Sagra del Ciapinabò

CiafritCarignano (Torino) – it goes by several names – sunroot, Jerusalem artichoke, topinambour – yet in this corner of Piemonte, Helianthus tuberosusciapinabò in dialect – starts and ends the meal in mid-October of each year. Seeing how this sagra involves a root veggie not often presented at the dinner table, I think it has got to be one of the most unusual ones in our travels.

The first time I tried topinambour was at a friend’s bagna cauda party and I would say that along with cardoons, this tuber is downright essential for throwing an authentic gathering, piemontese-style. What I didn’t know was how versatile it can be in the kitchen. An extensive menu at the sagra made it impossible to try everything – they even had a version of bagna cauda that has no anchovies and is made with what else, topinambour! Steamed or boiled, it tastes like artichoke hearts, but as fried chips or ciafrit (top photo), they are really addictive, especially hot out of the deep fryer and kissed with a sprinkle of salt.

Ciapinabò menu Topinambour and ricotta with pureed peas and onion confit Baccala and topinambour

L-R: sagra menu, ricotta pie with red onion sauce and pea puree, bacalao and topinambour.

Topinambour cannelloni Bunet with topinambour compote Stuffed peaches with topinambour compote

L-R: topinambour cannelloni, bunet with caramalized topinambour, stuffed baked peaches with topinambour sauce.

Topinambour for sale

Of course we couldn’t pass up on the vendor selling them at 4€/kilo, and other stands throughout the piazze and streets sold a variety of products from around Italy. Enjoy the tour as we take a walk around the town!

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14 thoughts on “Sagra del Ciapinabò

    1. Rowena Post author

      Since my husband’s opinion of bagna cauda differs from mine, I really can’t say there’s one especially good recipe to follow online. It really depends on how you like your garlic (or don’t, for some people). I’ve read a lot of stuff on italian forums regarding bagna cauda and it appears that every town or province has their own way of making it (and often claiming that it’s better than the rest) so the sky’s the limit! All I’ve heard is that according to tradition, the ratio is 1 whole garlic head for each person, plus 1 extra garlic head added to the pot that you cook the whole thing in!

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  1. Anonymous

    Please let us know how your recipes turn out and post them. I have kilos and kilos of them to harvest in our garden this year:-)

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    1. Rowena Post author

      I had planned on turning that kilo into a lot of things, but we ended up eating them with the bagna cauda! I’ve got a back issue of Cucina Italiana that features them in everything from soup to dessert, with a recipe for Pollo ripieno di salsiccia e topinambour at the top of things to cook. Now if Esselunga is still carrying these….

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  2. tesorotreasures

    Oh, how I loved your video! It really made me feel like I was in Italy! I love walking through all the old streets with the old architecture all around me. And then seeing the market and the tent…so Italian! But…what are these tubers? What are they called in English and do we have them in the States? They almost look like ginger – but I’m sure that’s not what it is, right?

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    1. Rowena

      I gave some of the english names in the first sentence – sunroot, Jerusalem artichoke, topinambour – and there are a few more if you search for topinambour in wikipedia. I’ve only actually known them as either topinambour or jerusalem artichoke so it was nice to add ciapinabò to that list. I have no idea if you can find these in the states but something tells me that they must be growing somewhere in a home garden!

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