- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 large)
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (about 10 ounces)
- 4 1/2 cups to 5 cups low-salt chicken broth, divided
- 1 teaspoon fennel pollen* or freshly ground fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
- 3/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime peel
- 30 (about) 1/2-inch cubes Brinata, Etorki, or other young sheep's-milk cheese
- 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
- 6 cups vegetable oil (about; for deep-frying)
- Orange, lemon, and/or lime wedges (optional)
Melt butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add rice, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, and stir until rice starts to become translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth and simmer, stirring often, until absorbed, about 3 minutes. Continue to add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until risotto is creamy and rice is tender, stirring often and allowing broth to be absorbed each time before adding more, about 25 minutes total.
Remove risotto from heat. Mix in fennel pollen and all citrus peels. Season with pepper and more salt, if desired. Spread risotto out on large rimmed baking sheet and cool completely, about 1 hour.
Place cheese in small bowl. Beat eggs and milk in medium bowl. Place panko in another medium bowl. Using wet hands, shape 1 heaping tablespoonful risotto into ball; enclose 1 cheese cube in rice. Dip rice ball into egg mixture, then into crumbs to coat. Place on clean rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining risotto, cheese, and coating. Cover with plastic wrap and chill on sheet at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Place large rimmed baking sheet in oven. Pour enough oil into heavy large saucepan to reach depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pan. Heat oil over medium-high heat to 340°F to 350°F. Add 4 to 5 arancine at a time; fry until golden brown and crisp, adjusting heat to maintain temperature, about 5 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet in oven to keep warm.
Mound arancine on platter. Garnish with citrus wedges, if desired, and serve hot.
There is no such thing as Italian food
The world’s favourite national cuisine? Nice try, Mexico. Keep cooking, India. Close but no cigar, China. Better luck next time, France. The winner, hands-down, is Italy.
Don’t take our word for it. In 2011, Oxfam determined that pasta was the world’s #1 favorite food. And in 2016, the Guinness World Record for high-altitude meal delivery was set on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (5,897 m 19,347 ft), not with a pair of fish tacos or a chicken madras, but. a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese (1).
There’s scarcely a latitude without a pizzeria. The world’s northernmost one apparently is in Kirkenes (The Ritz, a multi-purpose 'Pizzeria Diskotek Fotballpub'). The world’s southernmost one might very well be the Rotiseria Sol Y Mar in Ushuaia, Argentina.
All nations on Earth—with one notable and very ironic exception (2)—seem to have at least one Italian restaurant. You can go dine Italian-style in Kabul, Tehran—and even in Pyongyang. The North Korean capital has three branches of a local chain generically named 'Italy Pizza'. (The fruit pizza on the menu may not be to everyone’s taste, though).
Too bad, then, that it’s all a sham. Italian food doesn’t really exist. Or rather, 'Italian food' as a unified category exists only outside Italy. Inside the boot-shaped country, there are only regional cuisines, with some dishes being entirely local and others existing in a variety of local versions.
A variety that sometimes frustrates even the most knowledgeable of outsiders. On one of his televised tours of Italy, U.K. celebrity chef Jamie Oliver got visibly frustrated by the locals' insistence that their pasta should be prepared like this and not like that, because it had always been like this, and that was how they did it over there!
The past offers an explanation: although Italy has plenty of ancient history, the modern, unified state of Italy is a fairly recent invention, coming about only in 1861. All those separate dukedoms, republics and principalities that went before had long histories and their own laws, customs, cultures and cuisines.
That's one reason why the various regions of Italy, and sometimes even individual cities and towns, jealously guard the distinctiveness of their culinary tradition. Traditional Tuscan bread is made without salt—the aftereffect of an ancient (and now abolished) salt tax. Parma—and nowhere else—is the original home of both Parmigiano (cheese) and prosciutto (ham).
Climate and geography play a part as well: the north, more suited for dairy farming, prefers cream and butter for cooking over olive oil. And then there are foreign influences. Sicily and other parts of the south have taken on board Arab influences, such as a preference for spices and herbs, couscous, and oranges.
Here’s a map that gives an overview of Italy’s culinary diversity, and a chance to re-acquaint yourself with the country’s geography.
Starting in the north, we have:
- Valle d’Aosta, known for its fonduta and fontina cheeses, kale and valpelline soup.
- Liguria, famous for its focaccia and pesto.
