When carciofi romaneschi or mammola (similar to a globe artichoke) are in season, I want to eat them every day. The crop of violet-green beauties fill market stands in Rome from February to May. My family stuffed their conical-shaped cousin with breadcrumbs, olive oil, garlic and parsley. We slid our teeth from the bottom to the top of each leaf savoring a bit of flesh messily extracted amongst the oily breading. As delicious as each leaf was it was the delicate heart that I saved for the last bite.
Although, I live in Rome I spend oodles of time in Naples and Sicily where artichokes come in different shapes, sizes and preparations. In Naples, we eat them sliced thinly, battered and fried. In Siracusa, Sicily, we opt for a golden bread stuffed version.In my kitchen, I slice, sauté and mix them into a torta rustica with other vegetables and cheese. I throw them into pasta dishes and frittata. When fava beans, small sweet peas and artichokes grace food markets together, vignarola fills our plates. This Roman springtime vegetable trio sometimes include tender lettuce hearts and guanciale. When in Rome, keep an eye out for carciofi alla romana and carciofi alla giudia on menus. In prepping carciofi alla romana, the tough outer leaves are artfully cut away leaving a rose-like light green and lavender flower. The artichokes are stuffed with chopped garlic and mentuccia (pennyroyal) and cooked gently, stalks upward, in a bit of water and olive oil until they are fragrant and tender. Carciofi alla giudia is a speciality of the Jewish community. The leaves are trimmed and spread out like a flower before being deep-fried. The result: silky interior enveloped by crisp leaves. Devour every bit.
If you’re in Rome and hankering for artichokes like me, here are a few of my favorite places for carciofi alla romana:
And for carciofi alla giudia: