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Tag Archives: Sicily

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Enna is a province in Sicily, Italy. It is located in the center of the island and is the only province in Sicily without a seacoast,yet it possesses the greatest number of ponds and lakes.. The capital city sits on a high elevation giving a gorgeous view of the region.There are many castles, cathedrals, churches and interesting archeological areas, 8 lakes, many nature reserves and forests within the province.

Some of the interesting sites in Enna are:

  • Villa Romana del Casale, a huge ancient Roman “villa”, where there are many well-preserved Roman mosaics.
  • Morgantina, an ancient town in the province, whose  important archeological discoveries are housed in many large museums around the world.
  • Torre Pisana, a very large tower that provides an extensive panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
  • Lake Pergusa has a forest inside a wildlife reserve, where thousands of rare birds can be found.
  • The Autodromo di Pergusa is the most important racing circuit of Southern Italy. It hosts international competitions, such as Formula One, Formula 3000, and the Ferrari Party with Michael.
  • Schumacher and other champions.
  • Built in 2009, Regalbuto is a popular theme park in the area.

Enna’s cuisine is characterized by simple dishes that reflect an agricultural and sheep farming community. Vegetables, oranges, lemons, eggs and cheese are used in many local recipes.

Pastas with mashed beans, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplants or tomatoes are common. Wild asparagus are a great local favorite and so are bitter chicory and wild fennel. Black Lentils from Leonforte, near Enna are well-known and used quite often in Sicilian cooking.

Baked or grilled pork, lamb or goat meat and strong cheeses complete the typical menu.

Cookies stuffed with dried figs, honey, fruit candy and roasted almonds along with a glass of limoncello, fare typical holiday celebrations.

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enna4Quite famous is Piacentinu, a cooked, semi-hard cheese. It is round in shape and available in various ages. Traditionally, it is made in the province of Enna, Sicily, using whole sheep’s milk, pepper and saffron. Since the 1100s, piacentino has been known for its saffron color. Ruggero the Norman (1095-1154), the king of Sicily, asked local cheese-makers to make this cheese with saffron because he believed that spice caused an uplifting, anti-depressing effect. Pepper, a rare and precious spice at the time, was also added to the cheese because it was a popular ingredient in the Sicilian Court. Today, this cheese is still made using whole, raw milk from sheep that graze primarily on veccia, a leguminous weed found in and around Enna. The plant gives the cheese its distinct flavor.

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The milk, together with sheep or goat rennet, is heated to 140 degrees F and then whole black peppercorns and saffron are added. Once a mass has formed, the cheese is left to cool in its whey. The cheese is ready after a week. A wheel of piacentino is usually 14 to 16 inches in diameter and weighs between 13 to 26 lbs. The cheese has a soft rind, a yellow color and a delicate, savory flavor.

Source: (D. PAOLINI, Guida agli itinerari dei formaggi d’Italia, Bologna, Edagricole, 2003)

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Specialties of the Enna Cuisine

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Black Lentils Enna Style

This lentil dish is often served with fish.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup black lentils, washed and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place lentils in a saucepan with 2 cups of cold water, cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to simmer. Cook gently for 15 minutes. Mix in the vegetables, cover the pan and continue cooking gently until lentils are tender, about 35-40 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

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Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 4 large artichokes, cleaned
  • 2 lemons, one cut in half and the other cut into thin slices
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Place cleaned artichokes in bowl with lemon halves and water.

While the artichokes are soaking, prepare the stuffing by heating the butter with 3 tablespoons of oil in 8-inch skillet. Add minced garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add bread crumbs and dried Italian seasoning. Stir for 1 minute while the bread crumbs brown slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.

Spread the leaves of the artichokes open by hitting the chokes upside down on a work surface to spread the leaves open. Fill each with about 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture.

Place each artichoke in a deep pot with water 1/4 of the way up the side of the pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt to water and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over artichokes and place lemon slices on top.  Cover: bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook on low for 45 minutes or until tender. (the size of the artichoke will vary the cooking time). Remove from the heat and serve room temperature.

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Enna’s Ground Pork Ragu

Adapted from “The Southern Italian Table” by Arthur Schwartz

Makes 7 cups

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • One 12-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Grated cheese for serving

Directions

In a 4 quart saucepan saute the onion in olive oil until wilted.

Add the pork and break up over medium heat until its raw color disappears.

Add the wine and simmer for a few minutes over slightly higher heat.

Add tomato paste and water; stir and bring to a simmer.

Add salt, pepper, cinnamon, chocolate and sugar. Stir until chocolate melts, reduce heat and simmer for around 30 minutes.

Serve over pasta with grated cheese.

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Salmoriglio Sauce

Salmoriglio is a Sicilian marinade and sauce that is easy to make and add a great deal of flavor to poultry and fish. Use the recipe below to marinate chicken for up to two days in the refrigerator, shrimp for up to 30 minutes or to pour over grilled fish.

Salmoriglio:

  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 to 5 smashed and chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine lemon juice, garlic and seasonings and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in olive oil for a creamy semi-emulsified sauce for already cooked fish.

For a marinade, combine all the ingredients in a gallon sized plastic zippered bag and shake with chicken or shrimp to combine. Double the recipe to marinate a whole chicken. For a change of flavor, use three tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley instead of or in addition to the oregano.

For Swordfish:

  • 3 to 4 swordfish steaks
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground Pepper to taste

Try to get swordfish with the skin on if grilling outdoors; this will help keep the fish from drying out. Rub or brush olive oil on the fish. Oil the grill (use a grill pan or fish basket) or non-stick pan.

Over medium heat, cook the steaks for 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the pieces. Salt and pepper after each side is cooked, not before. When the fish is done, it will be opaque and a knife will slide into it easily.

If the fish had skin, remove it after cooking. Drizzle Salmoriglio over the fish; garnish with lemon wedges and flat-leaf parsley if desired.

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Fruit and Animal Shaped Marzipan

This authentic Italian recipe is at least 5 centuries old and originates in Enna, Sicily.

During the Easter season every year, shops sell marzipan figures and fruit decorated in festive colors. They are garnished with colored sweets, foil covered chocolates and red and gold processional flags.

The origins of these elaborate sweets are in the Sicilian convents. Impoverished families enrolled daughters, whom they could not afford to feed or marry, into convents where they knew their daughters would be fed and safe. The nuns produced traditional Easter and Christmas cakes along with brightly decorated fruits. Small wheels were built into the entrance gates to the convents and money was exchanged for the ornately decorated little cakes. The money earned from the bakery supported the nuns and the upkeep of the convents.

2 1/4 pounds shelled almonds, blanched in boiling water
2 1/4 pounds sugar
Water
Cornstarch
Assorted food coloring (paste recommended)

Dry the blanched almonds well in a hot oven if you blanch them yourself. Grind using a mortar and pestle; if you use a food processor, pulse rather than blend so that the almonds are ground but not so fine that they give off their oils.

Dissolve the sugar in a little hot water. Add the ground almonds and simmer over very low heat, stirring constantly until a paste-like mixture comes away easily from the sides of the pan. If you want to color the marzipan, divide it into bowls and color as desired. Paste colors are recommended rather than liquids for strong, true colors. Allow the marzipan to cool enough to handle easily.

Either roll or pat the marzipan onto a cornstarch-dusted surface and cut into shapes or pat into molds that have been dusted with cornstarch. Allow to dry at room temperature until firm.

Source:  2009 All Things Sicilian.


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Mainland Sicilia is the largest island in the Mediterranean and Italy’s southernmost region. Famous for its blue skies and mild winter climate, Sicilia is also home to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. This fertile land was settled by the Siculi, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards and Bourbons among others and the remnants of these cultures cover the entire island, from the temples of Agrigento to the priceless mosaics of Piazza Armerina and the ancient capital of Siracusa. Smaller islands, such as the Aeolian, Aegadian and Pelagian chains, as well as Pantelleria, just 90 miles off of the African coast, are also part of Sicilia, offering superb beaches.

Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic eruptions. The local agriculture is also helped by the island’s pleasant climate. The main agricultural products are wheat, citron, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, artichokes, almonds, grapes, pistachios and wine. Cattle and sheep are raised. Cheese production includes the Ragusano DOP and the Pecorino Siciliano DOP. The area of Ragusa is known for its honey and chocolate productions.

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Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy after Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. The region is known mainly for fortified Marsala wines. In recent decades the wine industry has improved. New winemakers are experimenting with less-known native varietals and Sicilian wines have become better known. The best known local varietal is Nero d’Avola, named for a small town not far from Syracuse. The best wines made with these grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola. Other important native varietals are Nerello Mascalese used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine, the Moscato di Pantelleria used to make Pantelleria wines, Malvasia di Lipari used for the Malvasia di Lipari DOC wine and Catarratto mostly used to make the white wine Alcamo DOC. In Sicily, high quality wines are also produced using non-native varietals like Syrah, Chardonnay and Merlot.

Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, such as the Amaro Averna produced in Caltanissetta and the local limoncello.

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Improvements in Sicily’s road system have helped to promote industrial development. The region has three important industrial districts:

  • Catania Industrial District, where there are several food industries and one of the best European electronic’s center called Etna Valley.
  • Syracuse Petrochemical District with chemical industries, oil refineries and important power stations, such as the innovative Archimede solar power plant.
  • Enna Industrial District in which there are food industries.

In Palermo there are shipyards, mechanical factories, publishing and textile industries. Chemical industries are also in the Province of Messina and in the Province of Caltanissetta. There are petroleum, natural gas and asphalt fields in the Southeast (mostly near Ragusa) and massive deposits of halite in Central Sicily. The Province of Trapani is one of the largest sea salt producers. Fishing is a fundamental resource for Sicily with tuna, sardine, swordfish and anchovy fisheries located there.

Trapani Salt Fields

Trapani Salt Fields

Although Sicily’s cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, melon, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon and fried preparations are a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Norman and Hohenstaufen influences are found in meat preparations. The Spanish introduced numerous items from the New World, including cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey and tomatoes. In Catania, initially settled by Greek colonists, fish, olives, broad beans, pistachio and fresh vegetables are preferred. Much of the island’s cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes along with fish, such as tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.

Caponata is a salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery that makes a great appetizer or a side to grilled meats. There is also an artichoke-based version of this traditional dish, though you’re less likely to find it in most restaurants.

Sfincione

Sfincione

Sfincione is a local form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies. Prepared on thick bread and more likely found in a bakery than in a pizzeria, sfincione is good as a snack or appetizer. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and then fried .

Panella

Panella

Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same ceci bean. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Arancine are fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese.

Grilled swordfish is popular. Smaller fish, especially snapper, are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finnochio con sarde (fennel with sardines). Many meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Chicken “alla marsala” is popular.

Cassata Cake

Cassata Cake

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Sicilian desserts are world-famous. Cannoli are tubular crusts with creamy ricotta and sugar filling and may taste a little different from the ones you’ve had outside Italy because the ricotta is made from sheep’s milk. Cassata is a rich, sugary cake filled with the same cannoli filling. Frutta di Martorana (or pasta reale) are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit.

