(Re)iterating Bertolli’s baby artichokes, olives, meatballs and sage

Meatballs & artichokes

We found this recipe in Chez Panisse Cooking while looking for a creative way to use some semi-impulse-bought baby artichokes. (They were from Castroville and on special at Whole Foods. Even die-hard locavores couldn’t resist.) We were initially attracted by the interesting mix of ingredients, a step up from our previous effort. Then we were intrigued by Paul Bertolli’s perplexing introduction. Telling us his mother “used marinated artichokes and a type of green Spanish olive ” he “can’t find anymore,” Bertolli goes on to say his version “doesn’t taste quite the same.” Further deepening the mystery, Bertolli merely specifies “green olives,” leaving us in the dark about what taste (oregano? metallic?) may have been missing from his version.

Left to our own devices, we chose garlic-marinated green olives. Because we like garlic. And because they were the only pre-pitted variety available at the grocery near Michelle’s office. We omitted the called-for cherry tomatoes because it’s not yet their season, but found fresh sage from some hardy overwintered stuff sprouting outside our kitchen door. The meatballs were easy, because we had some stashed in the freezer. Steve made eggy, thick noodles to go with the broth-braised chokes and meat. Without too much (OK, some) trouble, our definition of this Chez Panisse dish was done.

Should we stumble on some more baby artichokes we may very well make this again. If it’s during tomato season, we’ll probably throw some cherries into the mix and see what happens. Perhaps it’s not exactly what Mama Bertolli wanted, but we think iteration is the sincerest form of flattery. (That is how the saying goes, isn’t it?)

Meatballs & artichokes (1)


(adapted from Paul Bertolli’s Chez Panisse Cooking)

  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced in half moon shapes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 to 1-1/2 lbs. baby artichokes
  • 12 meatballs*
  • 1/3 c. coarsely chopped green olives
  • 1 TB coarsely chopped sage
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350°.

Sauté onions in 1 TB olive oil until softened but not browned.  Season with salt and pepper. Add 3/4 of the garlic slices and toss. Transfer to a 1-1/2 quart baking dish.

Fill a medium bowl halfway with water. Add half of the lemon juice to the water. Cut off tops of artichokes. Remove outer leaves. Cut off stems. Pare away the green parts of the bases. Cut artichokes into quarters and place in the lemon water.

Lightly brown meatballs in olive oil in a skillet. Then, set them atop the onions and garlic in the baking dish.

Drain the artichokes. Toss them with remaining garlic slices, remaining lemon juice, olives, sage, a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Distribute the artichoke mixture around the meatballs. Pour stock over. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour.

Serve with fresh egg noodles which have been tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese.

* Use whatever sort of meatballs you want. We make ours much like Conor Bofin’s recipe, with the addition of ground veal.



  1. Eha

    What a very interesting recipe! Have never made anything even vaguely similar, but it is more than appealing. Now to wait for our spring and artichokes 🙂 !

    • Aw, thanks, Greg! One day we’ll take photos of us standing at the kitchen island eating some really prosaic thing. But I’d hate to ruin the fantasy. 🙂

  2. Daria

    I’ve got to say, I’d read your blog even if I was’t a gastronaut – I love your use of language, your writing style is whimsical, creative, interesting! And, then there’s the FOOD!!!

  3. ” … semi-impulse-bought baby artichokes ” I have some on my counter, the 3rd time I’ve bought some in as many weeks. I cannot pass them by when I see them. You prepared an amazing dish, Michelle, with a wonderful mix of flavors. And anything served over noodles dressed in butter and Parmesan is aces with me!

    • Thanks, John. We’ve gone sort of baby artichoke crazy here. I can’t believe we’re finding them at all, much less so cheap at Whole Foods. And you’re exactly right—I can’t think of a thing in the world that butter and Parmesan don’t improve.

  4. Oh, I see, Gourmandistan gets baby artichokes (form Castroville!) while the rest of us get the softball-sized variety. Very nice for you indeed. 🙂 Sounds like a fresh take on artichokes, worth trying. Thanks. Ken

  5. Ah Castroville! I spent an eventful weekend there may years ago researching a novel — ate at the Giant Artichoke, met with the Artichoke Growers Association, went to the Artichoke Festival and Parade, and danced with the Artichoke Queen. It may be my favorite thistle.

    The quote in the front of my novel:

    “It is good for a man to eat thistles and remember he is an ass.”
    –E.S. Dallas

  6. I’ve seen some artichokes lately in the vegetable section of the supermarket and was wondering if I buy them what would I do with it, now I have the answer.

  7. Love everything about this, except the olives. I just don’t like olives. Not even one little bit. I can do black olives, but not green olives. The artichokes might persuade me to overlook them, no, on second thought, just can’t do those green globes.

Leave a Reply to Michelle Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: