There used to be a good Turkish take-out place around the corner to solve the quandary. Unfortunately, it turned into a run of the mill shoarma place with little going for it aside from its industrial strength garlic sauce. There is pizza delivery, of course, but the places in my area can’t quite cope with the Sunday night rush hour and a pie can take hours to arrive. Literally. The last three times we dialed for tomatoes’n’topping on dough it took 2½, 1½ and one hour, respectively. Progress, I suppose, but not what you want for a relaxed meal to end the weekend.
Often, the only viable solution is to piece together a meal from whatever is floating around the kitchen and pantry. That always includes garlic and onions, and usually canned tomatoes, pasta and yogurt. A good base for quite a few meals, I am beginning to find out. Last week, there was the garlicky bean dip and this week lemony pasta with artichokes saved the Sunday.
The sauce for the pasta is loosely based on carbonara sauce, with garlic instead of pancetta and with lemon zest added for brightness. Oh, and a touch of cream, because that makes anything taste better (although it is not really necessary here, so don’t let a lack of left-over cream stop you from making this pasta). The artichoke topping combines the earthy flavor of artichokes with lemon juice for some zing and caramelized onions for sweetness. Tossed together with a pile of pasta, they taste luxurious but not heavy. Plus, this dish seems like it was a lot more trouble than it really is. Beats a a pizza that takes 2½ hours, no?
Lemon artichoke pasta
1 400 gr bag frozen artichoke bottoms, thawed*
1 large onion, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
1 tbsp olive oil
zest and juice from half a small lemon
½ tsp sugar, optional
2 tbsp cream, optional
about 50 gr freshly grated parmesan
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced into six pieces
knob of butter
300 gr dried pasta
Heat the oil in a wide skillet that will fit all artichoke bottoms in a single layer later. When the oil is hot, add the onion and turn the heat down to medium. Cook, flipping onions occasionally, until onions are soft and have a golden color. Add the lemon juice and about ½ cup of water (there should be a thin layer of water in the whole pan), stir and taste. Add the sugar if you want it a bit sweeter (a little goes a long way). Add the artichoke bottoms in a single layer, with the stem end of the artichoke nestling in the watery onion mixture. Cover the pan and cook for about seven minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to a boil.
Mix the eggs with the cheese and the pepper, and the cream if using.
Add the pasta to the water when it boils and boil until al dente. Uncover the pan with the artichokes when the artichokes are tender but still firm. Continue to heat over low heat until pasta is done. When the pasta has about three minutes to go, place the butter and garlic pieces in a small sauce pan and melt over low heat; simmer until needed.
When the pasta is done, take about ½ cup of the cooking water from the pan and drain the pasta. Put the pasta back in its hot pan and add the melted butter but not the garlic pieces. Then add the cheesy egg mixture and the lemon zest and stir quickly and thoroughly, until each piece of pasta is covered in a saucy layer. Divide the pasta over plates and add artichokes (cut them into pieces first for ease of eating while watching a movie on the couch, but keep them whole for a prettier look). Serve hot.
* Buy frozen artichoke bottoms at a Middle-Eastern supermarket, or subtitute with any other sauteed vegetable that takes your fancy. Don’t use canned artichoke hearts, though. They have a harsh acidity that will overpower the fragrant lemon zest.