When I’m looking for a restaurant on the few occasions Betsy and I head out on the town, I tend to put Italian places way down on the list. I don’t find that they have a lot to offer that I couldn’t easily reproduce at home.
Occasionally though, I find myself at one anyway and try to make the best of it! A few months ago I found myself at a local Italian spot that generally exceeds my expectations. Somebody at our table ordered a piccata dish, which is traditionally chicken but in this case was seafood. The protein wasn’t the star for me though… its was the pasta mix.
Folded into capellini pasta was big artichoke chunks, capers, lemon, and a creamy sauce. It was perfect and I actually thought it didn’t even need the protein.
When I got home I quickly jotted down what I could remember so I could try to reproduce it as a quick vegetarian dinner. Artichoke Piccata was the result and it was damn good.
1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for pasta and set it aside for later.
2) In a second large skillet or pot, add olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
3) Add flour to the pot and stir and cook flour for 30 seconds. Then stir in veggie stock and pesto and stir to combine. Turn heat down to medium low.
4) Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, probably 2-3 minutes if you’re using a thin pasta like capellini. Reserve 2 cups of pasta cooking water and drain pasta.
5) Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to pot with sauce and stir. Then stir in artichokes, capers, drained beans, lemon juice, and cooked pasta.
6) Stir together and add enough extra pasta water to form a sauce that just coats the pasta.
7) Divide pasta between bowls or plates and top with grated Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and parsley. Serve with toasted baguette!
This Artichoke Piccata recipe doesn’t have a lot of ingredients and many of them can be found in good canned versions. No need to use fresh artichokes!
Instead of a meat, I thought white beans would be a good addition. They are smooth and creamy and not overpowering at all.
The only thing you really need to chop up is an onion and some parsley for garnish!
As far as pasta goes, I would definitely use something in the spaghetti family. Linguine might be a bit on the sturdy side. I would stick with just normal spaghetti or, my favorite, capellini pasta (or angel hair). It cooks really quickly and folds into the light sauce nicely.
Cooking the Sauce
A little pesto really rounds out this sauce and you can make your own or just use a little prepared pesto from a jar. I’m not sure I would make pesto from scratch just for this dish since there are a lot of other flavors going on. If you have some made though, definitely use it.
Add a drizzle of oil to a medium pot over medium heat with the diced onion. Let that cook for a few minutes until the onions soften and then add in the pesto and some flour.
Stir this all together and let the flour cook down for a minute or so. Then pour in the stock! I used veggie stock to keep it vegetarian but you could use chicken stock also.
Once you add your stock, the mixture will be pretty thick and that’s okay. You can always thin it out later!
Then stir in the artichokes, beans, and capers.
Cooking the Pasta
Not overcooking the pasta is the hardest part of this dish, especially if you are using really thin pasta. If you’re using capellini pasta, don’t start cooking the pasta until your sauce is completely done as the pasta will take just 2-3 minutes to cook.
When the pasta is done, drain it and save a cup or two of the pasta water. If the sauce is really thick at this point, stir in the reserved pasta water to thin it out.
Then add the pasta to the pot with the sauce and toss everything together really well.
Artichoke Piccata is best served in big bowls, topped with some Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and fresh parsley.
A big hunk of crusty bread is a good idea to soak up all that sauce.
The final pasta is light and refreshing, but still hearty enough for winter.
It’s a surefire winner!