Little chokeless artichokes and tiny new potatoes are best for this dish, which is an Easter classic in many parts of Southern Italy, celebrating spring and the renewal of the earth. You can double the recipe if you want to serve a larger group.A word about trimming baby artichokes: Since these small vegetables have not yet developed their chokes, you need only pull off their tough outer leaves until you get to the tender, light-green ones. But be thorough enough so you don’t wind up biting down on anything indigestible. Trim the top, and trim and peel the stem. Then place the trimmed artichokes in a big bowl of cold water with the juice of a large lemon until you’re ready to cook them.
Extra virgin olive oil
2 thin slices pancetta, well chopped
2 dozen baby artichokes, trimmed (see above) and placed in a bowl of cold water with the juice of 1 large lemon
4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
Freshly ground black pepper
A dozen small red potatoes, cut in half
A splash of dry white wine
A squeeze of lemon juice
A few large sprigs of fresh mint, the leaves chopped
Shavings of young Pecorino cheese
In a large skillet, heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and sauté it until it’s just starting to crisp. Drain the artichokes well and add them to the skillet. Sauté, uncovered, until lightly golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic about halfway through the sautéing, so it doesn’t burn. Season with salt and black pepper, cover the pan, lower the heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until the artichokes are just fork tender (you should be able to do this without adding liquid, but if the artichokes start to stick or burn, add a splash of white wine).
While the artichokes are cooking, blanch the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain them well.
When the artichokes are almost tender, uncover the pan, add the potatoes, and cook both vegetables together for a few minutes to blend their flavors and to lightly brown the potatoes. Add a splash of white wine and let it boil away. Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice, and reseason with a touch of salt and a few fresh grindings of black pepper. Scatter on the mint and give everything a gentle toss. Place in a serving bowl and shave the Pecorino over the top.