- Piemonte, the origin of vitello tonnato (veal in tuna sauce), and also known for brasato al Barolo (beef cooked in red wine).
- Lombardy, a rice-growing region, hence the dozens of risotto recipes. The region is also known for its ossobuco, a beef cut with bone opened to the marrow.
- Trentino-Alto-Adige, home to Italy's German-speaking minority, with some repercussions for local favorites, such as knödeln (canederli in Italian), strudel and speck.
- Veneto, rich in culinary influences and output, which includes cicchetti, a tapas-like appetizer, and tiramisu (literally: 'pull-me-up'), a rich dessert.
- Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, which has a tradition of serving bollito misto (mixed platter of boiled meats) with beer, reflecting the Austrian influence.
- Emilia-Romagna, the capital of which is Bologna, nicknamed la grassa ('the fat one') and famous for its tagliatelle alla Bolognese. Italians would never, as the rest of the world does, combine spaghetti with Bolognese sauce (3).
- Tuscany, humble-bragging with its 'povera cucina', home of pecorino cheese and Brunello wine.
- Umbria, famous for truffles and—unfortunately for the pigs that suck at sniffing out those subterranean delicacies—also for its porchetta, a rich dish based on roast pork.
- Marche, known for olives and lasagna, especially vincisgrassi, a variant said to be prepared in honour of Alfred von Windisch-Graetz, an Austrian general in the war against Napoleon
- Lazio, which entails Rome, and thus also a central place in Italy's food history: from the pasta carbonara over guanciale (pork cheek, an important ingredient for pasta amatriciana) to oxtail.
- Abruzzo, where they grow and eat a lot of pepperoncini, for example in the maiale ‘ndocca ‘ndocca ('pig piece by piece').
- Tiny Molise, where you can get the best spaghetti alla chitarra (guitar spaghetti), square rather than round in shape, or the coniglio alla molisana (grilled rabbit with sausage and herbs).
And finally, the south, with
- Campania, which includes Naples, home of the pizza. The region is also known for its meatballs and its long tradition in strong coffee.
- Puglia, which excels in handmade pasta (including orecchiette, or 'small ears').
- Basilicata, priding itself on its bacalla con i pepperoni cruschi (salted cod with dried bell peppers), and on its extensive pepper cultivation in general.
- Calabria, where you can get good involtini di pesce spada (breaded swordfish rolls).
- Sardinia, famous for its thin, crunchy bread known as pane sardo and its malloreddus al sugo di salsiccia, a gnocchi-like pasta with sausage sauce.
- Sicily, with its arancine di riso, a popular appetiser its pasta con le sarde (sardine pasta) and its citrus groves, which have given Italy and the world the sorbet.
Here is a similar take on the regional diversity of Italian cuisine, with fewer examples but all of them in the picture—in fact, the foods maketh the map itself.
Italians may argue on what are the highlights of Italian cuisine and how to prepare them, on one thing they all agree: Italy is the home of good food. The further away they get from their country of origin, the worse the experience: from fattening over tasteless to toxic.
America, though it has done so much to popularise the dish, is the home of ‘fake pizza’. China, though it is whence Marco Polo imported it, is the home of ‘fake pasta’. And they’re not too kind either about their neighbours in the Mediterranean, which is traversed by two meridians: one for overcooked pasta, the other one for muddy coffee.
Here's another take on Italy's regional recipes, created and sent in by Marco Zanini:
Massimo Barbieri sent in a similar map, focusing on the varieties of wine produced throughout Italy.
Strange Maps #902
Got a strange map? Let me know at [email protected]
(1) A stunt by Pizza Hut to celebrate the chain's expansion into its 100th market, Tanzania (location of the Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain). The pizza was delivered from Dar-es-Salaam via plane, jeep and a relay of hikers, using a specially-designed backpack to keep the food warm and fresh.
(2) The Vatican—in the middle of Rome—does not appear to have a restaurant.
UPDATE, 10 May 2018. Reader Loye W. Young points out: "The Vatican does indeed have a restaurant, Il Ristorante (I have eaten there), and it does serve Italian food (pizza being the most notable, of course). It's a cafeteria, but also offers take-out, and even some catering. (Apparently, even the Vaticanistas need pizza and Coke for long meetings.)"
(3) Similarly, spaghetti with meatballs is an American invention and an abomination to Italians of a culinarily sensitive disposition.
