Italy is known for many things – pasta, Chianti, Sofia Loren. But did you know it’s also the world’s biggest producer of artichokes? Those clever Italian have been growing and perfecting them for well over 1000 years. Time enough to have come up with some really top notch artichoke recipes, like this one.
Ingredients for 2 people (Prep time 25mins; Cooking time 20mins)
Artichoke hearts – 120g/4.25oz jar
Butter – 45g/1.6oz, plus a bit for greasing the dish
Milk – 300ml/10 fl.oz
Plain flour – 30g/1oz
Parmesan cheese – 25g/1oz grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Cannelloni – 6 tubes, about 60g/2oz
Preheat the oven to 200 °C/390 F. Roughly chop the artichoke hearts. Heat the butter on a low heat and add the hearts. While they are gently softening, make a béchamel sauce. I do it by first melting 2/3 of the butter in a saucepan and then adding the flour. Mix the flour in with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes. Heat the milk in another saucepan till it nearly boils (or you can do it in a jug in the microwave). Off the heat, add the milk very slowly to the flour/butter mixture. Add it slowly at first then the second half all together. Put the pan back on a low heat to thicken up, but make sure you carry on stirring. Once it’s the right consistency season it to taste.
Put about a fifth of the sauce aside and add the softened artichoke hearts to the remainder. Fill the cannelloni tubes with this mixture. To avoid making a right mess I just prop them up on one end in the saucepan and spoon the mix in. It’s still a bit messy, but worth it.
Get an ovenproof dish that fits the pasta well and grease with a bit of butter. Snuggle in the filled cannelloni tubes and cover with the béchamel that you set aside. Grate over the parmesan and whack in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Eat with impunity. And, if you like, a green salad or vegetables.