Sicilian gelato (ice cream) flavors range from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese). Granita is sweetened crushed ice made in summer and flavored with lemons or oranges.

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Spicy Clams with Tomatoes

The clams used in Sicily for this dish are tiny vongole veraci.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes,peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pounds small clams or cockles, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until they begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and let reduce by half.

Add the clams and cook over high heat, stirring, until they open, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic.

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Pasta alla Siciliana

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces dried pasta, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)

Directions

In a large skillet, cook eggplant, onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, wine, oregano, salt, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve eggplant mixture over hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

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Steak Palermo Style (“Carne alla Palermitana”)

This is a traditional Palermo dish, consisting of breaded, thinly sliced beef, which is first marinated and then quickly broiled, grilled or cooked in a very hot uncovered heavy pan.

In Sicily, calves live in the open field, building meat and strength, at times they are used to work the fields and are butchered when they are well over a year old, resulting in a tough and muscular meat, mostly eaten boiled or chopped; hence the reason that Sicilian meat cuisine usually consists of meatloaf, meatballs and stews. The preparation of this dish makes the meat tender.

A very important part of this preparation is to soak the meat for a few hours in a marinade not only to compliment the taste of the meat with the flavor of the marinade but most importantly to tenderize the meat by breaking down its fibers.

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless sirloin steaks (about 3 lb.)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup wine, white or red
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Pinch of oregano
  • Other preferred herbs (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprigs of fresh parsley and lemon quarters for garnish
  • Wide container with 1 lb. of fine Italian breadcrumbs

Marinade:

In a plastic or stainless steel  bowl that will fit in your refrigerator, whisk the olive oil and wine; add the crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon, chopped parsley, oregano, any other herb(s) and a little salt and pepper.

Steaks:

Trim off any fat and place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten the meat to an even thickness with a mallet . Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place steaks in the marinade and turn to coat. Make sure that the marinade covers the meat; if needed add some more wine.

Seal the container or cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 12 hours or more, turning steaks occasionally to absorb the flavors.

Prepare and heat a grill or a heavy frying  pan. Drain steaks and place one at a time in the container with the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the steaks, pushing heavily with your hands.

Set the breaded steaks onto a pan or dish until they have all been breaded. Place them on to the grill or in the dry heated pan. Cook for 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side for rare or to the degree of desired doneness. Turn steaks only once.

Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon quarters.

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Orange Salad (Insalata d’Arance)

This Sicilian salad is usually served as a side dish or as a separate course leading into dessert.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 4 large navel oranges
  • 1 large fresh fennel bulb
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 head of lettuce 
  • Fresh peppermint leaves

Directions

Separate the mint leaves from their stalks. Clean the fennel well and remove the core, stalks and leaves. Peel the oranges and lemon.

Cut the fennel, oranges and lemon into thin slices. Toss together with almonds and mint leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, olive oil and Marsala wine and toss again.

Chill for a few hours. Toss again before serving on a bed of lettuce leaves.

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Authentic Sicilian Cannoli

The cannoli should be filled right before serving. If they are filled several hours before serving, they tend to become soft and lose the crunchiness which is the main feature of this dessert’s attraction.

Makes 10 cannoli

Ingredients

For the Shells

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 oz butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
  • Lard or olive oil for frying

For the Filling

  • 2 lb ricotta cheese, (preferably from sheep)
  • 1 lb sugar (2 cups)
  • Milk to taste
  • Vanilla to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 3 ½ oz mixed candied fruit (citron), diced
  • 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped

For the Garnish

  • Pistachio nuts, finely ground
  • Confectioners sugar

Directions

To make the shells

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, melted butter and eggs in a bowl. Then add the Marsala.. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth, then wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.

Roll out the cannoli dough and cut it into squares, about 4 inches per side. Then wrap the squares around the metal tubes to shape the cannoli.

Fry the dough, still wrapped around the tubes, in a large pot of boiling lard or olive oil. Let the cannoli cool on paper towels. Once cool, slide out the metal tubes.

To make the ricotta filling:

With a fork mix the ricotta and sugar, adding a little milk and a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pass the mixture through a sieve and blend in diced candied fruit and bits of dark chocolate.

Fill the crispy shells with the ricotta filling and sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over the ends. Sprinkle the outside with powdered sugar.

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Boats on the island of rabbits- Lampedusa, Sicily

Lampedusa is the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The community of Lampedusa e Linosa is part of the Sicilian province of Agrigento which also includes the smaller islands of Linosa and Lampione. It is in the southernmost part of Italy and is Italy’s southernmost island. Tunisia, which is about 113 kilometres (70 miles) away, is the closest land to the islands. Sicily is farther at 176 kilometres (109 miles); Malta is a similar distance to the east.

Politically and administratively, Lampedusa is part of Italy, but geologically belongs to Africa, since the sea between the two is no more than 400 feet. It has no sources of water other than irregular rainfall. The fauna and flora of Lampedusa are similar to those of North Africa. The south-western side is dominated by deep gorges, while the southeastern part is mostly shallow valleys and sandy beaches. The entire northern coast contains cliffs: gently sloping on the east coast and steep cliffs on the west coast. Lampedusa’s sea bed features a wealth of fish, coral, sea sponges and oysters in a myriad of shapes and colors.

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Lampedusa, which has an area of 20.2 square kilometres (7.8 sq mi), has a population of approximately 4,500 people. Its main industries are fishing and tourism. A ferry service links the island with Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento, Sicily. Lampedusa has a semi-arid climate. It has very mild winters with moderate rainfall and hot, dry summers. The sea surrounding the island is relatively shallow. Water temperatures stay warm most of the year, with the warmest being in August when the sea typically reaches 27 to 28 °C (81 to 82 °F). The water stays warm until November, when temperatures range from 20 to 23 °C (68 to 73 °F). It is coolest in February and March, when it averages around 16 °C (61 °F).

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Over the last century much of Lampedusa has suffered from deforestation where, previously, it was home to numerous plants and trees. Several measures have been taken to improve the situation and although there is still very little agriculture, some parts of the island are full of beautiful and exotic plants and flowers such as palms, figs, olives, prickly pear cactuses and yuccas.

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The main attractions on the island are all centrally located and concentrated in one area which makes it easier to visit them on foot or by renting a scooter or a moped. Mopeds and scooters are available in several places on the island, however, visitors must be careful with their use of fuel, since there are only a few gas stations on the island. There are several hotels and restaurants located here and a number of stores that sell locally made pottery, wooden items, souvenirs and Italian wines.

The most magnificent beach on the island is the Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach) and a vast area around this beach has been declared a nature reserve encompassing both the land and sea areas. There are hardly any structures in the area and fishermen are not allowed to fish nearby, which means snorkelling is excellent. This is a protected area because the beach is one of the last remaining places where sea turtles regularly come to lay their eggs. There is a rescue center and hospital located here where the islanders care for the sea turtles, should they get accidentally injured. In 2013 Rabbit Beach, located in the southern part of the island, was voted the world’s best beach by the travel site TripAdvisor. The island got its name since it was once filled with rabbits, however, now only a few rabbits can be spotted here.

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Since the early 2000s, the island has become a primary European entry point for migrants, mainly coming from Africa. In 2011, many immigrants moved to Lampedusa during the rebellions in Tunisia and Libya. By May 2011, more than 35,000 immigrants had arrived on the island from Tunisia and Libya and by the end of August, 48,000 more had arrived. Most were young males in their 20s and 30s. The situation has caused division within the EU, the French government regarding most of the arrivals as economic migrants rather than refugees in fear of persecution. Italy has repeatedly requested aid from the EU in managing refugees, but has been turned down.

Historically, Lampedusa was a landing-place and a maritime base for the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs. In 1553 Barbary pirates from North Africa raided Lampedusa and carried off 1,000 captives into slavery. As a result of pirate attacks, the island became uninhabited. The first prince of Lampedusa and Linosa was Ferdinand Tommasi, ancestor of the writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, who received the title from Charles II of Spain in 1667. A century later, the Tomassi family began a program of resettlement.

In the late 18th century, the Prince of Lampedusa leased the island to Salvatore Gatt, a Maltese entrepreneur, who settled on the island with a few Maltese workers. After Malta fell under British protection in 1800, they considered taking over Lampedusa as a naval base instead of Malta, but the idea was dropped as the island did not have deep harbors and was not well-developed. In the 1840s, the Tomassi family sold the island to the Kingdom of Naples. In 1860, the island became part of the new Kingdom of Italy, but the Italian government limited its activities there to building a penal colony. In June 1943, during the Second World War, as a precursor to the Allied invasion of Sicily, the island was secured without resistance in Operation Corkscrew by the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Lookout.

The first telephone connection with Sicily was installed only in the 1960s. In the same decade an electric power station was built. In 1972, part of the western side of the island became a United States Coast Guard LORAN-C transmitter station. In 1979, Lt. Kay Hartzell took command of the Coast Guard base, becoming “the first female commanding officer of an isolated duty station”.

In the late 1980s, an increase in tensions developed and the area around the island was the scene of multiple attacks. On April 15, 1986, Libya fired two Scud missiles at the Lampedusa navigation station on the island in retaliation for the American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi and the alleged death of Colonel Gaddafi’s adopted daughter. However, the missiles passed over the island, landed in the sea without causing damage. On 4 January 1989, U.S. Navy aircraft from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy shot down two Libyan fighters approximately 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the island. The base commander was advised by the U.S. Sixth Fleet Intelligence at La Maddalena that the Libyan president, Muammar al-Gaddafi, had threatened reprisals against the American commanders at Sigonella and Lampedusa. An Italian media frenzy followed that event which put Lampedusa in the spotlight. The NATO base was decommissioned in 1994 and transferred to Italian military control.

Seafood in Tomato Sauce

Seafood in Tomato Sauce

Pickled Seafood

Pickled Seafood

The Cuisine of Lampedusa

Until recently, the cuisine was distinguished in three ways. The first one was called the cuisine of the Monsù and it was prepared for the rich and noble people. A second type was the popular cuisine, basically dishes that the poor people, who were in the majority, cooked daily. They were trying to imitate the Monsù Cuisine by simply changing the main ingredient. If the Nobles had meat they had eggplant/aubergine instead. The third type was and is street food. Even today, you can find stands along the streets that sell chickpea fritters, potato croquettes or grilled lamb offal.

Fish and seafood are the specialities, however, and, even if you are not a big fish fan, you cannot fail to be impressed by the exquisite way the Lampedusans cook their fresh catch-of-the-day, often in a sauce of tomatoes, capers, potatoes and olives.

Here are recipes for some of their specialties:

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Caciocavallo all’Argentiera or Fried Cheese

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 slices of Caciocavallo cheese
  • Oregano
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of vinegar

Directions

In a frying pan heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the garlic and after a minute add the slices of cheese. Let them cooked covered for a couple of minute,turn and cook until the slices become golden.

Add the vinegar, the pepper and sprinkle with oregano. Place on a serving dish with fennel and radicchio.

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Rigatoni Con Pesce Spada e Melanzane (Rigatoni with Swordfish and Eggplant)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 lb. swordfish, into 1 inch squares
  • 1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves diced garlic
  • Fresh basil or mint
  • Sea salt
  • Chili flakes

Directions

Keeping the skin on, dice the eggplant into half-inch squares.

Heat a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan on medium heat.

Add eggplant squares and cook until brown.

Remove eggplant and place on a white paper towel. Set aside.

Add 2 cloves of diced garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and add 4 torn basil or mint leaves to the sauté pan. Saute until garlic is light brown. Add the swordfish and saute until slightly browned. Add the cherry tomatoes and salt to taste. Continue to sauté for 2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and eggplant. Continue to sauté for 3 minutes.

Boil water in an 8-quart pot adding 1 tablespoon of salt. When water comes to a boil, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente.

Add quartered cherry tomatoes and salt to taste. Continue to sauté for 2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and then previously fried eggplant squares. Continue to sauté for 3 minutes.

Drain rigatoni and add directly to the sauté pan. Saute for 1 minute mixing well. Pour onto a serving platter and add remaining basil or mint and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

lampedusa6

Polpette di Sarde al Sugo (Sardine Balls in Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) fresh sardines
  • 1/4 pound (100 g) crustless day-old bread, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano here
  • 1 tablespoon raisins, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups (500 ml) marinara sauce, simmering in a pot
  • Flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Dry white wine
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean the sardines, removing their heads and boning them; chop them and put them in a bowl. Soak the bread in warm water for a few minutes, squeeze it to remove the excess moisture, and add it to the bowl, together with the parsley, the cheese, the raisins, the pine nuts, the egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Moisten your hands and shape the mixture into small fish balls; roll them in flour, and sauté them in a large skillet with the olive oil to cover the bottom og the pan and the bay leaf. Once they are browned, sprinkle some white wine over them. When the wine has evaporated, use a slotted spoon to transfer the fish balls into the pot of simmering tomato sauce. Cover and cook over a low flame for 40 minutes.

lampedusa7

Zucca Rossa in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Pumpkin)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sugar pumpkin or acorn squash
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint

Directions

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Cut the flesh lengthwise into wedges, each about the length of your hand from fingertip to wrist. Remove the rind. In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin wedges. Cook until soft and deep golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the wedges over and add the garlic. Drizzle the pumpkin first with the honey and then with the vinegar over the pumpkin, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the liquids reduce to a glaze, turning the pumpkin pieces, if necessary. Add mint and transfer pumpkin wedges to a platter and drizzle pan juices on top. Serve room temperature or hot.

lampedusa8

Biancomangiare (Sicilian White Pudding)

Ingredients

  • 4-1/4 cups whole cold milk
  • 4 oz corn starch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Peel of 1 orange, cut into wide strips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
  • Garnishes: cinnamon, chocolate or almonds

Directions

In a saucepan add the milk,  sugar and cornstarch in the cold milk. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Add the orange peels and cinnamon, if using. Place over medium heat and let it boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon making sure you stir the bottom of the pan or it will burn. When it gets thick take the pan off the heat and remove the orange peels. Pour the mixture into a mold or in single-portion cups and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 to 8 hours. Add garnishes, if desired.


Mt Etna and the city of Catania, Sicily

Because Sicily is at a strategic point in the Mediterranean, on a route where east meets west, it’s not surprising that everyone wanted a piece of this fertile land. Yet to understand Sicily’s complex history, you have to understand the many peoples, who have come and gone from the island, and their legacies that are still embedded in the culture, the architecture and the language. Colonized by the Phoenicians and the Greeks and fought over in the Punic Wars, its architectural and artistic remains bear witness to its past grandeur found in the great Greek temples and Roman mosaics located in the Piazza Armerina. The Byzantine influence in Sicily begins with the capture of the island from the Ostrogoths in 535. The clash between the pope and the Byzantine emperor prompted the emperor to give the Patriarch of Constantinople jurisdiction over Sicily, removing it from papal rule. As a result a large number of Greeks moved there from the Balkans to flee from invasions by the Slavs. It was largely Byzantine in culture by the 9th. century, when a new threat emerged. In 827 the Arab peoples began arriving from North Africa, in what amounted to a slow conquest of the island.

The last Byzantine stronghold fell to the Arabs in AD 965, beginning a century of Muslim rule. Arabs settled in large numbers and many Christians converted to Islam. Sicily in the 11th. century was a mixed community of Arab Muslims and Greek Christians, when a third element arrived in a new wave of conquest. The newcomers were Latin Christians. The pope in 1059, wishing to recover Sicily, granted feudal rights over the island to the Normans. One of them, Roger I, the first Norman count of Sicily, completed the conquest of the island in 1091 and set a pattern which characterized Sicily for more than a century. Roger I brought Christianity to the island, but he also encouraged the Greeks and Muslims to continue to live in Sicilian towns and he employed them in his army. The complexity of this culture is evident in the fact that the Normans issued their official documents in three languages – Latin, Greek and Arabic. The small palace chapel in Palermo, with its walls covered in bright pictorial mosaic, is one of the most exquisite buildings of the Middle Ages. Known as the Capella Palatina (Latin for ‘palace chapel’), it was begun in 1132 and completed around 1189. The mosaics are in the Greek tradition, created by craftsmen from Constantinople. Round the walls are sequences of scenes from the Old Testament and scenes from the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul.

 

The roof of the Capella Palatina, by contrast, is unlike anything in a Byzantine church. Constructed in vaulted wood and carved and painted in intricate patterns, it would seem at home in a pavilion of a Muslim palace or in a covered section of a mosque. The sturdy round arches supporting the walls are from yet another tradition – that of European Romanesque. Classical pillars, inherited from an earlier period of Sicily’s rich history, complete the influences seen in this building. Sicily endured numerous rulers and ruling countries during the centuries that followed and in 1282 the Sicilians revolted against the Anjou French in the dramatic episode, known as the Sicilian Vespers, and ceded sovereignty to Peter III, King of Aragon [Spain]. In 1442 Alphonso V of Aragon reunited the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples. 

