Stuffed Artichokes Enna Style

(“ Carciofi Ripieni alla Ennese" - "Cacocciuli Chini 'o Piacentinu”)

                            

 

In the town of Enna the breadcrumbs are not used in the preparation of the stuffed artichokes.
This recipe requires the use of a local cheese, the aged Piacentinu Ennese made with sheep’s milk and with the addition of saffron. 
The legend narrates that in the eleventh century, Roger I of Altavilla, count of Sicily and Calabria, requested the farmers making cheese for the court to invent a special cheese to give energy and help his ailing wife Adelasia. 
The cheese makers realizing that saffron had been used for centuries as an antidepressant and energizer, added it to the milk and they found a solution to Roger’s problem and created the new cheese from then on called piacentinu  Ennese. Piacentinu does not refers to the city of Piacenza, it meanspiacente ,che piace or pleasant.
Making the stuffed artichokes with this special cheese gives the artichokes the traditional taste of the pecorino cheese, the pungent and aromatic flavor of the saffron and a unique delightful product balanced with gusto, and fragrance.
Because the Piacentinu Ennese is not easily available outside Sicily, it is substituted with pecorino cheese and saffron threads.

 

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 artichokes trimmed for stuffing
  • 1 cup of grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron threads (Crush threads before using)
  • ½ cup of chopped parsley
  • 6 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 small onion finely minced
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ lemon
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 stone or any foreign object. 
Remove stem and discard hard outer leaves, the first 2 or 3 rows, until the artichoke 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, parsley, garlic, and onion 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 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 and drizzle the olive oil 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.