Carciofo Bianco di Pertosa

The White Artichoke of Pertosa


Who said old-fashioned hospitality was dead? In Pertosa Alice and I were treated to a day of the most enthusiastic generosity you could imagine.  We were greeted by the young and energetic Giuseppe Lupo who, among many things, acts as the local councilor for agriculture in his hometown.

The biggest artichoke enthusiast and Councillor for Agriculture in Pertosa, Giuseppe Lupo.

We met him at about 11AM in the main piazza where they hold their annual artichoke sagra and left town at about 5pm. In that time we tried nine different preparations of the local Carciofo Bianco (White Artichoke), which is one of only four artichokes in the world to meet the criteria and be listed as a Slowfood Presidium.(English page)

Three generations on one plant are the Mammarelle (largest) Figli (the second) and Nipoti (smallest)

I have travelled around most of Italy with this blog project and the places I haven’t been to yet are on the schedule before the artichoke season ends. Up until now the Carciofo Bianco di Pertosa is my favourite. I think it is the cutest to look at, it doesn’t become gigantic but remains small, compact and firm. It has no spiky fur at all, which makes it a joy to prepare and especially to eat. It is the most tender of all artichokes and sweet, unlike any other, making it the most ideal of all artichokes to eat raw. With the exception of roasting them directly on coals I would say that these are probably the most versatile artichokes available.

Antipasto with raw Carciofo Bianco and shaved pecorino cheese.

Our first stop with Giuseppe was a small plantation cared for by his dad and we had turned up just in time to sample some young artichokes, being prepared by his aunt, which were destined to marinate under oil.

Small part of an artichoke plantation run by Benedetto Lupo

The smallest artichokes "nipoti" are used for marinating under oil.

a nearby plantation

Another nearby plantation.

We visited a few more plantations for some photos and then went to the main tourist attraction of Pertosa, the Grotto dell’ Angelo.  We sat down for a taste of some artichoke paté on crostini and marinated artichokes with some olives.

Carciofi Bianco di Pertosa Paté

At the entrance of the grotto we met a group of movers and shakers in the local artichoke world of Pertosa as they returned form a media picnic inside the grotto. This is where we tried them raw for the first in a basic dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and water.

From left to right: Esmeralda Caggiano ,Pucciarelli , Maria Lucia Castellucci, Gennaro Castellucci , Vincenza Pucciarelli , Giuseppe Lupo (Councillor for Agriculture, Comune di Pertosa), GiovanniPucciarelli(president Carciofo Bianco di Pertosa consortium) Don't they look proud of their produce?

Lunch was at Zia Marianna’s restaurant where we were honoured guests of the city sitting down to a degustation menu of several artichoke dishes typically made in Pertosa.

Giuseppe Lupo and Maria De Luca from Zia Marianna Restaurant with an Artichoke Frittata and Sauted Artichokes

But that wasn’t enough, after lunch we visited Giuseppe’s mum where we were offered some Torta Rustica still warm from the baking. Unlike other Rusticas, this one has only artichokes, some crumbled sausage meat and baked in puff pastry.

Torta Rustica

We left Giuseppe’s mum’s with plenty of gifts that could feed us for the following week and made a quick dash by the communal kitchen, which I now believe every town should have, where we were treated to the last and most essential dish of all, carciofo imbottito (stuffed artichoke)

From Left to right in the comunal kitchen: Barba Domenico (Deputy Mayor of Pertosa), Rosa Morrone, Maria Grazia Panzella, Esmeralda Caggiano, Giuseppe Lupo

Carciofo Bianco Di Pertosa Imbottito (courtesy of the Conzorzio del Carciofo Bianco)

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 large artichokes

150g grated pecorino cheese

crustless bread from about 3 panini

garlic (finely chopped)

parsley (finely chopped)

pancetta or proscuitto crudo (finely chopped)

4 eggs

Method

Remove a few of the outer, tougher leaves of the artichoke. and clean up the attached stem.

Place straight into lemon water.

Prepare the stuffing by soaking the white of the bread in some water and then wringing it out with your fingers.

In a bowl mix together the cheese, parsley, garlic , pancetta, the white of the bread and eggs.

Mix it until you have a very dense paste.

Gently spread the outer artichoke leaves to make room for the stuffing and tip upside down to drain any excess water.

Now put the stuffing into the spaces between the leaves and into the middle of the artichoke.

Gently heat some olive oil in a large high edge pan.

Place in the artichoke with the stem upwards. This will seal the stuffing.

When the bottom surface has browned turn them over onto their sides.

Add enough water to almost cover them and cover the pan with a lid.

Simmer away while occasionally turning them over.

Continue cooking this way until the water has evapourated.

They Are ready.

Driving into Pertosa

This town absolutely believes in what makes it unique and quite rightly is proud of their Carciofo Bianco. They are set in an agricultural territory in the Celento National Park and wisely value nature and natural goodness in their cuisine. Driving around Pertosa was a real joy and felt like it was haven where the locals maintain an attitude and have made a real effort not to allow the modern ailments of modern and frenetic lifestyles reach this part of the world. Their artichoke festival (Sagra del Carciofo Bianco) held on the 8th & 9th May in the main town piazza would have to be one of the most rewarding events to attend if you are interested in artichokes or simply if you want to be a in a special place in the world.

Below is the  Semifreddo of Carciofo Bianco by Vitantonio Lombardo of Locanda Severino

Semifreddo al carciofo bianco di Pertosa su salsa di cioccolato bianco alla maggiorana e Pistacchi di Bronte.

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