Meal of the Week: A Naples vegetarian special - Carciofi alla Napoletana
Carciofi alla Napoletana - or Neapolitan artichokes - are a popular option in Naples for vegetarians or for those wanting to add more vegetables to their diets.
Many people say that when you travel to Naples it’s difficult to find vegetarian dishes. Although we certainly love our meat and seafood, there are quite a few veggie-friendly foods to be found in the city.
One of the most well known meat-free dishes on offer is Carciofi alla Napoletana or Neapolitan artichokes. There’s little known about the provenance of this recipe, although artichokes have been cultivated and eaten across the Mediterranean region for centuries, so it’s possible that the dish was first made by farmers outside of the city centre.
As for the where artichokes originate from, there isn’t much of a consensus. They are thought to have been discovered in the central Mediterranean between Tunisia, Sicily and southern Italy. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans believed the vegetable had significant health benefits.
Thousands of years later, from Palestine and Lebanon to Naples, the artichoke continues to be boiled, stuffed and sautéed in different forms.
Although Neapolitan artichokes are usually served as a side dish or an appetiser, they can easily be made into a filling main course, especially with the addition of bread or other vegetables. I’m especially fond of making Carciofi alla Napoletana when I feel like I need more veggies in my diet.
This is how I make it…
Spicy red pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic
A dozen black olives
Give your artichokes a good rinse to start with and put them on a cutting board. Cut the stems, leaving about four centimetres under the bud.
Start to peel off the hardest leaves on the outside of the artichoke, removing about three layers. Once you feel like you’ve taken off the hardest leaves, trim off the area of where the stem meets the bud because that part is also quite tough. Cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke, as that part is also too rough to eat.
Cut the artichoke in half and scoop out the hairy fibres around the area of the heart. You can then cut it into quarters or eighths as you prefer.
As you continue to cut the artichokes, place the already cut pieces in a medium-sized bowl of cool or room temperature water with the added juice of one lemon.
After the artichokes are cut and soaking in the lemony water, put a pan on medium heat and add 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil, minced garlic, olives, spicy red pepper and cook until fragrant.
Grab the artichokes directly from the bowl and place them into the pan. Add salt, black pepper and parsley to taste and mix well. Then add about half a glass of water and cover for around 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.
When the artichokes are ready they should be quite soft and easy to eat. It’s common to eat them with your hands when at home, but feel free to use silverware if you're feeling fancy.
Garnish with some parsley and buon appetito!