Always present in the winter menus of the restaurants in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto, Carciofi alla Giudia (artichokes alla giudia) is one of the very favorite side dishes of the Roman food tradition locals and tourists never miss to order together with spaghetti carbonara, bucatini all’amatriciana and tonnarelli cacio e pepe.
If you are visiting Rome in winter and like this type of veggie, do try carciofi alla giudia or carciofi alla romana, artichokes will be in season so the two side dishes will be largely featured on the menus of several Rome restaurants. While artichokes alla romana will be widely present in the city, I suggest you eat in the Jewish Ghetto for the best Roman Jewish artichokes.
But if you are not planning a trip to Rome or when you are here you can’t find artichokes anywhere, here is the full recipe to make authentic carciofi alla giudia fried artichokes at home to accompany your main course. The recipe requires really few ingredients, only 3 actually. We are counting one artichoke per person because it’s usually a side dish, but if you are not having anything else, you can have as many as you like, the recipe doesn’t change!
Why is it called Carciofi alla Giudia?
Some say that carciofi alla giudìa (Jewish-style) are called this way because they were a typical dish used during Jewish festivals such as Kippur or better the holiday of Pesach, Jewish Easter when artichokes are more in season. Some don’t pin it down to a single occasion but simply to the Jewish culinary tradition, and this is probably the closest to the truth.
When the Jewish Ghetto in Rome came to be in the 16th century, also the members of other Jewish communities in Europe moved here, influencing each other’s recipe traditions. With such crunchy leaves and tender heart, carciofi alla giudìa quickly became a favorite both inside and outside the community, with Roman citizens making their way to the ghetto to enjoy the deep-fried treat. It’s not to rule out the possibility that the Romans themselves coined this term to tell them apart from the Roman-style artichokes. The Jewish-style artichokes are made using a large quantity of oil, an ingredient that, back in the day, was not common in every house.
Carciofi alla Giudia recipe: ingredients for 4 people
- 4 Roman artichokes. There are many types of artichokes, but for this recipe, they need to be the Roman type that in Italy is also known as “mammole”. They are round-shaped and without thorns, unlike the Sardinian artichokes that are thinner and more elongated and have thorns. If you can’t find this type of artichoke, pick a local variety from your area, better if it has a “meaty” heart, it’s fresh just harvested and has quite of hard skin.
- Oil to deep-fry. Some use extra-virgin olive oil, some a lighter oil such as sunflower seeds or peanut. I usually prefer to deep fry with a good quality olive oil.
- Salt. To taste.
- 1 lemon. This is not for cooking but to preserve the artichokes once you cut them, so no need to look for particular types of lemon, any will work just fine.
- Water. This is needed to preserve the artichokes with the lemon and lightly sprinkle on the artichokes after the first cooking. More of this below in the steps of the recipe.
Carciofi alla Giudia: steps and instructions
This fried artichokes recipe of the Kosher food tradition is not difficult and doesn’t even require arcane ingredients. But that’s probably why you should pay attention to the quality of the products you use.
- Clean the artichokes. This is an important step because you need to remove the outer leaves that are too hard until you reach the inner and clearer leaves, so the first two or three layers. When done, chop the stalk some 5 cm from the head. Don’t throw out the rest of the stalk because it’s delicious. Just remove the hard, outer layer and fry it together with the artichokes.
- Wash them properly. After washing each one of your Roman artichokes, place them in a bowl full of water and the lemon cut in half for at least 10 minutes to avoid them becoming dark. Once done, shake off all the excess water and slightly press or gently hit the artichokes so that the leaves start stretching out.
- Heat up abundant oil on a high-sided pan, dip the artichokes head down and deep fry them for about 10 minutes.
- When cooked, place them on oil-absorbing paper until colder.
- Once cold, you need to briefly fry them again. This time, fry them for no more than 2-3 minutes and gently press them. The first time you fry them it’s to cook them, the second time, to make them crispy like chips.
Tips for a perfect result
Water or no water
For the second frying, some suggest sprinkling cold water and then dipping them in hot oil so that the reaction will make the leaves open like a flower, which is the typical shape of carciofi alla giudia. However, this step will inevitably make hot oil splash everywhere, so either be careful or fry the artichokes for the second time without sprinkling them with cold water.
Check the time
Be careful when you fry the artichokes for the second time. It shouldn’t be for more than 2 or 3 minutes. Some even do it for only one minute on very hot oil to avoid burning them.
When ready, place them on a kitchen towel or oil-absorbing paper but not for long because they need to be served very hot.