Wine recommendations: Artichokes pose a problem because they change a wine's flavor, making pairing a bit more difficult, but certainly not impossible, as some experts insist. A safe choice with this dish, in which the artichoke's influence is mitigated to some degree by the stuffing, is Frescati. For something a bit more enticing, look for a Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco or Tocai Friulano from Friuli-Venezia Guilia.
6 large artichokes
2 or 3 lemons, zest removed
Â¼ cup olive oil
6 ounces guanciale, pancetta or prosciutto, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of 2 or 3 lemons
3 cups fresh breadcrumbs (see note below)
1 cup minced Italian parsley
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Black pepper in a mill
Note: To make fresh bread crumbs, cut two- or three-day-old country-style bread into cubes (or tear it into pieces). Place a large handful of cubes in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse until the cubes are reduced to crumbs. If the bread is particularly fresh, the crumbs might be fluffier, in which case you'll need more than the amount given.
Cut the artichoke stems down to Â½ inch, trim about an inch off the top, spread the leaves out, and use a large heavy spoon to scoop out the smallest inner leaves and the choke. After cutting each artichoke, rub the cut surface with lemon to prevent browning.
Pour a portion of the olive oil into a large, heavy pot, enough to moisten the surface, and heat. Add the guanciale or other meat, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté one minute more. Remove from the heat. Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl, add the meat mixture, lemon zest, parsley and cheese, and toss. Add enough of the remaining olive oil so that the stuffing sticks together, then squeeze lemon juice over it. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, to taste.
Hold one artichoke over the bowl of stuffing and fill the center of the artichoke. Press the leaves toward the center so that the artichoke closes over the stuffing. Set the pot over medium-low heat, add the remaining olive oil and the first stuffed artichoke, setting it on its side. After you have stuffed each artichoke, add it to the pot, and turn the others, so that by the time all have been stuffed, they have been slightly browned as well.
Add about Â¾-inch of water to the pot, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender. Check the water level now and then and add more if necessary; do not let the artichokes burn. Use tongs to remove the artichokes from the pot, set on a platter and serve. Makes 6 servings.