This Italian artichoke salad is made with raw fresh artichokes. Early in their season (winter or spring), they are so tender you don't need to cook them. Crunchy and nutty, they are mixed with a fresh salad, topped with Parmesan cheese flakes, and seasoned with salt, extra virgin olive oil, and authentic Italian balsamic vinegar. This simple dish is so distinctive that it can serve as a unique appetizer.
Eating raw artichokes is very common in Italy, especially early in their season, in Autumn or Spring.
This salad was made with Spike Artichokes which are in season in Autumn in the Ligurian region.
If you don't know how good they are, you won't buy them as they are full of spikes and not very inviting.
However, once you have removed the spikes and the hard leaves, those artichokes are very tender and sweet; you don't have to cook them.
The best artichokes to eat raw are the small fresh variety like Baby Anzio, Violetta, and Fiesole.
Raw artichokes are crunchy, nutty and sweet.
They can be added to a salad or eaten as crudites dipped in mayo or simply in extra virgin olive oil.
Italian favorite salads are often very simple, made with exceptional seasonal produce, and "they" are the star of the plate.
I like to make this salad with very simple ingredients as you really want to taste the sweet flavor of the artichoke.
I use only fresh ingredients: sweet salad greens like mesclun or romaine lettuce then I add Parmesan cheese flakes, which combine well with artichokes.
For seasoning, I use a very simple Italian salad dressing made with salt, extra virgin olive oil, and good-quality Balsamic vinegar.
How to clean an artichoke
Cleaning whole artichokes is easy even if time-consuming, but definitely worth the effort.
Before you get started, wear a pair of dispensable gloves as artichokes stain. Prepare a bowl with fresh water and lemon juice and get a short sharp knife.
Then follow the instructions below:
- First, remove the external hard leaves, until the yellow flesh appears.
- Then remove all the dark green tops of the leaves which have no meat and end with spikes.
- Last, you peel off the green layer of the steam.
- Immediately immerse the artichokes in water and fresh lemon juice; otherwise, they turn black.
- Cut the artichokes into quarters
- Remove the internal leaves
- Slice the raw artichokes into thin slices
Assembling the salad
- Place on the salad bowl some tender salad leaves
- Lay over the sliced artichoke
- Add some freshly shredded Parmesan
- Season with salt, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil
- Drizzle some balsamic vinegar
How to serve it
Even if this is a simple salad, it is unique in its combination of flavors and ingredients.
This raw artichoke salad perfectly stands by itself as a starter.
Italian Raw artichoke
The artichoke, which was derived from wild thistle, arrived in Italy in the 15th century.
It was created through grafting, a process tested in the Middle East and developed by Italian horticulturists.
During this period, the artichoke became a sought-after vegetable at the table of the most affluent Italians.
At a time when Italians were passionate about raw vegetables, even artichokes were served raw.
In 1581 Montaigne, one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance noted in the Travel Journal that "throughout Italy, they give you raw broad beans, peas, green almonds, and leave the artichokes almost raw".
Raw artichokes substitution
If you cannot find artichokes you can eat raw, I would suggest substituting them with grilled preserved artichokes.
These artichokes have a distinctive flavor that adds interest to the salad without requiring any additional ingredients.
I never use plain marinated artichoke hearts or canned artichokes in salad as their flavor is too watery and vinegary.
Marinated artichokes do not have the same delicate flavor and, therefore, can be used for a more complex salad by adding different ingredients like black olives, red onion, red peppers, or cherry tomatoes.
More recipes with artichokes
- Pizza with artichokes and scamorza
- Roman artichokes in the pressure cooker
- Hot Artichoke Dip With Parmesan And Garlic
- Broad bean minestra
Classic Italian dressing
Outside Italy, you find Italian salad dressing bottled and ready to use.
That is not what we would use in Italy.
Our salad dressings are very simple and, therefore, always made fresh.
Giacomo Castelvetro, a travel writer exiled to England for his Protestant beliefs, penned about the "legge insalatesca" in 1614. This concept, which translates to the Salad Law, advises that a salad should be well-salted, lightly dressed with vinegar, and generously oiled. Living in a country with a primarily meat-based diet, Castelvetro felt a sense of longing and nostalgia for the humble salad.
