One of my most cherished gifts I received this Christmas was a Demetra cavatelli pasta press from Italy. My boyfriend’s parents gifted it to me, knowing well my passion for making homemade pasta.
So once the Christmas holiday rush had passed, I was yearning to put it to use, but craving something a little healthier and lighter. I instantly thought of artichokes with pasta–the last meal I ate during my last visit to Rome, with a crispy Roman style “carciofi alla giudia” aka Jewish artichokes from Rome–rounding out the dish to perfection. I put my own spin on it, rather than a heavy red sauce, making it light and fresh with lemon and white wine, finished with some starchy pasta water and pecorino cheese for a healthy but decadent sauce.
From the first bite it was very clear–this recipe is such a keeper, and maybe the best thing I’ve ever made. There’s something about the freshness, balance, and quality ingredients that make it so special. Ryan and I were talking while scraping up every forkful of this delicious pasta–and knew it had to be called something special. Earlier in the day, I was on FaceTime with my dear sweet niece Gianna Marie, and she was using her kitchen and “fresh pasta” felt toys that I got her for her first birthday. This dish is now to us, Cavatelli alla Gianna.
-fresh cavatelli (or quality store bought)
-1 bunch of fresh sage
-2 large artichokes
-1 cup dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio (seperated)
-5 cloves of garlic smashed and peeled
-1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
-1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
-salt and pepper
-6 tbsp. butter
-red pepper flakes
First make the cavatelli and set aside. If you’re using storebought, use a quality brand at an Italian market like Gentile.
An hour before you’d like to serve, prep your artichokes. First, make a large bowl of cold water, add the juice of half a lemon, and set aside. This will keep your artichokes from turning brown while you prep them. Peel the outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to the inner light green leaves. If you’re not sure if you’ve peeled far enough or not, peel another few layers. The goal is to remove all the tough outer leaves and get to the ones just outside the heart. Once you get to the tender, delicate leaves, chop off the top tip of the artichoke leaves you’ll see a few prickers on the tip of them. Then, gently use a potato peeler to peel the tough exterior of the stems. Half the artichoke. Scoop out the fuzzy “choke” which is inedible. Place the prepped artichoke in the lemon water and move onto the next one.
In a medium sauce pan, heat it to medium/low. Add a few tbsp. of evoo and put your artichokes face down in the olive oil. Add 3 cloves of the smashed garlic. Add 1/2 cup of the white wine and 1/2 cup of the lemon water from the artichoke bowl. It should cover at least 1/2 the height of the artichoke. Bring it up to a boil and reduce to simmer on low. Cover your pan and braise the artichokes for about 35 minutes until tender. (Warning, you’re house will smell amazing.)
Toward the end of the artichokes cooking, get your pot of water ready to boil the cavatelli by filling a pot with water and a healthy pinch of salt. Get that boiling and ready to go.
In a separate large saucepan, melt the butter over medium/low heat. As it melts, add the remaining 2 cloves of smashed garlic. Add about 4 laddles full of the juice from the artichoke pan to the butter/garlic pan. Stirring allowing it to combine nicely. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup of white wine, bring it up to a boil and simmer low. Add in the fresh sage and red pepper flake.
Cook your cavatelli in batches. If you’re making it fresh, once it begins to float, allow it to cook for another minute then use a spider to move it to the large saucepan with your simmering sauce. Do this until all the cavatelli is cooked and in the sauce. Finish the pasta with a laddle of two of pasta water allowing the sauce to thicken with the starch.
Serve the pasta with the artichokes on top, they just melt in your mouth. And warning, you’re going to want some good crusty italian bread to soak up all these delicious juices.