Monday, January 14, 2008

Meatless Main Dish Monday: Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Artichokes

I discovered frozen artichoke hearts a couple of years ago and I haven't looked back since. I love artichokes in general, steamed, with lots of lemon butter, and would happily eat one of those as a main course. I like them braised, I like them stuffed, I like them in dip and I like them chopped with a little spinach and wrapped in an omelet. They are my own personal Green Eggs and Ham: I do like them, Sam-I-Am.

I generally avoided recipes containing artichoke hearts for two reasons: the first was that it was such a pain to clean and prepare the hearts, with so much thrown away, that I had a hard time justifying it to myself. All that, plus then I actually had to cook something? Forget it. And canned artichokes were not an acceptable substitute: mushy, salty, tasting weirdly like the can that they emerged from, polluting an otherwise great dish.

I had heard of frozen artichoke hearts before but had never seen them in the grocery store until a few years ago. I thought I'd give them a try, so I took them home, thawed them, and used them in a spinach-artichoke orzo side dish. They tasted like the genuine article, and all it had cost me in terms of time was the time that it took to thaw them. A winner.

This is a light meal, like maybe a late Saturday lunch or something. I think it could use a little protein, but it really can stand on its own with a big salad and a crusty loaf of bread. Also, it's fast, like maybe 30 minutes, not to go all Rachael Ray on you or anything, and everything in this dish is stuff that I have in my kitchen at any given time. Serves 4-6.

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Artichokes

7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 garlic cloves , minced
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 (9-ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
1 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Grated parmesan cheese (for serving)

1. Boil Water for Spaghetti: Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot.

2. Sauté Garlic: Cook 3 tablespoons of oil, 3 tablespoons of garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 10-inch nonstick skillet over low heat, stirring often, until garlic is sticky, foamy, and straw-colored, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

3. Cook Artichokes: Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and return to high heat until shimmering. Add artichokes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until artichokes are lightly brown and tender, about 6 minutes.

4. Cook and Drain Spaghetti: Add spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain spaghetti and return spaghetti to pot.

5. Toss Spaghetti with Sauce: Stir parsley, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, sautéed garlic, artichokes, and 2 tablespoons reserved pasta cooking water into spaghetti. Season with remaining tablespoon raw garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Add reserved pasta cooking water as needed to loosen sauce. Serve, passing the Parmesan separately.

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