I am so excited to share this recipe. My wonderful friend Cristina, who I met last year in Grosetto, Tuscany, sent me this recipe a while ago.
Cristina’s roots are in a beautiful little hilltop town, which is off the tourist track in the Etruscan hills of the Maremma, in southern Tuscany. Pitigliano is nicknamed “Little Jerusalem” because in the mid-16th century, Jews fleeing neighboring states found sanctuary and flourished in the town. Today there are a handful of Jews left in Pitigliano, but their impact remains, and there is a beautifully restored Jewish center in the town that’s worth a visit.
Cristina sent me this recipe, and told me that it’s a traditional Jewish risotto recipe from Pitigliano. The recipe calls for artichoke hearts, and so I decided to wait until ours were in season to try this out. I used fresh artichokes and cleaned them so I was only left with the hearts. I was concerned that this would be a very painful process, but it is actually not that difficult and doesn’t take very long – a few minutes per artichoke. Here’s a good and simple guide to how to go about getting to the heart of the artichoke. Alternatively, you can buy frozen artichoke hearts, which will eliminate this step. But I loved the taste of the fresh, creamy artichoke hearts. I think it was well worth the effort.
Once the artichokes are cleaned, the rest is extremely simple. The result was one of the most delicious dishes I’ve made. My kids absolutely loved it and are waiting for its next appearance. Clearly, this has to be a dairy dish – for risotto, butter and Parmesan cheese are irreplaceable, so wait to make this when you’re making a dairy meal, and prepare to wow your guests.
Thanks, Cristina, for a perfect recipe!
6 artichoke hearts
2 cups risotto rice (short grain, Arborio)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves of garlic crushed
salt and pepper to taste
6 cups parev chicken stock
¼ cup (or more) grated Parmesan cheese
How to do it
1. Clean the artichokes leaving the hearts only. Place the cleaned hearts in water with lemon so they don’t turn black. Slice the hearts thinly and halve the slices.
2. In a large pot, add the oil and butter and heat over a medium flame. Add the artichoke hearts, parsley, salt and pepper and saute until the hearts have softened and golden brown (this doesn’t take too long). Add the garlic and stir around quickly.
3. Add the rice and stir into the ingredients in the pot. Add the stock. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat. Simmer the rice, stirring well every few minutes (you don’t have to stir constantly), for about 15-20 minutes.
4. When the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, turn off the flame and stir in the Parmesan. You can also add another tablespoon of butter and stir it in for a little extra creaminess.
Serves about 6.