Stuffed Artichokes Ragusa Style

 (“Carciofi Ripieni alla Ragusana")
("Cacocciuli Chini co' Cascavaddu Rausanu")

 

Ragusa is one of the most prosperous Sicilian provinces. An active agricultural, industrial and commercial center with a high standard of living, occupies a territory blessed with mild and temperate seasons resembling the character of the easy going people living there.
The Baroque style, typical of the nobles’ palaces and of the numerous churches, divert the attention from the many samples of Greek and Roman architecture and even from the calm and stunning views that Nature blessed this city and the surrounding area.
Ragusa offers an array of cultural, artistic and athletic activities, along with folklore, exclusive culinary specialties and a variety of excellent wines.
The stuffed artichokes prepared in Ragusa reflect all the characteristics of the land and of the people: the stuffing is simple but becomes special when it is made with the caciocavallo  Ragusanoand the artichokes used are the Spinoso  Violetto di Palermo which are one of the best qualities available. 
These artichokes, mostly cultivated in the province of Ragusa, have a small and tender head and the leaves near the base are in shades of a violet color. The artichokes fields occupy over 6500 acres of land; the production begins at the end of November and they are available to the end of April. 
The caciocavallo  Ragusano D.O.C., in Sicilian called cascavaddu Rausanu, is made in the province of Ragusa and in a few towns in the provence of Syracuse. It is a cheese made with cow’s milk, pleasantly delicate and sweet- smelling in the first few months of maturity and sharp and pungent when over one year old.
This cheese is made, like provolone, with pasta  filata, stretched and shaped by hand in a wooden container. It is tied for aging and hung two pieces of cacio, or cheese at a time a cavallo,  straddled from a beam, hence the name caciocavallo.
Use the caciocavallo Ragusano and select tender and young artichokes to make this simple and easy recipe.

 

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 artichokes trimmed for stuffing
  • 1 cup of grated caciocavallo Ragusano cheese
  • 1 cup of toasted breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup of chopped parsley
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ cup of dry white wine

 

 

Preparation of Artichokes

When preparing artichokes for cooking, wear utility gloves so you can avoid staining your hands. Prepare a basin with water, acidulated with the juice of a lemon, to soak the artichokes after they are trimmed, to prevent discoloration. 
Wash the artichokes to remove sand, small stones or any foreign objects. 
Remove stem and discard hard outer leaves, the first 2 or 3 rows, until the artichoke’s leaves became light in color and usually tender. Trim base cutting enough so the artichoke can stand up in the cooking pot. Cut off one-third of the petals eliminating the pointy top.

 

Preparation of the Stuffing

Step One
In a bowl combine the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley and garlic and mix well. 

Step Two
Bang the trimmed artichokes on the counter or cutting board to loosen the leaves, press them upside down and spread the petals apart so they can be stuffed. Sprinkle each artichoke with some salt and pepper to taste.

Step Three
Hold each artichoke over the top of the bowl containing the stuffing, sprinkle the stuffing between the petals, pressing inside the artichoke. Distribute equally any remaining filling to form a cover on top to crown each artichoke.

 

Cooking the Artichokes

Place the stuffed artichokes in a pot, close together; fill any empty space with a cup filled with water and/or use aluminum foil as filler. Cover artichokes half way with cold water and to prevent discoloration, add the lemon after squeezing a few drops of juice to the pot; also add a teaspoon of salt, drizzle the olive oil and the wine on top of the artichoke.
Bring pot to a boil and simmer for 30/45 minutes. Check often and if needed add some water. Check if salt is needed and add.
Artichokes are done when pulling a leaf, it comes off easily. 
Spoon the top of each artichoke with some of the cooking liquid remaining in the pot. Serve hot or at room temperature.
If you want to give an extra zest, sauté a few cloves of sliced garlic and some parsley in three tablespoon of olive oil, drizzle over the artichokes before serving.

Note:  In the town of Vittoria many housewives add to the stuffing a few chopped fillets of anchovies.