To prepare the Carciofina: use a sharp knife to shorten the artichokes’ stalks, leaving a piece roughly 3-4 cm long. Pull off the outer, tougher petals; cut the top off each artichoke, trim the tips of the outer layers, starting from the top and going round until you reach the bottom, then peel the stalk. Cut the artichokes into quarters and if you find any hairy choke in the centre, remove that as well. As you clean each piece, put it straight into a bowl of water with the lemon juice. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes, then strain well and pat them dry with kitchen paper. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, sauté the cloves of garlic and the chilli pepper with 6 spoonfuls of olive oil. When the garlic has browned, remove it, then add the pieces of artichoke and the oregano to the pan, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Cook for roughly half an hour until the artichokes are tender, adding a little hot water (½ a glass) so that they don’t dry out too much while cooking. Let them cool and, when they’re lukewarm, blend them – or better still put them through a vegetable mill – with the capers; add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and amalgamate everything thoroughly to obtain a smooth sauce… Carciofina!
Now prepare the croquettes: mix the Carciofina with the ricotta, 80 g of breadcrumbs, the grated pecorino and lemon peel, the egg and some salt and pepper. Combine everything with a fork until you have a compact, homogenous mixture. Take a little at a time and, using the palms of your hands, shape it into small balls measuring about 5 cm. As you prepare them, roll them in the remaining breadcrumbs (on a plate), and then arrange them in an oven dish greased with olive oil. Cook them in a preheated oven at 200 °C, without the fan on, for 15- 20 minutes, and then let them cool down a bit before serving.
You can serve these delicious delicacies both as an appetizer and as a main dish.
This is a simple, tasty way of preparing artichokes, a vegetable that’s very popular in Tuscan cuisine and has countless beneficial properties. They’re low in calories but rich in fibre and minerals, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, calcium and zinc. The main vitamins contained in artichokes are A, B1 and B3, with vitamin C also present in lower amounts. They are also a source of a particular type of polyphenol, flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants, similar to beta carotene and lutein. Their characteristic bitter flavour is given by a substance called cynarine, which is also responsible for the numerous beneficial and therapeutic properties.
Eating artichokes helps alleviate gallbladder and liver disorders, dyslipidaemia, non-inflammatory dyspepsia and irritable bowl syndrome. Thanks to the flavonoids, they have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. They also help lower the level of “bad” cholesterol.