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Liz Knight and Her Visit to the Sagra del Carciofo

Artichoke Festival in Italy-Sagra del Carciofo

I love a good sagra. Italian sagras are one of the coolest things one can go to while in Italy. I have been to many of these festivals, which are usually held in the smaller medieval towns sprinkled throughout Italy’s countryside. These wildly fun and traditional social gatherings are an opportunity to eat dishes, meats, vegetables, cheeses and wines proudly prepared by locals. Not only do they showcase talented artisans, farmers and local producers, but are an exquisite way to explore Italy, its rich history and culinary delights in a whole new way. I highly recommend to all tourists to seek out a sagra celebration in a nearby town while traveling through la bella Italia! It’s an experience of a lifetime!

Our friend Liz Knight from Rome if You Want To shares her story of a recent visit to an artichoke sagra:

On Sunday, my best friend Jennifer, her brand new husband Fabio, some of his friends, and my other friend Lauren all piled into two cars and headed west from Rome to a beach town called Ladispoli. The beach here is nothing special (if you want to go to a beach near Rome, I recommend Sperlonga), but in April every year, Ladispoli hosts Il Sagra del Carciofo – The Artichoke Festival.

Sidebar: one of my nerdy loves is figuring out the origin of city names. I knew polis meant city, but Ladis? We scratched our heads. Well, I just looked it up for you folks, and it was named for the city’s modern founder, Ladislao Odescalchi.
Artichoke Festival in Italy-Sagra del Carciofo

I am a huge fan of sagre. Pick food, any food, from everyday necessities like wine and pasta to extremely town-specific specialties such as ‘nduja (spreadable, spicy sausage), every edible item in Italy has a sagra to celebrate it in some little town. Last summer I attended several of them, evening after evening, in the mysterious, wild, deepest south of Italy – Calabria. The sagra of the tuna. The sagra of the eggplant. The sagra of candied nuts. And the aforementioned ‘nduja. (That’s not a misspelling – it’s a dialect of Italian).

This was my first sagra outside of Calabria and I was particularly pumped up about it because artichokes are probably my favorite vegetable. I’m not a big vegetable fan. My poor mother tried her best to get my sister and me to eat our peas, but we just stared hopelessly at our plates and prayed they would somehow turn into gummy bears. But an artichoke – well, it doesn’t seem like a vegetable you know? Especially in Italy, where I can usually find them deep fried, or chopped and added to pizza, or swimming in olive oil and garlic.
Artichoke Festival in Italy-Sagra del Carciofo

We were lucky with parking because it seemed like half of Rome was there. The whole idea of the festival is that you walk around from booth to booth, grazing, trying everything. We tried the deep-fried artichokes (carciofi alla giudia), pan-fried artichokes, artichoke lasagna, and a few non-artichoke items like olives, fried smelts and squid, and a single porchetta sandwich that was passed around and shared between about 10 people. We also had lots of little plastic cups of wine, so small I thought I hadn’t seen cups this size since the last time I was told to rinse at the dentist’s office. When I couldn’t eat any more friend stuff, I had an ice cream cone, naturally.

The people-watching was totally choice, with husky ladies in traditional Italian dresses eating with their hands and laughing – they reminded me of the lady Lucy fights with in the grape-stomping episode of I Love Lucy – and random bands playing folk music would spring up out of nowhere.

Maybe this is blasphemy, but the sagra reminded me a lot of a county fair in Georgia or Texas. Minus the livestock. Booth after booth of food, arcade games and stuffed animals, and traditional music. The difference is that we’re there celebrating the beauty and usefulness of the artichoke, people, not fried Oreos or something, and that’s what makes it so Italian. This country, with all of its problems, always gets the basic things right.

Artichoke Festival in Italy-Sagra del Carciofo

Artichoke Festival in Italy-Sagra del Carciofo

Artichoke Festival in Italy-Sagra del Carciofo

For more of Liz:


Unconventional Tuscany with Valentina Dainelli {Too Much Tuscany}

Unconventional Tuscany

When you visit Valentina's site: Too Much Tuscany, there is a drop-down bar titled: Unconventional Tuscany. That is exactly what Valentina's goal is with her beautiful blog-show unconventional Tuscany!  I love this site and her apps ! Valentina created apps for you find Tuscany-off the beaten path.