(4) Like Italy itself, the modern pizza is a fairly recent invention. Italy's first pizzeria was established only in 1780 by Pietro Colicchio, in Naples. In 1889, Raffaele Esposito popularised the dish by designing the pizza alla Margherita in honour of a visit to the city by Italy's new queen. Hence the name, and the patriotic ingredients, in the three colours of the Italian flag: red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). The dish took off in Naples, and via Neapolitan immigrants, in America as well – and faster than in the rest of Italy. The word 'pizzeria' didn't appear in print in Italy until 1918.
BRACIOLETTINE TO MESSINESE (Sicilian recipe)
600 grams of lean beef slices for chops (or walker or escalope)
250 grams of grated stale bread
150 grams of silane caciocavallo or provola Nebrodi
80 grams of grated pecorino Dop
1 clove garlic, minced finely
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Before preparing the braciolettine Messina style look well VIDEO RECIPE STEP BY STEP on my YouTube channel, so you'll see live what we now explain.
Arrange the slices of meat on a cutting board, well stretched. In a bowl mix the breadcrumbs with the grated pecorino (you can mix it with a little Parmesan cheese if you prefer a more delicate taste), chopped garlic and parsley, freshly ground pepper and add extra virgin olive oil until the mixture is fact was shelled but soft and fluffy. Season with salt.
Ask, in the center of each slice, as you see in VIDEO RECIPE a teaspoon of mixture and some cheese diced: the amounts vary slightly depending on the size of the slices of meat.
Now the most complicated, although watching video recipe you should have no trouble understanding: roll up on itself the slice like an egg roll, folding the side flaps inside. The result will be a bundle of cylindrical shape, tightly closed but soft. Put the chops so obtained in a wooden skewer, as you see in VIDEO RECIPE , inserting a leaf or two bay in the midst of chops. Oil the braciolettine Messina style with a little olive oil and sprinkle lightly with what will remain of the compound used for the stuffing.
You just have to grill the braciolettine Messina moderate heat, turning them occasionally, until golden and succulent. If you have the good fortune of being able to do so enjoy barbecued, because the real taste of chops Messina feels better on the grill.
I advise you to accompany braciolettine at Messina with a SALAD OF ORANGES AND FINOCCHI SICILIAN, prepared with thinly sliced fennel, orange slices peeled in vivo, chopped scallions and a few black olives, dressed with a citrus dressing of oil, salt and citrus juice. For the sweet tooth, is all well and good of French fries or a soft mashed potatoes.
MATCHING: For this combination, We stay in Sicily, particularly in the hills above the city of Messina, to match a lighthouse Doc, red wine made from vines Chardonnay, Nocera and nerello Cappuccio, produced by theBambury farm. This characteristic of the Strait is structured and full-bodied red, with aromas of ripe fruit and elegant tannins, Thanks to a minimum 12 months ageing in oak barrels and a refinement in the bottle for a few months.
A trip to Sicily is eye-opening in so many senses, including its scenic seaside, mountainous interior, and numerous archeological sites. But Sicilian food is also sensational, including the plethora of street foods that you find in Palermo.
Arancine – stuffed and fried rice balls – are among my favorites . They’re so named because the round shape is reminiscent of an small orange, or an arancina (the singular). However, in some parts of Sicily, particularly the eastern part of the island, they’re called by the masculine noun – arancini. That could be because in the Sicilian dialect, the word for orange is aràncìu, which is masculine, like arancino (singular of arancini). You’re also more likely to find them in a conical, not spherical shape, in the eastern part of the island.
However you call them, these delicious delicacies date back to the 10th century, when Sicily was under Arab dominion, and saffron was introduced to the island. Saffron is used to flavor the rice in this recipe.
The most common type of arancina is stuffed with a meat ragù and peas, but variations abound, including my favorite, with cheese and ham as the center. The addition of béchamel, added after the béchamel has been chilled overnight and you’re able to spoon it, makes the filling even more gooey and melted after it comes out of the fryer.
We set to work making them under the guidance of Chef Michael Sampson, at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school, and started by wetting our hands in water to make shaping a little easier. Like the béchamel, the rice had been cooked and cooled ahead of time too.
After you’ve spread and flattened some rice on your hands, place some béchamel, a bit of cheese and bits of ham in the center, then use your fingers and hands to shape the rice into a sphere. Keep working it, and adding a bit more rice, if necessary, to close any gaps.