In 1738 the Treaty of Utrecht lead to the New Kingdom of Two Sicilies and in 1860 Garibaldi lead forces from the Kingdom of Savoy and conquered the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, creating the Kingdom of Italy, the first unitary government of Sicily and the Italian peninsula since the Roman Empire. 1860 was not the end of Sicily’s troubles, however. In the late 19th. century northern Italy was rapidly industrializing, while the south remained agricultural. Sicily in particular lost population to the north and in the 1890’s massive emigration to America began. Industrial growth was slow in Sicily, with the main non-agricultural activity being sulfur mining. In 1901 there were violent clashes between striking workers and police and in 1920 there was a full-blown farmers’ rebellion against landowners, in which kidnapping was first used as a political tool. The Mafia emerged as a major force in these years, being used to break up workers’ organizations and to assassinate state officials.

The right-wing Christian Democrat party was founded in Sicily. Socialist uprisings shut down Milan and Turin in 1920 and in 1922 Benito Mussolini’s Fascists seized the government in a coup. Political repression was the norm and in 1930 Mussolini sent a special prefect to try to stamp out the Mafia, who were helping Sicilian landowners fight the Fascists. Some of the Mafiosi (including the notorious Lucky Luciano) emigrated to America; those who stayed became the main anti-Fascist group in Italy. Sicily was the bane of Mussolini’s existence. Sicily suffered badly during the war. In July 1943 US forces landed in western Sicily and the British and Canadians landed in eastern Sicily. Many hard battles were fought and a number of cities were bombed. Postwar Sicily remained very troubled. Sicilian separatists waged an armed rebellion against Rome in 1944-46. Bandits, police and Mafiosi fought battles and also switched sides in complicated double-crosses, but all three generally united to suppress Communists, labor organizers and peasant cooperatives

The Truman Doctrine, an American commitment to helping democratic European governments rebuild and fight Communism, led to very flawed outcomes. Most historians think that by 1950 a covert alliance had formed between the Christian Democrats, the police and the Mafia, with American approval, in which, preventing land reform in Sicily, was the price of keeping the Communists out of power. Even in the late 20th. century and early 21st. century, the Mafia is a strong influence on the island, in spite of a campaign against it, by the leaders in power in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Modern Sicilians are a complex group who, dispossessed for centuries, now find themselves custodians of the cultural monuments of their oppressors and their history. The visitor to Sicily senses a resurgence of interest and pride in their past and the beauty and richness of their island and. with visitors all year round, it provides the locals with a source of sustainable economic income.

Mount Etna Eruption in 2001

A major interest of tourists is Mount Etna, an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily, close to Messina and Catania. It lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. It is the tallest active volcano in Europe, currently standing 10,922 ft high, though this varies with summit eruptions and it is the highest mountain in Italy, south of the Alps.

The Food of Sicily

Sicily has gained more autonomy from mainland Italy since the end of World War II, but it has also faced many obstacles – Mafia interference, lingering ties with a defunct feudal system and devastating earthquakes – that have hampered progress and economic stability. To make ends meet many women now work outside of the home and depend on family to look after the children. Yet urban Sicilians struggle to hold onto traditional ways. Many prepare homemade meals and drive to the country to buy wine, olive oil and fresh vegetables from local growers. Those with country houses often have a garden and preserve their harvest for year-round consumption. Regardless of economic circumstances, all Sicilians consider food a priority; they demand quality and often, especially during holidays, turn a blind eye to cost.

Most people prefer a very simple cuisine for everyday using the products from the surrounding seas and the strong Sicilian sun drenched fields. Fresh fish particularly tuna, swordfish, octopus, squid, sardines and anchovies serve as a mainstay of the diet. Tomatoes have full-bodied taste, unlike any others, and sauces made with them give distinctive flavor to many favorite pasta and meat dishes. Vine-ripened tomatoes are available most of the year, but they are also sun-dried for the months when they are not. Likewise, olives and grapes are extraordinarily flavorful and, in recent years, fine Sicilian olive oils and wines have received international prizes.

Sicilian sweets are different from those you find in mainland Italy. Adorned with candied fruit, flavored with nuts and enriched with sheep’s milk ricotta (as compared with the milder cows’ milk version), they owe their origins, like lots of other Sicilian foods, to the island’s many layers of history, most notably the conquest by Saracen invaders from North Africa. By the end of the tenth century, the Saracens had introduced pistachios, oranges, lemons and dates, as well as, refined sugar and spices, such as cinnamon and cloves. They brought the art of preparing elaborate pastries, ices, candied fruit and almond and pistachio-based confections. Later, these traditions blended with others; chocolate arrived from Spain during the Renaissance and in the 19th century Swiss pastry chefs, who had migrated to Sicily, started blending it with ricotta in desserts. As a result, Sicilians have an astonishing repertoire of sweets, from gelato heaped into a brioche—the bun is a legacy of the French influence on Sicilian food—to thick puddings made with everything from coffee to watermelon juice to the ricotta-filled cannoli that are beloved around the world. 

Typical Sicilian Dishes

As you can tell from the recipes below, Sicilians love sardines, eggplant and anchovies.

