they simmer. Continue cooking until a fork easily pierces the artichoke hearts and the sauce reduces, about 45 to 60 minutes. If the sauce evaporates too quickly, pour in more stock.

Serve the artichokes on a platter and spoon the sauce over the top.

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