I cardoni di nonno Luigi – Cardoni gratinati con pomodori, olive e parmigiano

cardons2webcardons3webcardonswebI wanted to give a little “hommage” to this wonderful vegetable that seems to be unknown or almost unknown. Anytime I get to the cash register, either the cashier or the person in line behind me asks me about what those are, and how to cook them. This morning when I was asked “how do you eat them”? I responded “oh I cook them”, then I realized that was not the right answer.

When winter comes, I get so excited because I find them in the store, (not sure why they’re only available in California in this time of year, in France and Italy they’re mainly available during spring time because in winter they tend to freeze if the temperatures are too low) as a matter of fact, that excitement was so high that I bought three of them yesterday and went back again today to buy two more! not a good idea since they are using all the bottom shelf of my refrigerator.

Cardoni are very special to me, they remind me of my childhood and my grandfather who was the gardener in the family. He planted those in our garden and would always come home to distribute those beautiful vegetables for to the whole family. They’re mainly eaten in Italy, many French people don’t know what it is, or maybe in the South of France, they’re more popular.

They look like a huge celeri but taste like artichokes, and are from the artichoke family. They have a very small calories per serving, are high in fibers and taste deliciously “artichoky”.

My mom called them gobbi (which is the other Italian name), she used to prepare them with chunks of beef in umido along with potatoes. Umido is a cooking method that consists of cooking food at a very low temperature while adding some liquid to the dish. She used to put some tomato sauce and that was one of my favorite dish because of all the bread you could dip in the sauce. You can prepare them in a gratin style, or sauté or even with breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and baked, or any way you like.

This is a quite simple recipe but very flavorful and light, just a few ingredients are enough for cardoni.

Ingredients for 2 or 3

  • 1 large cardoni
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and seedless
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 kalamata olives, chopped
  • 3 tbs parmigiano reggiano, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs olive oil


Detach from the heart each cardoni stem. Wash them and remove the leafy edges from top to bottom, like if you would peel them. Cut in about 2 inches chunks.

Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil, then add cardoni. Cook until they’re tender but not too soft. Drain and set aside

In the meantime and while cardoni are cooking, prepare the tomato fondue. In a pan, heat olive oil, add crushed garlic, stir for a while to get the flavor out, then add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook at medium heat until the tomatoes start to become soft but not mushy. Add olives.

Place cardoni in a baking tray, add tomato fondue and sprinkle with parmesan.

Cook in a pre-heated oven at about 360F-370F for about 20-30 minutes or until the top has turned golden brown.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve as a side dish or as a main vegetable dish.