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A Lusciously Cheesy Artichoke Pasta Inspired by My Favorite Midnight Snack

Cheesy baked pasta in a pan.
Rocky Luten

Even if I’ve had a full dinner—complete with many servings from the breadbasket, a salad (for good measure), some sort of hearty main dish, and dessert—the second the clock strikes midnight, I mysteriously and instantaneously become hungry again.

This dark magic is, unsurprisingly, at its most powerful after a few Taco Tuesday margaritas or unnaturally blue fish bowl–style “cocktails.” (Try not to judge me.) My favorite midnight snack, also unsurprisingly, is pizza. But I’m not talking about a plain old cheese pizza, no. I’m talking about the signature slice from the New York–based pizza wizards at Artichoke Basille’s.

Doused in a rich, thick, absurdly creamy sauce flecked with hunks of artichoke hearts and strands of wilted spinach, and baked until just golden brown with sprinkles of mozzarella on top, their namesake pie is the most decadent combination of carbs and dairy I have ever come across. It was a glorious case of love at first bite. And ever since we met, it’s been my go-to late-night snack.

I was blessed lucky enough to live within walking distance from Artichoke Basille’s for many years, until approximately 683 days ago when I relocated to New York City’s Upper East Side. For the uninitiated, there are many locations throughout the city, but they are almost exclusively located downtown or in Brooklyn (and most definitely not within walking distance from my current fifth-floor walk-up). So despite my deep passion for this sumptuous, soul-satisfying slice, I’ve only had it a handful of times since moving.

Until recently.

A few weeks ago, I had a strong and sudden craving for the stuff—the doughy crust, the gooey cheese, the spinach-and-artichoke-y goodness. But it also happened to be snowing, meaning a 31-minute journey by subway was out of the question. A trip to the Fairway Market across the street, however, was not.

My original plan was to try and recreate the pizza, but there wasn’t any pre-made dough in sight, so I decided to make the next best thing: pasta. I flipped through my taste memories (and texted my best friend, Julian, who is also an Artichoke Basille’s disciple) and assembled a lineup of ingredients—milk, cream, cream cheese, mozzarella, garlic and onion powder, canned artichokes, spinach, and basil—that had to at least be close to what they use in the real thing. To get that essential bready element in there, I grabbed a loaf of fluffy focaccia to bake on top.

Julian, intrigued by my experiment, made the 10-minute journey from his apartment to mine and we quickly got to cooking. Using Martha Stewart’s Genius-approved macaroni and cheese as a model, I made a luscious cheese sauce (cream cheese included) and started adding dashes of onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes by the half-teaspoon until it tasted, well, delicious. Then, we dumped in the artichoke hearts (plus a splash of their juices, for tang), some grilled chicken I had leftover for heft (as if it needed any), and mixed in the spinach, basil, and penne rigate.

I took another cue from Martha’s recipe and tore the focaccia into chunks and tossed them in melted butter before sprinkling them, as well as a generous handful of mozzarella and basil, over the entire surface area of my concoction. After that, all we had to was bake it for about 30 minutes and wait … impatiently. Hot out of the oven, we quickly served ourselves a slice—er, portion—and dug in.

Was it a perfect replica? Of course not. But it had everything I loved about the pizza—the sauce was velvety and flavorful with just a tiny bit of bite from the artichokes and red pepper, the melted mozzarella gave me that coveted “cheese pull” effect, and the crispy focaccia offered the illusion of crust without having to make a dough from scratch. The best part of all: I didn’t have to leave the house, or even wait in line.

Creamy, Cheesy Artichoke & Chicken Pasta Bake

Serves 4 to 6.

• 1 pound penne rigate
• 4 thick slices ciabatta or focaccia, torn into 1/2-inch cubes
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (plus more for greasing the baking dish)
• 1/2 pound grilled chicken breast, torn into large chunks
• 3 tablespoons flour
• 3 cups whole milk
• 2 cups cream
• 3 1/2 cups shredded, low-moisture mozzarella, divided
• 2 tablespoons cream cheese
• 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, torn and divided
• 2 (6 1/2-ounce) jars marinated and quarter-cut artichoke hearts, drained (for more tang, reserve some of the liquid)
• 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach

See the full recipe on Food52.

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