Art of the 'choke: Supermarket freezer case unlocks key to weeknight rendering

Chicago TribuneMay 7, 2014 

FOOD FOODFAST-PASTA TB

Lemon zest brightens the flavor while a little cream adds richness to this dish of pasta shells with artichokes. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

BILL HOGAN — MCT

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 pound medium pasta shells (conchiglie)

1 package (1 pound) frozen baby artichokes or artichoke hearts or 2 packages (9 ounces each)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 to 4 tablespoons cream

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/2 cup brine-cured green olives (not canned or jarred), quartered

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

1. 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.)

2. 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.

3. 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.

Serves 4.

Nutrition information per serving: 641 calories, 18 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 97 g carbohydrates, 23 g protein, 646 mg sodium, 10 g fiber

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