Sicilian BBQ Chicken | Rustic Italian BBQ chicken recipe | Amazing, delicious and so easy to make
I was shown this recipe 10 years ago by an old friend who’s family originated from Sicily. Traditionally, they would BBQ the chicken on an open fire and have a large pot of pasta sauce standing by to add to the cooked chicken. This is such an amazing dish and so simple to make using my step by step recipe tutorial. This recipe uses the DA MALAT Italian Seasoning. To buy the seasoning, click on the link: https://www.damalat.com/product-page/75g-italian-seasoning.
To buy DA MALAT spice blends: https://www.damalat.com/shop.
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Video taken from the channel: Da Malat
Catania is an ideal destination for foodies. It has two fabulous markets, the Fera o Luni in Piazza Carlo Alberto and the pescheria (fish market). The latter sells not only fish but vegetables, meat, cheese, and street food. It also has some stunning restaurants, gelaterie, café bars, and street food vendors.Cedri the original citrus fruit, at the market in Catania.
Fish on sale at the pescheria in Catania.
There are numerous specialities which are typical to Catania itself and not found, for example, in Palermo which has its own rich culinary tradition, starting of course with cannoli. Unless otherwise stated, the following list is of specialities specifically from Catania, all of which you have to try if you visit.
Where to find Fresh Pomegranate Juice in Palermo?
During fall and early winter in Palermo, you can find pomegranates in the outdoor markets.
Many shops will sell freshly-pressed pomegranate juice for around €3 per cup.
Across from Piazza San Domenico there is a small bar that always sells freshly squeezed orange juice and when you’re lucky, you can find pomegranate juice here too.
In the Ballarò and Capo markets, there are stands that sell the juice daily. Enjoy a cup as often as you like and keep that winter cold away.
The Sicilian Pantry
Almonds The almond was first cultivated by the Greeks in Sicily it was revitalized later by the Arabs.
Amaretti These crisp, almond-flavored cookies are used, crushed, in some meatball preparations.
Anchovies Anchovies are frequently crushed and dissolved in oil as the foundation for many pasta sauces, with or without tomato. They are commonly used as a topping for pizza.
Aniseed The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans knew aniseed, but the Arabs introduced its cultivation in Sicily. In medieval times, Arab doctors used aniseed for the supposed medicinal properties.
Apricots The Arabs introduced the apricot to Sicily. The word "apricot" derives from the Arabis al-berquq. Though both the Greeks and Romans knew of this fruit, combining it with meat or rice is an Arab and Persian tradition.
Artichokes The artichoke was developed by the Arabs, or perhaps the Berbers, from the cardoon, a wild edible thistle that looks like celery and tastes like artichoke. The artichoke first appeared in Italy in Naples and then in Tuscany in 1446, but it was being grown in Sicily as early as 1290 in the kitchen gardens of Palermo.
Basil Fresh basil is available in Sicily year-round. It is always added to a dish at the last minute, and most often paired with tomatoes, eggplant, or zucchini.
Bay leaf Bay leaves grow all over Sicily and are often used when grilling.
Breadcrumbs Sicilians use breadcrumbs to thicken sauces, to sprinkle over pasta and to add texture to many dishes.
Broccoli Broccoli is called sparaceddi in Sicilian. Sparaceddi also refers to broccoli rabe or rapini. In Sicilian, green cauliflower is called broccoli, while white cauliflower is called vrucculi.
Caciocavallo Caciocavallo is a cows milk cheese that can be eaten as a table cheese when young. Aging up to a year produces a sharper, harder cheese good for grating. Use the mild version in all recipes. Traditionally, the cheese is shaped in balls that are tied together, two by two, with raffia. Aged caciocavallo is grated and served with pasta as Parmesan is used on the Italian mainland.
Candied fruit The Arabs taught the art of candying fruit to the Sicilians. The most common fruit used for candying are citrus fruit, specifically the peel.
Capers The use of capers in Sicilian food goes back to the Greeks. Being a desert plant, the caper bush needs very little water or nutrients. The best Sicilian capers come from the island of Pantelleria. Sicilian capers are bigger and more strongly flavored than those from Provence, and are usually preserved with salt rather than brine. Their pungent, almost peppery taste stands as one of the most characteristic flavors of Sicilian cooking.
Chickpeas Dried chickpeas need to be soaked overnight and cooked at length. Chickpea flower is used to make Panelle.
