As you might have hinted before I do like artichokes. Actually, they've become one of my favourite vegetables. My dearest parents :-P, having read my previous post decided to include a few globes of the mammola Romana variety in a delicacies laden package they sent, about which contents I've at least in part already posted about. Aren't they beautiful? Almost a shame to cook them, but only almost. Having enough for either a really big serving for two or two different dishes in a smaller amount I decided for the latter. The more recipes I can try the happier I am. The first dish tried was ravioli di carciofi or artichoke ravioli.
Filled pasta is something that's growing on me. Once you get the hang of making and rolling the pasta, not that difficult with a pasta machine (or pasta roller), making fresh tagliatelle or lasagne becomes very easy and making your own ravioli, tortelli, etc. only a further step away. Well maybe two or three steps, depending how long it takes to make the stuffing and how complicated it it. This artichoke stuffing is actually quite easy and quick.
To make the stuffing take 3-4 artichokes (depending on size) and clean then removing all hard bracts (the "leaves) and the choke. Put the cleaned ones in some water where you'll have squeezed half a lemon to prevent the artichokes from becoming dark. Once all are clean heat some EVO oil in a pan and add a small chopped clove of garlic. While this heats up chop the artichokes and then add them to the pan and cover. Some of the water in which the artichokes were submerged will stick to the chopped pieces but that's fine since it will function as cooking liquid. Check the artichokes from time to time and if they dry out add one or two tablespoons of water. When they're almost done uncover the pan to let the last liquids evaporate. Season the artichokes at this point with salt, pepper and possibly mentuccia, i.e. lesser calmint, a herb often used in recipes from Tuscany and Latium, since it can be hard to find one can substitute either mint or marjoram. Let cool.
In a bowl mix 150 g (about 5 oz) ricotta, 2 Tbs young pecorino toscano or parmesan and 1 egg. Puree the artichokes in a blender (for a finer stuffing) or chop finely with a knife and add to the cheese mixture. Taste and eventually add salt or pepper. The stuffing can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge or even days ahead and frozen. One important thing is to check the dryness of the stuffing: it should be soft and moist but not wet. If it is a good emergency remedy is to add some bread crumbs.
For the pasta I used a quite standard recipe. A good explanation and recipe, with plenty of explicative pics can be found at the eGullet Culinary Institute. I could not explain it better even if I tried. I went for a quite big triangular shape for my ravioli: a square, each side about 7-8 cm (2 1/2 in), on which I placed a nice heaped teaspoon of stuffing, then folded on itself on the diagonal line and sealed. One could use different shapes, sizes, etc. It's only a matter of preference in this case. I left the ravioli, floured with some semolina, to dry out a while. Once ready for lunch I cooked them in salted boiling water for about five minutes.
As a sauce I simply used some melted butter, slightly flavoured with a few drops of lemon juice and some fresh copped marjoram. This sauce worked nicely in highlighting the natural flavour of the artichokes. I thought about adding something to "spice up" the sauce a bit but couldn't really come up with something that convinced me. It tasted nice anyway :-).