The inspiration for this Spaghetti Carbonara with Artichoke Wedges recipe came from the March 2021 issue of the Italian culinary magazine, Sale e Pepe. I tweaked it to fit my own taste and it’s absolutely delicious. The addition of artichokes to the recipe takes it to another delicious level by adding seasonal globe artichokes.
It’s incredibly tasty and frankly I love the addition of vegetables to spaghetti carbonara. I’ve been adding finely cubed zucchini to spaghetti carbonara for years, and I recently added puréed avocado to pasta carbonara for additional flavor and creaminess.
I go back-and-forth on the issue of preserving the integrity of traditional classic Italian recipes versus tweaking and changing these recipes to reflect changing food trends and tastes. We now live in a global world and over time this trend will be all the more accentuated. There’s something quite wonderful about incorporating one’s own culture into classic Italian recipes and yet at the same time no one wants to see original and amazing traditional Italian recipes disappear. Rome and Amatrice have been competing for years over which city invented Amatriciana pasta. Personally I like the Rome version with onions.
In the end Amatrice won out and the official recipe is now a European-wide PAT recognized recipe and the recipe and its ingredients are codified and deposited within the Amatrice Chamber of Commerce documents. PAT is just one of the labels whereby Italy defends its food and beverage products from unfair international competition, and also ensures that quality and uniformity are maintained throughout time. Here’s how it works.
Amatriciana and Carbonara are both made with guanciale and here’s where you can buy it.
Before I tweak a classic and traditional Italian recipe first I master the original recipe and understand why the ingredients work so well together and why it’s prepared the way it is. Italians have a rich understanding and feel for ingredients, flavor, texture and umami and most of the time I enjoy them as is. But spaghetti carbonara with artichokes works divinely!
Here’s the classic recipe for Pasta all Carbonara.
For the acidulated water:
- 1/2 L cold water
- 2 lemons quartered
- 400 g spaghetti
For the sauce:
- 120 g guanciale
- 90 g freshly grated pecorino Romano
- 5 medium Roman globe artichokes
- 6 egg yolks set aside or freeze the egg whites to use in another recipe
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
Prepare your acidulated water:
- The acidulated water will keep your artichokes from turning brown.
- Put the cold water in a glass bowl.
- Use a fork to help you squeeze the lemon juice from each quartered piece of lemon into the bowl of water, then place the lemon in the bowl.
Clean the artichokes:
- Cut the stem off of the artichokes and set aside.
- Starting from the base of the artichoke pull the leaves off until you don’t have to exert any pressure whatsoever to remove the leaves.
- Cut the top third, or half, of the artichoke off based upon how tender it is (cut less if tender).
- Slam the artichoke onto a cutting board so that it begins to open up.
- Use a melon baller to dig into the center of the artichoke and remove the beard; the beard is the furry center of the artichoke .
- Dip the artichoke into the acidulated water then cut into quarters.
- Cut each quarter into three wedges and place in the acidulated water.
- Use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to remove the outer layer of the artichoke stems.
- Cut the stems in half and then into 1 inch pieces.
- Place the stems in the acidulated water.
Cook the artichokes:
- Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to a boil. The water should be only slightly salty to the taste.
- Drain the artichoke wedges and stems and pat dry with a paper towel or a kitchen towel.
- Simmer the wedges and stems for 8 minutes until just tender, drain, pat dry and set aside.
Prepare the guanciale:
- Usually you can purchase guanciale already cubed or sliced into matchsticks.
- If not, first remove the rind from the guanciale.
- Slice it into 1/4 inch thick slices and then cut each slice into matchsticks, or small cubes.
Cook the guanciale:
- Cook the guanciale in a heavy bottomed skillet (large enough to hold the pasta) over a very low flame until crispy and golden.
- Slow cooking will ensure that the fat within the guanciale melts completely.
- When the guanciale starts to turn golden add the artichoke and continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the guanciale and artichoke and set aside.
Prepare the pasta:
- Bring a large part of salted water to a boil. The water should taste like the sea.
- Cook the spaghetti until al dente or according to package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the carbonara sauce:
- Whisk the egg yolks and grated pecorino Romano cheese together.
- Add the freshly grated black pepper and combine.
- Drain the pasta but first set aside 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.
- Toss the spaghetti in the remaining guanciale cooking fat. If you prefer you can discard part of this fat.
- Whisk enough of the pasta cooking water into the egg yolk mixture so that it has the consistency of pancake batter.
- Add the egg mixture to the spaghetti and toss until coated. Toss in the reserved guanciale and artichokes and serve.
Instead of artichokes you can substitute with zucchini or roast Brussels sprouts.
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