Chili peppers Chili peppers are sometimes associated with the Arab influence by Sicilians, even though they came later from the New World, probably by way of Spain or Tunisia.
Cinnamon Cinnamon is the inner layer of the bark of the cinnamon tree. An ancient spice, it was popularized by Arab traders in Sicily.
Currants Called ribes, from the Arabic word for rhubarb, or uvette zante, currants are little black raisins. Palestinian Arabs may have introduced them to Sicily.
Eggplants The Arabs around the late tenth century introduced the eggplant to Sicily. It did not become popular in the rest of Italy for another five hundred years. The best eggplants, according to Sicilians, are a variety known as the Tunisian eggplant, large egg-shaped and pale purple, which is very sweet and does not have to be salted before cooking. Tunisian eggplant is fried and combined with tomatoes, basil, ricotta salata, and pasta to make pasta alla Norma. Much of Sicilys eggplant is used to make caponata, a vinegary dish that can be put up at harvest time and enjoyed all winter long.
Estratto di pomodoro This true Sicilian specialty is a dark red paste with a clay-like consistency, made by spreading salted tomato puree out onto large wooden boards to dry for two or three days in the sun until nearly all moisture has evaporated. Preserved under a layer of olive oil, estratto keeps in the refrigerator for several months. It is used in much the same way as tomato paste, yet is has a stronger, much more intense flavor.
Fava beans The fava bean is an important food in Mediterranean societies. In Sicily the fava goes back to before the Greeks. Sicilians eat fava raw and in Frittedda, and raw served with pecorino cheese. Dried fava beans are used in soup called maccu, a staple of the peasant diet since antiquity.
Fennel Wild Sicilian fennel has been an important ingredient in the cuisine since antiquity. Its found in numerous braises and pasta sauces and, most simply, sliced and served in a salad with citrus fruits and olives.
Figs Fresh figs are popular and abundant in Sicily.
Garlic Garlic is one of the four cornerstones of Sicilian flavor, along with onions, parsley, and oregano.
Lemons The first mention of the lemon tree in any language dates from the beginning of the tenth century and is from an Arabic source. Sicilians are very fond of lemons, eating them raw with salt, in salad, in sherbet, and with meat and fish.
Marsala wine Marsala wine is commonly found in chicken and meat dishes, yet also lends a particular sweetness and airiness to the dough for cannoli. Marsala is used to soak layers of sponge cake in the classic cassata alla Siciliana. Some of the drier Marsala wines are becoming increasingly popular as an aperitif.
Mint Mint is used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking and in Sicily.
Nutmeg Nutmeg is the kernel of the fruit of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Sicilians use nutmeg to flavor pasta, fish sauces, and some vegetable preparations.
Olives and olive oil Olive production did not suffer a setback under the Arabs, as some people claim. Since the olive is sacred in the Koran, it might be expected that the Arabs would greatly increase the number of olive trees in Sicily. But for some unknown reason the production of oil dipped in medieval Arab Sicily. The finest olive oil is cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. No heat-extraction process or chemicals are used in cold pressing, and in this first pressing the olive releases the purest oil with all its nutrients. Olives come in a wide range of green and black hues. In Sicily, no dinner would be complete without a bowl of olives.
Onions Onions were grown in abundance in Palermo, according to the tenth-century Arab traveler Ibn Hawqal. The Arabs considered onions to be an aphrodisiac.
Oranges The orange was first introduced to Europe by the Arabs via Sicily. This was the bitter orange. The Arab emirs of Palermo created orangeries and used the bitter orange, lime, and shaddock for candying, preserves, and essence. In Sicily the sweet orange is known as the Portugal orange. Another orange grown in Sicily is the blood orange, called tarocco, ideal for orange salad.
Oregano Oregano is a powerful flavoring in Sicilian cooking. It is always used dried, never fresh. Its leaves lend a strong, spicy flavor to sauces for grilled fish or roasted meat as well as pizza, pasta sauces, and chicken dishes.
Pancetta Pancetta is Italian bacon.
Parsley Parsley is used extensively in Sicilian cooking, both as a flavoring and as a garnish.
Pecorino Fresh pecorino, a sheeps milk cheese, tastes similar to feta, though less salty. Aged pecorino is also common, usually grated over pasta or served with fresh raw fava beans.
Pine nuts Pine nuts are an essential ingredient in cucina arabo-sicula. They are from the cone of the stone pine and are native to the Mediterranean. They are used in many sweet-and-sour dishes and fillings.
