There is no other vegetable -- no other food really -- that I feel quite as passionately about as I do artichokes.
When I buy a new cookbook the first thing I do is check the index for artichoke recipes, and whenever I pick up a menu the first thing I scan for is artichokes. I would happily eat artichokes seven days a week.
I worry sometimes that my artichoke love clouds my vision or, more specifically, unduly influences my taste. If it's artichoke, I love it --unquestioningly and possibly undiscerningly.
This is pretty minimalist -- little more than artichoke, and as I happily ate my artichoke cannelloni last night I asked my husband if it was as good as I thought it was. He answered politely that it was good, that the tomato sauce and the pasta were really good, and the artichokes were also good, but that he wasn't...(he paused carefully here)... as crazy about artichokes as I was.
This didn't jolt me from my happy artichoke moment one bit. I merely pass this along because if you only feel so-so about artichokes, this won't be worth the effort involved. On the other hand, if you're also artichoke-crazed, I think you'll be extremely happy with this.
1. Thinly slice the artichoke bottoms (this can be done while they’re still frozen and in fact they’ll be better if you do it while they’re still frozen) and then cut into half-inch pieces.
2. Put a good glug of olive oil in a large skillet. Heat this over medium heat and then add the onions. Cook the onions down for a few minutes and then add the artichoke pieces. Turn the heat to medium high and cook until the artichokes are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Mix the artichokes with the ricotta. Taste again. Adjust seasonings. Does it taste good to you? If it does, you’re good to go. Put the artichoke mixture aside. (This can also be done the day before you plan on making the cannelloni.)
4. Cook the pasta four or five sheets at a time until just al dente. Drain, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and then pat dry. Spread a thin layer of the artichoke mixture on the pasta, leaving a border of about 1/2 inch around the edge. Roll the pasta up and place seam side down in a baking dish that has been lightly coated with tomato sauce. I’m usually able to fit 10 to 12 in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. This will be enough to fill two pans.
5. Cover the top of the cannellonis with tomato sauce. Cover the baking dish with a piece of foil and bake for about 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or so. When everything is good and hot, it’s ready.
Depending on how many canneloni you have and the appetite of those you're serving, this will serve 4 to 6.
This can be prepared in advance up until the point of baking. And if all this fresh pasta making and cannelloni rolling is too much for you, I have used this filling for a lasagna made with boxed lasagne noodles and though those lasagna noodles are nowhere near as good as freshly made they're still plenty good. Simply layer this filling, tomato sauce, and noodles. A grating of Parmigiano-Regianno between the layers is good, as is béchamel sauce if you're feeling up to it. Or not. It will be fine without it.
My favorite part of artichoke cannelloni? Leftovers! I'm looking forward to lunch today.