Pasta alla Norma: Widely found all over Sicily, this dish consists of slowly-cooked eggplant chunks tossed into a basic tomato sauce with thyme, dried oregano, and grated Pecorino cheese, then tossed with pasta and garnished with grated ricotta salata. Impanata di Pesce Spada: (Swordfish pie) This pie is undoubtedly a legacy of the Spanish invaders. It is bursting with all the wonderful tastes of Sicily: swordfish, olives, raisins, pine nuts, caper, and cheese. Panelle di Ciciri: A fritter made with chickpea flour and parsley and then deep-fried in olive oil. In Palermo the fritters are sprinkled with a few drops of lemon juice and often used for bread or rolls. Maccu di Favi: This very old recipe is known all over southern Italy and is the oldest of all Mediterranean soups. It was served for centuries as the midday meal of peasants, who carried it with them when they went to work in the fields. The soup is made with dried fava beans, wild fennel and chili pepper. Toasted bread is placed in soup bowls and drizzled with olive oil and the soup is ladled on top. The name comes from maccare which means “to crush.” The Sicilian touch is to add wild fennel. Caponata: A slow-cooked ratatouille-like mix of eggplants, onions, tomato, olives, pine nuts and extra-virgin olive oil. Caponata is usually served cold or at room temperature. 

Cuscusu: The apex of Arab-Sicilian cuisine; its successful preparation is considered the height of culinary art. The starting point for all couscous recipes is the same. Semolina grains are slowly poured into a large, round terra-cotta dish with sloping sides called a mafaradda and formed into small pellets by hand. The process of raking, rolling, aerating and forming the pellets is called incocciata by the Sicilians. When the couscous pellets are formed they are then steamed over boiling fish broth in a couscoussiere. The fish broth is made using a three-to-one ratio of white fish to oily fish. The fish used to make the broth is not eaten. Small fish or shrimp are cooked and eaten with couscous. Frittedda: (Sicilian sweet and sour vegetables) Artichokes which have been cooked in water and lemon juice are sauteed with onions and sprinkled with nutmeg and salt and pepper. Fava beans and peas are added to this mixture. The mixture is tossed with sugar and vinegar and served cool.

Pollo all’Arancia alla Catanese: (Orange chicken Catania style) Chicken is not very popular in Sicily, presumably because the hens are kept for the eggs they produce. The cooks of Catania have taken advantage of the fragrant orange groves that cover their hillsides to come up with this unusual chicken dish. Chicken pieces are rubbed with garlic, rosemary, mint and nutmeg. The chicken is then sautéed with onion in olive oil until brown. Orange juice is added and the chicken is roasted in a covered skillet until tender. Tummala: (Rice Timbale) This is an elaborate casserole from eastern Sicily, which is said to derive its name from that of Mohammed Ibn Thummah, an emir of Catania during the Arab occupation. The casserole includes chicken, celery, onion, tomatoes, carrots, bread crumbs, veal meatballs, cheese, sausage, rice and eggs in layers as follows: a layer of rice, a layer of meatballs and chicken, a layer of cheese, a layer of rice, a layer of sausage and meatballs and a layer of rice and chicken topped by beaten eggs and cheese.

Sfingi or Zeppole di San Giuseppe: a fried dough delicacy resembling a holeless doughnut prepared for the feast of San Guiseppe (St. Joseph) on March 19. Cuccia: a sweet wheat dish prepared after soaking the wheat grains overnight. It is connected with the festival of Santa Lucia on December 13. Sorbetto and Gelato: the Arabs mixed the summer unmelted snows of Mt. Etna with fruit-flavored syrups to produce a cooling confection which later developed into sherbet and, with the addition of milk and/or cream, the dessert became gelato. Granita: simple ices made by pouring flavors like lemon, coffee and almond milk over granulated ice.

Make Some Sicilian Inspired Recipes At Home

Stuffed and Grilled Eggplants 

This antipasto or side dish is pleasant and goes well with grilled food. It is a very convenient dish because it can be prepared in advance.
The stuffing of capers, anchovies and cheese gives a typical Sicilian taste to the stuffed grilled eggplants. Any leftovers are delicious the next day.

Serves 4 to 6 Ingredients

  • 2 medium size eggplants
  • ¾ cup of olive oil, divided
  • 12 slices of cheese (provolone or mozzarella)
  • 12 fillets of anchovies
  • 3 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • Chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Wash eggplants, remove stalks and slice horizontally with the skin on, about ½ inch thick. Remove excessive skin from first and last slice of each eggplant. Place eggplants in a colander, salt lightly and set aside for 20 minutes. Rinse the sliced eggplant and drain for a few minutes. Gently pat dry with a clean dish towel or paper towels. Brush both sides with oil and grill the eggplant slices until tender, about 3 minutes on each side. If a grill is not available use the oven broiler, cooking it for 5 minutes on each side or until tender. Place grilled eggplants in a pan or large dish and place a slice of the cheese on each slice, add one fillet of anchovy broken in pieces, a few capers, a few pine nuts, some parsley and a sprinkle of pepper. Fold and roll up each slice, starting at the narrow side of the slice and secure with a wooden toothpick and set aside. When ready to serve, grill the eggplant rollatini for a few minutes until hot and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. If a grill is not available, place rollatini in an oiled pan 11” X 7”, drizzle with oil and bake in a hot oven at 400 degrees F. for about 10 minutes. Place cooked eggplant in a serving dish; drizzle with olive oil and serve.    IMG_3151

IMG_3152IMG_3153

Mussel Pie

My friend Andy recently took a trip to Sicily and ate a variation of this Mussel Pie, called Pepata di Cozze, which means Peppered Mussels in Italian, in a restaurant in Sicily. He took pictures of this great meal and I am including his pictures in this post. I searched for a recipe that would come close to the dish he experienced in Sicily and, came up with this recipe that is close, but not exactly the same. You will have to take a trip to Sicily to get the original.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pizza dough
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pints mussels
  • 4 leeks, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon each chopped parsley
  • 1 sprig each marjoram and thyme
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 orange
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Scrub and clean the mussels. Melt the butter in the bottom of a large pan which has a lid. Cook the leeks in the butter until just transparent. Add the wine and the juice of one orange to the pan. Steam open the mussels in this liquid and reserve the liquor in which they are cooked. Put the mussels and herbs in a deep pie dish or casserole, pour the liquid with the leeks over the mussels. Season with salt and pepper. Roll pizza dough just large enough to cover the top of the casserole dish. Cover the top of the dish and seal the dough to the casserole dish. Cut a hole in the top of the dough. Heat oven to 425°F for 20 – 25 minutes until the dough is lightly brown. When the pie is done, remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes.