The main ingredients for an Italian vegetable salad are:
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil in abundance. Italian would not use canola oil in their salad
- Vinegar: traditionally, we use a small amount of red wine vinegar, occasionally balsamic vinegar. Sometimes we substitute vinegar with fresh lemon juice. We normally do not add vinegar or balsamic to a fresh tomato salad or Caprese
- We may add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to spice it up
We would never use garlic powder, red pepper flakes or raw garlic cloves in a salad dressing.
What is balsamic vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar is very different from regular vinegar as it is more complex to make and requires at least 12 to 25 years to mature.
The balsamic vinegar you buy at the supermarket is probably not real balsamic vinegar. The low price cannot justify the real procedure of Balsamic vinegar.
Check the labels, and make sure it is Made in Modena and a DOC.
You can use the supermarket Balsamic vinegar for cooking; that is fine.
But if you want to use it for seasoning a fresh salad, you should try the real one.
I buy mine at the Acetaia San Giacomo and you can find it on Amazon.
What is EVOO oil?
At first, I was very confused when I saw the name EVOO, then I realized that it is the short name for Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
But do you really know what Extra Virgin means?
Olive oil to be called Extra Virgin has to have specific characteristics.
"First cold-pressed olive oil" meaning:
- it is the oil extracted from the first pressing of the olive
- the olive pressing should be mechanic and at temperatures not above 27 C - 80 F
- acidity level should be below 0.8% per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Simple virgin olive oil has an acidity limit of 2% per 100 g (3.5 oz) measured by instruments.
The quality of the extra virgin olive oil, instead, is based on organoleptic measurements done by experts tasting.
Difference between extra virgin olive oil and olive oil
Regular olive oil is extracted with chemical processes to eliminate organoleptic defects.
After this process, the oil loses its color and taste, it is therefore mixed with extra virgin olive oil to give back the resemblance of olive oil.
The amount of extra virgin olive oil added is just the minimum necessary.
Using a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil is very important; it can completely change the flavor of any recipe.
I use extra virgin olive oil when I add it raw, but I never use virgin olive oil to make homemade mayonnaise; it just doesn’t work.
This chart, created by ‘Jamie’s Italian,’ beautifully describes the different types of olive oil, where it comes from, and how professionals taste it.
The chart is very comprehensive in its explanation and description.
Storing extra virgin olive oil
Fortunately, several of my relatives produce olive oil, and every year my mother sends me 2.5 gallons - 10 liters. So I am always certain about the quality of my olive oil.
In October, olive oil is pressed, and we always wait for the new harvest to stock up for the year.
After one year, the olive oil loses its flavor and increases in acidity, so we never buy more than 10 liters. If needed, we buy more during the year.
Olive oil should be stored in a dark container that is light-resistant. That is why it is sold in cans or greenish bottles.
I pour the virgin olive oil into small bottles every week to bring it to the table.
Sometimes I flavor it with hot chili or infuse garlic or herbs.
However, I use it within two days or add some lemon to prevent the risk of botulism (toxic bacteria).
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📋 Raw Italian Artichoke Salad Recipe With Parmesan Cheese
Cleaning the artichoke
- Prepare a bowl of fresh water and lemon juice and wear rubber gloves1 lemon juice
- To clean the artichokes, first remove the steam1 spiny artichoke
- Then remove the external hard leaves, until the yellow flesh appears.
- Peel off the green layer of the steam.
- Remove all the dark green tops of the leaves which have no meat and end with spikes.
- Cut the artichokes into quarters
- Cut the internal leaves
- Immediately immerse the artichokes in water and lemon otherwise they turn black
Compose the salad
- Put on the plate some tender salad leaves2 cups salad
- Slice the artichokes over the sald
- Add some freshly shredded Parmesan1 tablespoon shredded parmesan
- Season with salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, salt
- Drizzle a good balsamic vinegar1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Before you get started, wear a pair of dispensable gloves as artichokes stain. Prepare a bowl with fresh water and lemon juice.
- Not all artichokes can be eaten raw,make sure you are baying the right one