By Joe Gray
Fresh artichokes are one of my favorite foods, and yet I find myself passing them by at the grocery store, having thought about the work in cleaning them and decided against it. Even baby artichokes require trimming and peeling, then a long cook time. Too much for a weeknight.
This is a time when a good frozen product comes in handy, and I’ve found frozen artichokes to have good texture and flavor. Plus, they’re already trimmed, cooked and even quartered, requiring just a few minutes more heat to get them ready, especially if you pop them in the microwave.
Here they ground a pasta dish, made with shells to mimic the shape of the baby ’chokes. Lemon zest brightens their flavor while a little cream adds richness.
PASTA SHELLS WITH ARTICHOKES
1 lb. medium pasta shells (conchiglie)
1 (1 lb.) package frozen baby artichokes or artichoke hearts, or 2 (9 oz. each) packages
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup dry white wine
2 to 4 tbsp. cream
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
½ cup brine-cured green olives (not canned or jarred), quartered
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water over high heat until al dente. Meanwhile, thaw the artichokes in the microwave according to package directions. (It is OK if the artichokes are not completely thawed; they will continue to cook in the skillet.)
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, but don’t allow to brown or burn, 1 minute. Add the artichokes; season with the salt. Cook to warm through. Stir in the wine; reduce the heat to medium. Allow to reduce slightly. Stir in 2 to 4 tablespoons cream, as you like; cook to thicken slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley, olives and lemon zest.
Drain the pasta; return to the pot. Toss the artichokes, sauce and Romano cheese with the pasta. Serve, passing more grated Romano at the table.
Makes 4 servings.