Recipes for springtime: Stuffed artichokes, pesto pasta

Pesto Pasta with Peas and Asparagus. Photos by Lisa Johnsey.

By LISA CULOTTA JOHNSEY

Springtime is my favorite time of year for many reasons. It is a time of renewal. Trees and flowers bloom, we celebrate Easter, and of course, all of the fresh vegetables and foods come back into season. One of my family favorites is artichokes. My mother has been making this recipe with a breadcrumb stuffing for years. Recently, we were talking about how my grandmother made them with ham and onions and mushrooms along with the breadcrumbs and garlic. I started playing with the recipe and came up with my own twist. My family loves it paired with a salad and some crusty bread for a full meal.

Another springtime favorite is basil. I make my own pesto and use it in so many ways, from sauces for pasta and pizza to dip for chips. Here, I have made some pasta with asparagus and peas. The asparagus are blanched and shocked in ice water to retain their crispy green color and texture. Again, we pair the pasta with a salad and crusty bread for a great meal. This can also be a side dish served with grilled chicken or fish.

I hope you enjoy these family springtime favorites from my table to yours. Happy spring.

Artichokes filled with mushrooms, onion, prosciutto and bread crumbs.

Mom’s Kicked-Up Artichokes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
5 slices prosciutto, diced
½ loaf French bread, sliced and processed into bread crumbs
Parsley, to taste, chopped
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 artichokes, trimmed and cleaned
2 cups white wine
1 cup water

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Sauté the mushrooms, onions and garlic. Cook stirring often until vegetables are tender. Put mixture in a bowl, allow to cool and add prosciutto, parsley, cheese, bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Pull apart the leaves of the artichokes to open them slightly where there is space between the leaves. Stuff the mixture between the leaves. Put artichokes in a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot. Add the wine and water. Drizzle olive oil over the tops of the artichokes. Place pan over medium heat and cover and bring to a simmer for about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes or until tender. Serve immediately.

Pesto Penne
2-3 cups fresh basil, washed and dried
¼ cup parsley
3-4 cloves garlic
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup Romano cheese, grated
Olive oil

Put garlic and pine nuts in food processor and pulse 3-4 times.
Add basil leaves and parsley and pulse until combined with garlic and nuts. Add cheeses and pulse again to combine. With the processor running, add enough olive oil to make a thick mixture.

Boil pasta. Drain and add pesto. Stir to coat pasta.

For Pesto Pasta with Peas and Asparagus: Place asparagus in boiling water for a few minutes and then immerse in ice water to retain the green color. After you have stirred in the pesto, add the asparagus and some frozen peas. (The heat of the pasta will warm the peas).

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