My grandma always spoiled us rotten with scrumptious Italian meals, one of which is Carciofo (we pronounce it ka-chof). She used to always make it for my family once a year, usually during Lent, even though it is kind of expensive to buy enough artichokes to feed my family. It’s a meal my brothers and I would always request and she would always make it no matter how much she really didn’t feel like it because we are just so cute! It is a traditional meal for us that is very important and we wanted to make sure we never lost it.
My grandma passed away last year, and so we were extra diligent to keep the tradition going and were determined to have Carciofo for Good Friday even though we had no idea what we were doing. My mom and I used a scribbled and barely legible hand-written recipe of my grandma’s along with the recipe off the box of Sclafani Bread Crumbs, which she apparently always used. The bread crumbs can sometimes be found at regular supermarkets, like Stop ‘n Shop, in the pasta/International aisle. You might have to go to an Italian market for it though, or you can just use regular Italian seasoned bread crumbs. We just use this brand because it has the recipe on the carton and it’s what we like.
For those of you not in the know, Carciofo is whole artichokes with the leaves stuffed with an Italian bread crumb mixture and then baked. Then you pull off each individual leaf and eat the bread crumbs along with the meaty part of the leaf that was attached to the base. When you get to the bottom, you spoon out the weird prickly stuff and toss it out, and eat the heart. It’s messy, and takes some time, and you need many bowls to discard leaves into, but it is so very fun and perfect. It can also be prepared a few days ahead of time, which is kind of neat.
There is no way I can fully express how much I love this dish, and always have. Even when I was a kid I loved it, and kids are suppose to hate things like artichokes. A teacher in elementary school once asked me what my favorite food was and I could not remember the English name for it, I may have actually never learned it, and confused her greatly when I said “carciofo” and could in no way explain what it is. I ended up telling her to just trust me that it is really good.
Making it this year was confusing, and stressful, but in the end it was tasty and nostalgic and that made it all worth it. So while this recipe is not exactly my grandma’s, it is our best try to replicate our memories with the vague directions left behind.
Also I have no idea why the measurement for cheese is 10 tbsp., but that’s what my grandma wrote so that’s how we did it!
4 cups Sclafani bread crumbs
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup olive oil (plus more)
10 tbsp grated Roman cheese
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Oven temp: 350
Cut off each stalk and tip of the artichokes and remove some of the outer leaves if they seem too tough. Spread leaves open a little and place in a deep pan. Pour water in until it comes up about a third of the way to the top of the artichokes, cover and steam them on medium-low heat until slightly softened and leaves pull off easily, about an hour.
In a large pan, sautee the garlic in olive oil until golden brown, then remove from heat. Stir in bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Mixture will seem dry, but feel free to add more oil to make it more moist.
Place steamed artichokes in a baking pan. Gently open leaves up more and spoon bread crumb mixture into artichokes, making sure to get it into the all of the leaves.
*At this point, they can be covered and kept in the fridge for a day or two before you bake them. If you do this, just let them sit out for a little while to come to room temperature and then follow the same baking directions below.
Fill pan halfway up with water, drizzle olive oil over the artichokes, then cover tightly. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Remove foil then bake for another 15 minutes until browned. There should always be water in the pan, so refill it if it’s getting low. Make sure you have extra napkins at your table, eat, and enjoy!