According to an Aegean legend and praised in song by the poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, the first artichoke was a lovely young girl who lived on the island of Zinari. The god, Zeus was visiting his brother Poseidon one day when, as he emerged from the sea, he spied a beautiful young mortal woman. She did not seem frightened by the presence of a god, and Zeus seized the opportunity to seduce her. He was so pleased with the girl, who's name was Cynara, that he decided to make her a goddess, so that she could be nearer to his home on Olympia. Cynara agreed to the promotion, and Zeus anticipated the trysts to come, whenever his wife Hera was away. However, Cynara soon missed her mother and grew homesick. She snuck back to the world of mortals for a brief visit. After she returned, Zeus discovered this un-goddess-like behavior. Enraged, he hurled her back to earth and transformed her into the plant we know as the artichoke. The history of this plant wasn't all bad news!
This is an adaptation of a recipe from the wonderful River Cafe Pasta book. At Borough Market on Saturday Marie gave me a tub of particularly fine marinated artichoke hearts, which I love. To do them justice I decided to make spaghetti for dinner Tuesday night when David came round to join us. The resulting dish was beautiful - long strands of pasta specked with gradations of green. Eating it was wonderful - sleek mouthfuls sometimes parsley flavoured, sometimes tasting more of artichokes. It's very easy - and well worth it.
Spaghetti with Artichoke and Parsley Sauce
6-8 marinated artichoke hearts
4 tbspns chopped flat leaf parsley - be generous in your estimation
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
50g pine nuts, toasted gently till golden
125g Parmesan, freshly grated
100ml full fat milk
50g unsalted butter
Extra virgin olive oil - use good stuff as this is essentially a raw sauce
Salt and fresh ground pepper
In a food processor with a sharp blade or with a hand blender place the vaguely chopped artichoke hearts, toasted pine nuts, parsley and Parmesan. Add the milk and blend to a rough pulp, then slowly add 100 ml of olive oil to form a thick cream. Season.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water till al dente. Add the pesto sauce and the butter. Stir to combine, then serve with extra grated Parmesan and a crisp green salad.