Pasta with Artichoke Hearts

I hate to admit it (but must) that adding marinated artichokes to hot pasta sounds bizarre but in reality truly delightful. This dish can be made more substantial by adding poached or grilled chicken, diced tomatoes, and/or fresh mozzarella cubes.

Typically the heart is considered the tastiest and best part of an artichoke. Unfortunately it requires meticulous care to prepare it so as not to accidentally leave some of the “choke” attached. For a small price you can purchase marinated artichoke hearts that have been prepared, cooked, and soaked in olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and black pepper. They are sold in either cans or jars and some may contain a hint of spice (such as red pepper flakes).

Serves 4 to 6.

1 pound medium-sized shaped pasta, such as penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups marinated artichoke hearts
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

2. While the pasta is cooking, place a large skillet over medium-low heat and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add the artichokes and mash with a fork. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, and basil. (The sauce can be made, covered, and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead.)

4. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Reserve a little bit of the pasta water in case you need to thin the sauce. Mix well and serve immediately with the crushed red pepper flakes, if desired, and the Parmesan cheese.

From The $50 Dinner Party: 26 Dinner Parties That Won’t Break Your Bank, Your Back, or Your Schedule (Simon & Schuster, 1998)