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A perfect pairing: Artichokes alla Romana with basil and mint

This simple Italian dish embodies the Petersham Nurseries philosophy on food, but what should one drink with the notoriously hard-to-match artichoke?

Bordering meadows on the bank of the river Thames in the London borough of Richmond, Petersham Nurseries is a true family business; a thriving nursery, restaurant, shop and café shaped by the creativity, character and passions of owners Francesco and Gael Boglione, with their four children. The family’s book Petersham Nurseries charts their 20-year journey from buying a small plant nursery behind the family home to today, weaving in recipes, stories and sketches of the changing seasons.

When it comes to food at Petersham Nurseries, our philosophy is simple: eat fresh, seasonal, locally produced, chemical-free food; make fruit and vegetables the stars of the meal; if you eat meat or fish, make sure it’s well-sourced; waste as little as possible, and enjoy! We don’t want to lecture, we want to inspire – to show how beautiful, exciting and simple eating healthily can be.

Our all-Italian wine list is explained by our family connection to the Mazzei dynasty [Lara is married to Giovanni Mazzei], which has been producing wine in Chianti since 1435. My father had the lovely idea of starting with a list of Italian producers who were all family or friends of ours, but there is so much good wine to discover that we swiftly expanded to other vineyards whose wines we love.

We choose winemakers who have a great story, and we aim to stock wines from each of Italy’s 20 regions. Of course, the wine has to taste great too – wine is a pleasure and it doesn’t need to be more technical than that.


Artichokes alla Romana with basil and mint recipe

Artichokes are a mainstay of Italian cooking, and this dish appears in restaurants across the country to mark the beginning of spring. If you’ve never prepared an artichoke before, don’t be put off – though time-consuming, it’s simple once you get the hang of it.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time 15-20 minutes

Cooking time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 small (or 6 large) artichokes
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 100ml water or white wine

For the stuffing

  • 40ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 100g fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
  • 20g Parmesan, grated
  • 8 basil leaves, torn
  • 8 mint leaves, torn
  • salt and black pepper

To garnish

  • 20 small basil leaves
  • 10 small mint leaves
  • olive oil (we like to use Zisola)

Method

  1. Begin by preparing the stuffing. Warm the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium-low heat until completely soft. This should take about 15 minutes. Then add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, herbs, salt and pepper, mix thoroughly and cook for a further 2 minutes. Check the seasoning and set to one side.
  2. Prepare the artichokes by removing the outer leaves until you see the tender pale leaves underneath. Slice off the top of the artichoke using a serrated knife and then use a small spoon to scoop out the hairy choke, being careful not to damage the heart. Use a paring knife to trim and peel the stalk and the base of the artichoke. Leave to one side in a bowl filled with cold water and the lemon juice while you prepare the others.
  3. Stuff the artichoke hearts with the filling, making sure they are completely filled. Heat a pan that’s wide and deep enough to hold all the artichokes. Once hot, add the olive oil, then the artichokes, flat side down, stems vertical.
  4. Cook until the heads have taken on a deep golden colour (about 5 minutes). Then add the water or wine, cover and cook until tender, which should take about 15 minutes (a little longer for larger artichokes).
  5. To serve, drizzle with more oil and sprinkle with the basil and mint leaves.

The wines to drink with Artichokes alla Romana with basil and mint

Timorasso

Artichokes are notoriously difficult to pair as they have high levels of cynarin, which serves to make everything you taste seem sweet. Cynarin will enhance any natural sweetness in a wine, making it taste not only sweeter but also less fresh. Thanks to its richness and intrinsic freshness, Timorasso is one of the best pairings for artichoke. One of the great white grapes of Piedmont, it has a distinctive dryness that almost edges to bitterness, which is an ideal counter to the cynarin.

Ezio Poggio, Caespes Timorasso, Colli Tortonesi Terre di Libarna, Piedmont, Italy 2019

Timorasso, an ancient white variety native to the Piedmontese hills, is expressed in a pure, unoaked form here, free to display its lemon rind, pear, dried herb and mint characters with great finesse. Pithy, chalky texture and a stony, mineral edge, with bitter green olive and fennel on the finish. Beautifully briny, and toothsome. 92 points. 

Drink 2022-2029 | Alc 13%

Alto Adige Pinot Nero

For those who prefer a red, the Pinot Neros of the mountainous region of Alto Adige in northern Italy also have a great natural freshness.

Cavit, Brusafer Pinot Nero Superiore, Trentino, Italy 2018

A lovely food wine, with sweet wild strawberry and red cherry fruitiness, a sprinkling of herbs, refreshing acidity, and spice from 20 months in French oak. Translucent in the glass, and modest in alcohol, this is nevertheless no wallflower. Pinot Noir that brings to mind mountain breezes. 90 points.

Drink 2022-2025 | Alc 13%


Petersham Nurseries by the Boglione family was published in May 2021 (£65, petershamnurseries.com)

Lara Boglione is the Bogliones’ eldest daughter, and managing director of Petersham Nurseries.


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