High on Artichokes’ Second Season

Chef Massi Boldrini of Berkeley’s Riva Cucina takes full advantage of midautumn artichokes for his Ravioli ai Carciofi.


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Ravioli ai Carciofi.

Lori Eanes

A mysteriously delicious thistle bud with a tough, prickly exterior and achingly tender heart, the artichoke—a Mediterranean native, and one of California’s most prized crops—has been a sought-after delicacy since the time of ancient Greece and Rome.

Cultivated locally in the late 1800s by homesick Italian and Spanish immigrants, artichokes remain exclusive to California in the U.S.—nearly 100 percent of the national crop is grown here, most notably in Monterey County. Castroville’s nickname, “The Artichoke Center of the World” is not unfounded; in 2013, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom even proclaimed the artichoke California’s “official vegetable.”

Though they are ubiquitous at local farmers markets from March through May, artichokes have a secondary peak season in mid-autumn, and Italian-born chef Massi Boldrini of West Berkeley’s Riva Cucina takes full advantage of it.

“Artichokes have a complex, satisfying flavor—rich, grassy, with a little bit of sweetness and a subtle, bitter finish,” said Boldrini. He likens the vegetable’s tricky essence to the mineral bite found in a fresh mountain stream. “It is a complete experience for the taste buds. All the sides of the tongue work hard.”

At a time of year when customers seek out Boldrini’s capellacci di zucca—fresh pasta stuffed with butternut squash, a fall specialty of his hometown Ferrara in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region—the chef is also busy plying and simmering artichokes the way his father, also a chef, taught him from childhood.

Rule one? Baby artichokes are easier to clean and prepare. Rule two: Don’t overpower their flavor. We’d like to thank both chefs Boldrini for the recipe below, handed from father to son. (Additional tips from the chef to newcomers to fresh pasta: Be patient, write notes, and keep a very clean cooking environment.)

Riva Cucina, 800 Heinz Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-7482, www.RivaCucina.com

 

Ravioli ai Carciofi

Pasta Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups semolina

5 eggs, plus 1 egg for sealing ravioli

1 teaspoon salt

Combine flour and semolina in a bowl and mix well. Pile the flour mixture onto a clean table or large cutting board and make a large crater in the center. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly. Pour into the crater. With a fork stir the eggs, slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs. When all the flour is mixed with the eggs, stop using the fork and knead the mixture with your hands until the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour. Cook filling (see below) and cool while the dough chills.

Roll the dough (either with pasta machine or a rolling pin) into 1/16-inch-high sheets. Cut the pasta with a knife into 2-inch squares. Reserve half of the squares for ravioli tops. Working with ravioli bottoms, place 1 teaspoon cooked and cooled filling in the center of each square. Brush the edges of each square with beaten egg. Top with additional pasta squares. Seal the edges together with your fingers to form ravioli.

To cook, in a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 2 tablespoon of salt. Gently drop the prepared ravioli into the boiling water, one at one at a time, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until they float.

 

Filling

1 teaspoon salt, plus salt for boiling water

1 lemon, juiced

1 pound baby artichokes

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

8 ounces Parmigiano, grated

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the juice from one lemon. Meanwhile, snap off the lower petals at the base of each artichoke, near the stem. Cut off and discard top 1/4 inch of each artichoke, and snip any additional needles. Cut the stem level with the base. Cut the artichokes in half. Blanch cleaned artichokes 3 to 5 minutes in prepared boiling water or until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and cool.

When cooled, finely chop the artichokes. In a bowl, combine with mascarpone, Parmigiano, and salt and pepper, until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

 

Sauce

1 stick unsalted butter

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

Parmigiano, grated

Melt a stick of unsalted butter over a medium heat until it begins to turn light brown. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped sage and turn off the burner. Remove the cooked ravioli with a spoon and add the ravioli to the sauce in the pan to combine. Then plate and top the ravioli with the grated Parmigiano, to taste. Serve immediately.

 

Published online on Nov. 17, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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