It is so easy to spend hours getting lost on Valentina's site. It's full of stories of unconventional Tuscan places. Everyone knows about Florence and Sienna. Valentina travels around this famous region of Italy to show her readers the not as famous and known parts of Tuscany. Yes, they do exist!!

On her about page, Valentina says she likes to, "write about places and activities that I’ve really experienced and I think are worth to write about to live the real and unconventional Tuscany. I love off-the-beaten path destinations, discovering hidden treasures and beauties, listening to people's stories and taking part to special and historical events."

This past April, Valentina visited the beautiful area of Lucignano d'Asso.
Unconventional Tuscany

Recently the Medici’s villas have been added in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among them there is the Villa of Poggio a Caiano in the surroundings of Prato. Valentina wrote about it here.
Unconventional Tuscany

Valentina writes about Montisi and says it's a place where she could retire. I can see why!

Unconventional Tuscany

Fine more of Valentina here:


Caramelized Vidalia Onion Rolls - #TwelveLoaves

Caramelized Vidalia Onion Rolls

Spring seemed to take forever to arrive and now it's almost summer again! I am always looking forward to a new #TwelveLoaves bread baking challenge. I chose caramelized vidalia onion rolls for this month!

Sometimes our baking group likes to explore the savory side of breads!

Caramelized Vidalia Onion Rolls

#TwelveLoaves May: Onions

May: Onions. The month of April was filled with gorgeous orange breads! We have chosen onions for our May theme! Choose a recipe including onions (red, white, yellow), scallions (green onions, spring onions); leeks, shallots, garlic, pearl onion, cipollini, chives. Whatever you bake, (yeasted, quick bread, crackers, muffins, braids, flatbreads, etc) have fun and let’s have a delicious month of bread with onions. Let’s get baking!
Caramelized Vidalia Onion Rolls

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Savoring Italy.

Here are the breads from our fantastic #TwelveLoaves bakers! Prepare to drool!!

Caramelized Vidalia Onion Rolls

Caramelized Vidalia Onion Rolls

I wasn't really sure what to make this month. I had some ideas, but they were already ideas I've shared here with all of you! I love adding caramelized onions to recipes, especially to breads!

Some recipes I've made with caramelized onions:

I ended up being inspired by these cheddar swirl breakfast rolls. They were really great! I caramelized the onions and switched out the cheddar with goat cheese (and I had a tiny bit of shredded mozzarella and added that in too). You could use whatever soft cheese you prefer or stick with shredded mozzarella. When you let it cool a few minutes (it's really not easy to wait!) and rip open that first roll, oh my goodness-so, so good! The cheese and the caramelized onion nestled in the softest and most delicious bread. It may end up being your dinner...and that's ok!!

Caramelized Vidalia Onion Rolls 

  1. 1 cup whole milk
  2. 1 (1/2 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  3. 1/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
  4. 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1/4 cup unsalted butter plus 1 Tablespoon (reserve 1 Tbsp for brushing the rolls), melted
  7. 4 1/2-5 cups all-purpose flour
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  9. filling:
  10. 1 large onion
  11. 1 goat cheese (or shredded mozzarella)
  12. 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
  13. 1 teaspoon salt
  14. pinch of black pepper
  15. to caramelize onion:
  16. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  17. 1 teaspoon sugar
  18. 1 large onion
  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl. Add 1 T of the sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Beat in the remaining 2 T sugar, eggs and butter. Beat in cooled milk. Gradually add the flour and salt, scraping down side of bowl, until a soft dough forms. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead the remaining flour into the dough, adding more flour if too sticky. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth. The dough will be soft.
  3. Grease a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients for the filling. Coat two 9-inch round baking pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper; coat paper with spray.
  5. While dough is rising, caramelize the onion-
  6. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive- oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions to the skillet and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over it. Stir occasionally and cook until tender (takes about 10-15 minutes until golden).
  7. Punch down the dough. Dump the dough out onto a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 10-by-18-inch rectangle. Spread the cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on the sides. Brush the borders with water. Tightly roll the dough into an 18-inch log, rolling toward the clean border; pinch the seam to seal.
  8. Cut crosswise into 12 generous 1 1/2 inch pieces.
  9. Arrange 6 pieces in each prepared pan.
  10. Brush the rolls with the remaining melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot until buns double in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  11. Heat oven to 350°F.
  12. Uncover pans and bake buns until they are golden-brown and bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes.
  13. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes