With Passover officially coming to an end, a spring-inspired pasta dish seemed like the perfect way to celebrate our return to leavened grains. I was inspired to include artichokes in this recipe after seeing them fill the shelves of our local market. Artichokes are my very favorite vegetable. As a California girl I’ve grown up surrounded by these funny, prickly, delicious things. We even had them growing in our yard when I was a child. They were recently declared California’s Official Vegetable by the governor, which made me happier than you might imagine. I really do love my artichokes!
The artichoke’s journey to California began on the East coast where French allied soldiers introduced them to America during the Revolutionary War. Globe artichokes began appearing in Virginia around the 1720s. In California, the artichoke was not seen as a favorable cash crop until the 1890s, when Italian farmers planted them in Half Moon Bay. By 1904, they were filling boxcars with artichokes to send to the East coast. In 1922, Italian farmers moved their artichokes to California’s Salinas Valley. The town of Castroville designated itself the “Artichoke Capital of the World” and hosts a yearly artichoke festival. No, I haven’t been. Yes, it’s on my bucket list!
Salinas is also where Marilyn Monroe was crowned the very first Artichoke Queen on February 28, 1948 by the California Artichoke & Vegetable Growers Corporation. As the story goes, artichoke farmers Edward Modena, Enrico Bellone and Randy Barsotti spotted a young Ms. Monroe endorsing diamonds at a local jewelry shop. They asked her to tour the artichoke farm, fed her a lunch of freshly cooked artichoke hearts, and soon after honored her with a sash that declared her to be “Queen of the Artichokes.” With the amount of artichokes I eat every year, I think I well deserve my own royal sash.
You can use canned or freshly cooked artichoke hearts in this recipe. If you’re feeling ambitious and want to prepare the hearts on your own, check out this post:
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Lemon Butter Pasta with Artichokes and Capers
- 8 ounces angel hair (capellini) or spaghetti pasta
- 8 ounces quartered artichoke hearts, frozen, canned or steamed till tender (about 2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup shallots, minced
- 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional (adds spice)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste (heaping)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 2 tbsp of the pasta cooking water. Rinse under cool water for a moment or two to keep the noodles loose. Reserve. In a large sauteuse, saute or sauce pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add artichokes and cover. Cook until thawed (if frozen) and slightly browned. Once browned, remove the artichokes from the pan and reserve.
- Using the same pan, heat 6 tbsp of butter over medium high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the shallots, capers, lemon zest, optional crushed red pepper and salt. Cook until the shallots are translucent. Carefully add the lemon juice and 2 tbsp pasta cooking water. Cook until a sauce develops. This will happen quickly.
- Add the cooked pasta, 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley and the artichokes to the pan. Toss to evenly coat. If the pasta seems too dry, add water, 1 tbsp at a time, to loosen it a bit. It should not be thick or heavy, the noodles should be lightly coated with lemon butter. Add additional butter, salt and lemon to taste, if desired.
- Serve hot and garnish with remaining fresh chopped parsley.