Milk Street got the idea for this pasta dish from “Pasta Grannies” by Vicky Bennison. The unusual sauce is made by blitzing artichokes in a blender. Canned artichokes are used instead of fresh for ease, but first they are browned in a mixture of olive oil and rendered in pancetta fat to build flavor in the sauce. The crisp bits of pancetta lend texture and saltiness, lemon adds brightness and balance, and a generous amount of Parmesan ties all the elements together. Voila!
With a minimum of ingredients, this lovely pasta dish can be served as a first course or as the main entrée. Instead of canned, we used frozen artichokes—just make sure to really dry those chokes, otherwise they won’t brown. Using a wider pan would accelerate the browning process. In fact, you may want more of them for the topping!
Don’t use marinated artichokes for this recipe, as their flavor is too sharp and tangy. After draining the artichokes, make sure to pat them dry so they caramelize when added to the pot. Don’t forget to reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water before draining the noodles. You will need it for pureeing the artichokes and building the sauce. And we used every drop of those 2 cups, so perhaps save a bit more…
One other note. Instead of letting the cooked pasta sit in a colander while you make the rest of the dish, use two pots. As the linguine boils, cook the pancetta and then the artichokes in another. This way, everything comes together at one time and is guaranteed to be piping hot.
Linguine with Artichokes, Lemon and Pancetta
- 1 lb. linguine OR fettuccine
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
- 4 oz. pancetta, chopped
- 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained, patted dry and quartered if whole
- 1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup), plus more to serve
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley OR chives OR basil
- In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve about 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain.
- In the same pot over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small plate; set aside.
- Add the artichokes to the pot and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown at the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Transfer half the artichokes to a small bowl; add the remainder to a blender. Reserve the pot.
- To the artichokes in the blender, add ½ cup cooking water, the lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; puree until smooth. In the same pot over medium, bring 1 cup of the remaining cooking water to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits.
- Add the artichoke puree, the pasta, lemon zest, pancetta, Parmesan and parsley. Cook, tossing to combine, just until the noodles are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes; add more reserved water as needed to make a silky sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the reserved artichokes, along with additional oil and Parmesan.
Recipe by Rose Hattabaugh for Milk Street