A 4-Ingredient Salad, from Tuscany Right to Your Plate


In spring, insalata di carciofi makes an appearance on trattoria menus across Tuscany. This antipasto is also a very simple and very quick one to make at home, containing thinly sliced artichokes, a good sprinkling of your best salt, and some shavings of Parmesan cheese, an excellent foil for the astringency of raw artichokes. Tart lemon juice and a rather peppery olive oil round things off nicely. It goes with everything from fish to meat, and could be a meal on its own—perhaps plumped out with a heavy ball of burrata, some really good anchovies, and crusty bread.

da9003 a8cd b7565daca7e2 artichoke salad IMG 7450 A 4 Ingredient Salad, from Tuscany Right to Your Plate
Raw artichoke salad
Photo by Emiko Davies

In Italy we are spoiled with the most wonderful artichokes—they are native, after all. Every market and roadside stall is brimming with piles of long-stemmed artichokes spilling out over their crates at this time of year, perhaps soon to be stuffed and braised, or baked, or cooked in a medley of spring vegetables, or trimmed into a rose-like shape and deep fried whole alla giudia, a specialty of the Roman ghetto.

ff4e5c06 e57a 404a 8a3a 83de599e69e9  artichoke salad IMG 7437 A 4 Ingredient Salad, from Tuscany Right to Your Plate

Photo by Emiko Davies

First, you want to choose good artichokes. Here in Tuscany, you most commonly find the dark purple kind with a pointed head and tiny thorns on each leaf. For this raw salad, you want lovely, young, tender artichokes rather than older, hairy, tough ones that do better when cooked. Give them a little squeeze in the palm of your hand—young artichokes should be firm, not springy.

When you’re ready to prepare them, have ready a large bowl of cold water with half a lemon squeezed into it. Keep the other lemon half handy for rubbing any cut parts of the artichoke as you go (and squeezing the juice over as a dressing in the final stage). Artichokes oxidize when exposed to the air, and you will want to make sure they don’t go black for this pretty, raw and simple salad; so use that lemon well. Then, peel the leaves off one by one until you reach the most tender and pale-yellow colored leaves. It will look like you’re throwing away a lot of the artichoke, but you won’t feel bad once you’ve accidentally tried to eat the hard, woody, spiky, essentially inedible tough outer leaves. Pull them all off without regret.

7abe7e3d ede2 4f32 b875 8bde51bdeff7  artichoke salad IMG 7438 A 4 Ingredient Salad, from Tuscany Right to Your Plate
a8b81919 3603 41d7 95bc 203094e7ba74  artichoke salad IMG 7441 A 4 Ingredient Salad, from Tuscany Right to Your Plate
Trim down to the pale, soft leaves and take out the choke with a teaspoon.
Photos by Emiko Davies, Emiko Davies

The only thing slightly difficult about this salad is choosing what to drink with it. White wine will amplify the ‘greenness’ of the raw artichokes, and red will bring out their tannin-like astringency. Or—you could go orange. It may be best, though, to leave wine out for this course and go with a cool glass of water, which you will notice will taste so very sweet after a few bites of insalata di carciofi.

a9280b91 112f 4421 9cb6 8b16143f5e1f  artichoke salad IMG 7895 blog A 4 Ingredient Salad, from Tuscany Right to Your Plate

Raw artichoke salad

By Emiko

  • 4-5
    medium sized artichokes

  • 1

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • extra virgin olive oil, for serving

  • 1
    handful Parmesan cheese shavings

View Full Recipe