Since moving back to the United States from Italy, I often remember all the delicious vegetable recipes my Nonna Annunziata taught me to make. Believe it or not, one of these marvels is the artichoke.

Let me show you how to transform this rough, prickly vegetable into a Campania-style delicacy: Stuffed Artichokes. You stuff the artichokes with a fresh breadcrumb, Pecorino Romano cheese mixture and then stew them in some olive oil, onion, wine and small amounts of water added.

Without a doubt, this recipe is one of my best. Buon Appetito!

Prep time: 50 minutes
Cooking time: 30 to 35 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

4 medium globe artichokes (they should measure 4 to 5 inches in diameter)
1 lemon
3 to 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup grated, imported Pecorino Romano cheese
3 tablespoons chopped, fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
Dash each ground black pepper and grated nutmeg

4 to 4-1/2 cups breadcrumbs, hand-shredded & made from three-day old white or wheat bread
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown or white onion, chopped
3-1/2 cups cold water
1 cup white wine

1. Fill an 8-quart sauce pot with 5-1/2 cups cold water.

2. Add the juice of one lemon to water in pot (this liquid prevents artichokes from blackening); set aside.

3. Meanwhile, place one artichoke on its side; trim and discard its bottom stem.

4. Trim and discard 1/2-inch from artichoke top. Remove outer layer of leaves and discard.

5. Place artichoke in water, and gently open up or loosen the outer leaves, taking care not to break them off.

6. Carefully loosen the inner rows of leaves up to the artichoke heart and open it up with your thumbs. Let artichoke soak in lemon water.

7. Repeat above trimming and opening of leaves with remaining 3 artichokes; set aside.

In the meantime, prepare the stuffing:

1. In a 6-quart mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, cheese, parsley, black pepper and nutmeg.

2. Stir in the breadcrumbs and crushed garlic.

3. Divide the stuffing into four (4) parts and set them aside on a plate.

4. Remove artichokes from lemon water.

5. Drain artichokes by shaking them upside down. Place them on a flat working surface (a cutting board) and pat dry.

6. Carefully and slightly open the leaves of one artichoke.

7. Using 1/4 of the stuffing and beginning in center of artichoke, slightly pack some stuffing inside its core.

8. Gently working your way outwards, place a little stuffing in between the next two layers of leaves and continue until you have reached the last two layers of exterior leaves.

9. Set the artichoke aside and repeat stuffing technique with remaining three (3) artichokes.

10. In a clean 8-quart sauce pot, heat the oil. Place the artichokes, face down, in hot oil and let them brown on medium-high heat, about 3 to 4 minutes.

11. After 3 to 4 minutes, carefully slide a spatula underneath each artichoke to separate it from bottom of sauce pot. Flip the artichokes over, face up.

12. Stir in the chopped onion to fit all around and in between the artichokes.

13. Saute the onion on medium heat for 2 minutes or until onion is translucent.

14. Carefully pour 2 cups cold water into sauce pot, in between and around the artichokes (never pour liquid over tops of artichokes). Cover and bring to a boil.

15. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, for 3 minutes.

16. After 3 minutes, slowly pour the wine in between and around artichokes.

17. Cover and cook for 15 to 18 minutes. The artichokes should always sit in liquid which rises halfway up the vegetable.

18. After 15 minutes or so, when liquid has reduced by one-third, stir 1 cup cold water in between and around artichokes. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes.

19. After 10 minutes, taste the cooking liquid; adjust salt, to taste. Taste an exterior leaf. If the leaf is tough and you cannot bite the artichoke flesh off its leaf, cook for an additional 9 to 10 minutes.

20. If liquid reduces during this time, stir in 1 additional cup water and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve one artichoke per guest or cut each artichoke in half and serve as an appetizer to 6 or more guests.

Wine pairing suggestion: Chilled Pinot Grigio (white).

Text & Photograph ©2012 Nancy DeLucia Real