Baked Artichokes, Shrimp, and Mozzarella

Teglia di Carciofi, Mazzancolle, e Mozzarella

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • For

    6

    persons

Appears in

Marcella Cucina

By Marcella Hazan

Published 1997

  • About

In cooking, as in other imaginative activities, it isn’t always possible to explain exactly why some things work. This is one of its mysteries that keeps you from being self-satisfied, that causes you always to think about what you are doing, that prevents you, no matter how long you have been at it, from putting your curiosity away.

We were in Rome at a crowded time, we had failed to make timely plans for dinner, and had to settle for a table at an unfamiliar trattoria. All of the dishes on the menu were standards but for this one. It seemed peculiar within the unadventurous context of the other offerings, and as I briefly thought about it—mazzancolle, a variety of shrimp popular in Rome, baked with artichokes and mozzarella—I couldn’t imagine how it could be any good. But I was intrigued, as well as bored by the alternatives, so I ordered it.

At the first taste I couldn’t believe my luck. It was sublime. If I hadn’t been ashamed to appear so gluttonous, I would have ordered another portion.

Ingredients

  • ½ lemon
  • 5 medium artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 whole, peeled garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • 1 pound medium shrimp in their shells
  • ¾ pound mozzarella, preferably imported Italian buffalo milk mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons butter including some for smearing the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

A 2-inch-high oven-to-table baking dish, 11 inches long and 7 inches wide, or one of approximately equivalent capacity

Method

  1. Squeeze the juice of ½ lemon into a bowl of cold water.
  2. Prepare the artichokes, trimming away all the tough, inedible portions. Cut off but do not discard the stems, paring them down to their pale core. Cut the trimmed artichokes lengthwise into the thinnest possible slices. Drop each slice and stem into a bowl containing water and lemon juice. When all the artichokes are done, drain and rinse them in two changes of cold water.
  3. Put the oil and whole garlic cloves into a 10 to 12-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn the heat on to high. Cook the garlic, turning it frequently, until it becomes colored nut brown, then remove it from the pan and discard it.
  4. Add the artichoke slices and stems, sprinkle with salt and generous grindings of pepper, turn them three or four times to coat them well, then put a lid on the pan and turn the heat down to low Cook for about 5 minutes, then add ¼ cup water, turn the artichokes over, put the lid back on, and continue cooking over slow heat. Turn them every 5 minutes or so, cooking them, without adding any more water if possible, until they feel tender when prodded with a fork and have turned slightly brown around the edges. Depending on their youth and freshness it may take 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat when done.
  5. Turn on the oven to 450°F.
  6. While the artichokes are cooking, shell the shrimp, remove the dark central vein in their back, wash them in cold water, and pat dry with kitchen towels.
  7. Cut the mozzarella into very thin slices, ¼ inch thick or less.
  8. Lightly smear the bottom of the pan with butter, and put in the artichokes with all their cooking juices and oil. Spread them out over the bottom of the dish.
  9. Place the shrimp over the artichokes, spreading them out as much as possible. Sprinkle salt and 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan over them. Top with the mozzarella slices, slightly overlapping them if you need to. If you are not using imported buffalo-milk mozzarella, which already contains some salt, sprinkle salt over it. Top with the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan. Cut the butter left over from smearing the dish into tiny dots and scatter these on top.
  10. Place the dish in the upper third of the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the mozzarella melts and begins to be flecked with brown. Allow to settle for a few minutes, bringing the dish to the table while its contents are still warm, but no longer scalding. Some liquid may have collected at the bottom; do not discard it because it is quite tasty and only needs a good crusty piece of bread to sop it up.