If a vegetable has a hollow, pocket, hole, or cavity, we cooks will find a way to stuff it.
Sausage & Pine Nut Stuffed Artichokes with Tomato Sauce
4 large artichokes, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ pound bulk Italian sausage, crumbled
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
6 ounces day-old French bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup white wine
1 recipe Basic Tomato Sauce
Cook the artichokes in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 18 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the artichokes to a paper towel-lined plate. Let rest for about 20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the sausage and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, tossing about 2 times, until nearly cooked through and crusty and brown in spots.* Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic, marjoram, and rosemary and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Mix together the bread cubes, sausage mixture, pine nuts, broth, half of the Parmegiano, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Ease each artichoke open with your fingers, spreading the leaves wide without breaking them off. Pull out the tough purple leaves from the centers, and scoop out the chokes using a melon baller. Season the artichokes with salt and pepper and divide the stuffing among them, lightly packing it in. Transfer the artichokes to a roasting pan, top them with the remaining half of the Parmegiano, and add the wine to the pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for about half an hour, or until heated through. Uncover and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the Parmegiano is golden brown. Meanwhile, bring the sauce to a simmer. Divide the sauce among individual plates, arrange an artichoke atop each pool of sauce, and serve immediately.
Serves 4. Artichokes appear at farmers markets in the springtime. Trimming them for cooking is surprisingly easy. First cut off the tip with a serrated knife, and then, using a pair of kitchen shears, snip off the thorny end from each leaf. Unless you will be cooking the artichoke immediately, it’s a good idea to rub any cut surfaces with a lemon wedge to prevent browning. If the artichoke has a stem, peel it, and once the artichoke has been boiled, cut off the stem, dice it, and add it to the stuffing. Before stuffing the artichoke, be sure to remove every last bit of the fuzzy choke—it bears that name for good reason. A baguette is the perfect choice for the stuffing. And if you don’t have marjoram, substitute fresh oregano.
*Searing the sausage in this manner adds tons of flavor to the finished dish. For everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores in the fall of 2010.