Moretto Artichoke of Brisighella

Carciofo Moretto di Brisighella

Looking more like ammunition for a medieval catapult than an edible food, these particular artichokes were pretty much unknown of before about 10 years ago. Around Brisighella, (MAP) these spiky little buds have been able to make a home of the rough, uneven, hard clay terrain and eroded hills (called Calanchi). In this terrain they have been able to inhabit and thrive virtually as a wild thistle. Whoever it was that originally thought about them as a source of food must have had to undress them in the times before the modern day gardening glove.

Above Brisighella township.

The word on the streets of Brisighella is that before this artichoke became a viable part of the local economy, it was only known of and eaten within a few of the farming families who had suitable terrain for it to grow on. It was never seen as a commercial viability because it is small, spiky, very sensitive to the cold and usually renders very small yields. Until one day, some locals realised that it was unique to their area so why not try cultivating it and promote it as a distinctive local product. And so it became know as the Carciofo Moretto di Brisighella.

Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower)

As for the Sagra, let me begin by just saying that Brisighella is worthy of a visit regardless of any event it may be holding.  It has a medieval historical centre high above it’s beautiful little township, where you can wander around the streets and stumble upon awesome little treasures like the towns only bric a brac shop (mercatino). Brisighella is not inundated with a massive flow of tourists even though it is known as a spa town and holds a biennale medieval food feasting weekend party in September.

The ubiquitous poppy all throughout spring festivals.

Some of the hardcore Artichoke Blog fans will know that the previous year, I drove 5 hours from Torino to this artichoke celebration only to be told that it had been postponed due to the late cold and consequent lack of artichokes.  This year I was arriving by train from Florence (1½  hours).  As I got off the train there was an unmistakable smell of roasting meat in the air and following the scent, it lead me to the epicentre of the artichoke movement in town.

The smell of this roasting lamb wafted through the whole town.

This year, the organisers pressed on through the cold and hoarded whatever produce they had, so they could go ahead with the sagra as they planned for May 1 and 2. The weatherman was again to blame for constant rain and cold on the weekend, which meant that the event was poorly attended.

This many people...

devoured this lamb.

The full menu.

As I wandered the streets I ran into a very enthusiastic local restaurant owner and her chef who both said that, by far, the best way to eat this artichoke was to have in pinzimonio, raw with a dressing. I found these artichokes quite astringent leaving the tongue and mouth dry. If you don’t mind this you can peel each leaf off, one by one and dip them into olive oil as you go. Marinating them raw in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt overnight, takes away most of that acerbic sensation and leaves you to enjoy the fresh artichoke flavour. Brisighella also boasts their own production of olive oil which they insist is the best to marry with their artichokes.

Osteria della Fonte gave their recipe for the artichoke in pinzimonio.

Marinated artichokes served simply with some fresh oiled bread.

If you are ever considering something other than the usual Italian tourist destinations, make sure you think about Brisighella, It’s close to Ravenna, Florence and not far from the Adriatic coast. The town is unique in more ways than most and is a hidden little treasure to discover.

Towering above the streets.

The one of a kind Via degli Assini (way of the donkeys)


La Rocca Manfrediana fortress and vineyard.


The Artichoke Blog

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4 Responses to “Moretto Artichoke of Brisighella”

  1. mikey says:

    it looks big for a lamb but I assure you it’s agnello allo spiedo,(check the menu) there’s also a map link to Brisighella in the post. I have to make a itinerary map sometime soon to indicate the journey you can follow artichokes around Italy. Thanks Giacomo

  2. Giacomo says:

    Not sure that looks quite like a lamb in the photo up there… )caption: “The smell of this roasting lamb wafted through the whole town.”). Otherwise would be nice to post a map to see where all your artichokes come from, am curious to visualize where in the World is Brisighella…! well done!

  3. mikey says:

    Great to hear that you love Brisighella. Thanks for a few details about the herb market and the fruit fair I’ve never known about. If you want to go to the Sagra del Caciofo make sure you call the Ufficio di Turismo. They are very helpful and keep in touch with them even until the week before because they can easily change their plans. Enjoy

  4. terry says:

    Oh Brisighella, love that town!!!
    i visit it nearly every year when i go in a place near there, Casola Valsenio, for the herb market they do every friday of july and august…..or in october for the forgotten fruit fair!… every time a trip to Brisighella is a must! …next time i’ll go in the right season to search for this special artichoke!:)
    Love their DOP extra virgin olive oil too!

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