Penne With Artichokes And Smoked Mozzarella

Artichokes are about to come back in season!

I love artichokes.

Mostly I love them steamed and served with lemon butter (click here for a whole bunch of artichoke-makin’ tips)…but sometimes you need to pile those suckers into things like pasta and chicken dishes, and the more the better. And you don’t have time to wrangle a zillion fresh artichoke hearts out of their fuzzy little cocoons. Or maybe you’re just feeling lazy, and believe (like I do) that if you’re going to go through that ridiculous amount of effort, you’d rather just eat the things straight rather than mucking around with sauces.

And on those days, you know what comes in handy? Frozen artichoke hearts. I keep them stockpiled in the freezer at all times and add them to everything, I love them so.

And the frozen ones totally work here (my advice would be to skip the canned ones; they can get mushy). But within a couple of weeks we should start seeing the markets fill up with gorgeous, fresh specimens, and so if you’re feeling it, I say go ahead: wrangle away. And then invite me over for dinner, please.

(Note: while parsley is usually optional, I’m going to insist you add it to this one - it gives this dish a light, fresh touch that’s really lovely and makes it feel much spring-ier.)

PENNE WITH ARTICHOKES AND SMOKED MOZZARELLA (serves 4; inspired by Chicho’s Kitchen)

What you need:

1 package dried penne (or pasta of choice)

4 slices good-quality bacon, cut into matchsticks

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large (15 oz) can diced tomatoes

1 package frozen artichokes

1/2 cup diced smoked mozzarella

1 large handful parsley, chopped

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

What you do: 

1. Cook penne in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed skillet, fry your bacon matchsticks until the fat has rendered slightly.

3. Add a little more olive oil to the skillet if necessary, and throw in your onion and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent, then add the artichoke hearts and cook, stirring constantly, another couple of minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes and let simmer about 10 minutes, or until the sauce and artichokes are heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add the penne to the skillet along with the smoked mozzarella cubes and parsley and toss to combine.

Serve with freshly grated parmigiana.

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