Artichoke feast in Torricchio, Tuscany.

Sagra del Carciofo Fritto


How many towns in the world can claim to be a one monk town? My guess is, not many, but Torricchio (MAP), just near Uzzano in the provence of Pistoia can, and it seems they are very proud of the monastery and the part it has played in the town’s heritage.

The tiny Uzzano town

On the face of it, this Sagra (celebration) is held by the monastery, but how can one aging Cappuccini monk organize such a massive party for the locals? These days the monastery lends the town it’s kitchens, gardens and dining areas where a feast can take place.

Outdoor, shady dining in the monastery's gardens.

This Sagra is named the Sagra del Carciofo Fritto, (Celebration of the Fried Artichoke) and is usually held over a week to coincide with the May 1 holiday. I was expecting only fried artichokes but there was a full artichoke menu with all the favourites. Probing some of the locals I found that the most common and traditional way to consume artichokes in the time of their childhood was in a pasta al forno, (baked pasta) similar to the lasagne recipe I‘ve already posted.

The full menu for the day.

Of course the fried artichoke had to be present at an event like this but not much changes in this recipe except slight variations on the batter. The best one we’ve found so far is the simply, flour, salt and water.

Ornella, captain in the kitchen.

The event is in its 36th year, so they’ve had some time to make sure it’s a well organized affair. Alice and I decided to try a few things that we hadn’t seen on the menus of other sagre and had a little take away picnic on the edge of the monastery gardens. For me the surprise dish was the fresh parmiggiana. Raw artichoke hearts, sliced thinly and simply dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Tossed together with small slices of Parmiggiano cheese and served as an appetizer, it could easily be served at any stage of a meal as it is light, fresh and cleansing.

Our picnic selections.

Alice happily tucked into her Bocconcini ai Carciofi and it’s this recipe which I’d like post today.

Bocconcini ai Carciofi


Bocca means mouth in Italian. Bocconcini means something like bite size, so you may have bocconcini of various things like meats or cheeses etc.

Ingredients

600g / 1.3lbs turkey breast
6 artichokes
1 tablespoon flour
50g / 1.8ozbutter
1 glass white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper

Method

Cut the turkey breast into bocconcini (bite size pieces)

Clean and prepare the artichokes and slice them thinly or cut them into small wedges and place straight into lemon water so they don’t discolour.

Melt half the butter in a large heavy based pan and fry off the turkey pieces.

Do this in batches if your pan is not large enough.

Once the turkey has browned, pour in the white wine and allow to evapourate.

Sprinkle the flour over the turkey and stir through.

Add the bay leaf and the stock.

Reduce the heat and allow to simmer away gently as the liquid thickens and stir occasionally.

In a separate pan melt the remaining butter and begin to fry off the artichokes drained of their lemon water.

Cover with a lid and continue cooking, occasionally stirring or tossing, for a further 20-25 minutes.

You may find it necessary to add a little water at times to keep the pan moist.

Season to taste with salt.

Add the turkey and artichokes together in one of the pans and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the bay leaf and serve.

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