Sarde a Beccafico (Stuffed Sardines)

This filling will work in fish fillets, if you do not have access to sardines.

 4 servings Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 pounds sardines
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 salt-packed anchovies
  • 1 sprig parsley minced
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons capers
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup almonds or pistachios toasted and chopped
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons black olives pitted and minced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 1 shallot chopped
  • 2/3 cup Pecorino cheese grated

Directions: Soak raisins in warm water for 20 minutes. Prepare the sardines: remove the scales and the head, but not the tail. Hold each sardine belly-side up and cut along its belly so the fish opens up like a book. Remove insides and bones. Leave tails intact. Rinse in cold water, dry and season by rubbing with bay leaf. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat, stir in fresh breadcrumbs and saute for a couple of minutes until golden. Set aside in a bowl to cool down slightly. Drain raisins and squeeze out all excess water. Rinse anchovies and capers in running water to remove salt. Add to the breadcrumb mixture along with chopped pine nuts and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Optional additions: chopped garlic, shallot or onion, pitted olives, toasted almonds and lemon zest and grated Pecorino cheese. Mix well and spread a teaspoon of this mixture on the inside of the sardines, pressing down lightly with your fingers. Roll up the sardines (keeping the filling inside) with the tail sticking up. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the stuffed sardines. Add the bay leaf, sprinkle each roll with a tablespoon of bread crumbs and drizzle on the remaining oil. Cook in a preheated 420°F oven for 15-20 minutes. Dress with lemon juice and serve.

    

Pasta alla Norma

This recipe originated in Catania , a city on the eastern side of Sicily that sits on the shadow of Mount Etna . Catania is a city subjected to the temperament of Mount Etna , the highest and only active volcano in Europe.
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have destroyed this city several times. Yet the city has managed to rebuild. It is a vibrant and modern metropolis, with wide streets and majestic palaces; ancient monuments reminiscent of the Greek and Roman occupation and contemporary buildings where the enterprising people of Catania live and work to make it the most industrious and energetic city of Sicily.
This dish is called Pasta alla Norma in honor of Vincenzo Bellini, who composed the opera Norma in 1831.
The chef who created this dish wanted to honor Bellini, but he also wanted to immortalize Mount Etna. The spaghetti and the fried eggplants were the mountains, the tomato sauce portrayed the lava and the grated ricotta salata, the eternal snow of the Mt. Etna.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 can of 14 oz. Italian peeled tomatoes, undrained and cut in small pieces
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 Italian eggplants cut into cubes, sprinkled with salt and placed in colander for 30 minutes
  • 1 lb. of your preferred pasta
  • 1/2 lb. grated aged Ricotta Salata cheese (if you cannot find it, use a mild aged feta cheese)
  • 12 whole basil leaves for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: The Sauce Over a medium flame, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 12 inch saute pan. Add diced onions and sauté until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, raise heat to high and cook for an additional 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Add chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste. Lower the flame and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is thick. The Eggplant Pat dry the eggplants with a clean dish towel or paper towels. Brown the cubes in the remaining olive oil. Place eggplants on paper towels to drain the oil and set aside. The Pasta Cook pasta according to package directions, reducing recommended cooking time by 2 minutes. Drain pasta well and put back in pot with the tomato sauce. Mix for 2 minutes on a low heat or until pasta and sauce are well combined.  Stir in reserved eggplant and toss to combine. Stir in remaining basil and season with salt. To serve, transfer pasta to a platter and garnish with ricotta salata.

   Cassata al Forno

Sicilian Cassata: Ricotta Cake

The ricotta cheese needs to be drained overnight before starting the recipe.

Serves: 10 servings Ingredients

  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup candied fruit with citron
  • 1 (10-inch) pre-baked sponge cake (homemade or store bought, pound cake may be used

Directions Place the ricotta into a fine mesh sieve and nestle this over a bowl, place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the excess moisture to drain out before proceeding with the cassata recipe. Place the ricotta into the bowl of a mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until the curds smooth out. Mix the drained and beaten ricotta with 1 cup powdered sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, chocolate chips and half the candied fruit. Set aside. Lightly spray a 10-inch springform pan with canola oil spray. Slice the sponge cake very thinly so that the springform may be lined with it in an even layer. Line the sides and bottom of the pan with the sponge cake. Pour the ricotta filling into the cake-lined pan. Place a final layer of cake over the ricotta filling; this now creates the bottom to the cassata. Refrigerate the cassata overnight to firm the filling. Invert the springform pan on a wide platter. Open the hinge and remove the springform sides and bottom. The cassata may now be finished by covering with a heavy coating of the remaining powdered sugar and the remaining candied fruits. Alternately, you can make a white glaze for the top of the cake or spread sweetened whipped cream over the cake and decorate it with fresh fruit. Some Italian cooks like to decorate the top with marzipan cutouts. Slice thinly and serve.



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