Pistachios The Arabs introduced the pistachio in Sicily. Sicilians will tell you that the best variety is the pistachio di Sicilia, which comes from Bronte in the province of Catania.
Pomegranates The pomegranate was first brought to Spain and Sicily by the Arabs to grace their pleasure gardens. It is an Asian bush that can attain a height of twenty feet.
Potatoes Potatoes appear in frittate, salads, soups, and sauces, but are perhaps most widely acclaimed as the main ingredient in cazzilli, the cigar-shaped fried croquettes.
Raisins Several kinds of raisins are used in Sicilian cooking.
Rice The rice used in Sicilian cooking is Arborio or Vialone rice. Italians like their rice creamy Sicilians like theirs al dente, with the grains more separate. It is used to make the well-loved street food called arancine ("little oranges"), fried balls of cooked rice stuffed with meat and peas or cheese or all three. Sicilians generally do not make risotto.
Ricotta Ricotta is not a cheese but a creamy curd that has been cooked twice. Hence the name ricotta, literally, "recooked." The best ricotta is made with sheeps milk.
Saffron Medieval Sicily, with its subtropical climate and loamy soil, was found to be ideal for growing saffron. The Arabs introduced it around the year 920.
Salt Some culinary historians believe that the Arabs taught the Sicilians how to salt fish. Salt industries are today based around Trapani.
Sardines Once among the most plentiful fish, have dwindled considerably as a result of over fishing in recent years. Nevertheless, they remain strongly identified with the cuisine, most notably in pasta con le sarde, the national dish that highlights Arab ingredients (pine nuts, currants, and saffron) as well as wild fennel greens.
Sesame seeds Sesame seeds were introduced by the Arabs. They are often used on bread, in sauce, and for sweets.
Squash Marrow or summer squash was cultivated in medieval Sicily in fields called nuara, a dialect word from the Arabic nowar. Today these squash are called zucca.
Sugar The Arabs introduced sugar cane and sugar-milling techniques to Sicily. Cultivation was well established by the year 950. The sugar industry of Arab Sicily was centered at Palermo.
Sunflower-seed oil The sunflower was introduced to Sicily by the Spaniards after its discovery in the New World, and now there are fields of sunflowers in Sicily.
Swordfish Swordfish appears on nearly every menu in coastal cities and towns. Usually it is simply grilled, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with salt. Involtini of swordfish, thin fillets wrapped around various fillings (including herbs, breadcrumbs, capers, pine nuts, olives, and/or cheese) are also popular.
Tomatoes Tomatoes are a New World fruit, but that does not preclude their use in cucina arabo-sicula. One theory holds that the color of the tomato was as important as its taste: Once it became rooted in Sicilian culture, it was used as a less expensive substitute for saffron.
Tuna Each spring since the Arab occupation, fishermen have participated in a ritual tuna killing (the mattanza), using elaborate, multi-chambered nets to trap the fish before harpooning them. Usually tuna is braised, grilled, or pan-fried and served with an uncooked sauce.
Bottarga (dried tuna roe) shaved over pasta is another specialty.
Vino cotto Vino cotto is a syrup made from non-fermented grape must (the pulp and skin of processed grapes), was used as a sweetener (along with honey) before the Arabs introduced sugarcane. Table grapes (muscatel or other similar varieties) are passed through a food mill the resulting grape must is then filtered and boiled for several hours until it has the consistency of honey or molasses. Many Sicilians still make their own vino cotto at harvest time and use it in desserts like buccellato.
Watermelon The Arabs introduced the watermelon to Sicily, probably in the mid-tenth century. The seeds were roasted, then pounded into a paste or crushed into cakes. There are two kinds of watermelon in Sicily. One is round with a light green skin the other is larger with a dark green skin.
What to See
Palermo is one of Italy’s most important cities and was capital, with Napoli, of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It is worth spending a few days there to visit many important cultural sites, including the Norman cathedral and the Baroque churches: l’Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenico, l’Oratorio del Rosario di Santa Cita and l’Oratorio di San Lorenzo. Palermo’s most interesting food markets today are Ballarò and Il Capo. Not far from Palermo are the remarkable church of Monreale, with its Byzantine mosaics, and the small fishing port of Mondello to which the noble Palermo families would go in summer.
Antica Focacceria San Francesco by James Helland
Sicilian pastries by Dom Dada
The catacombs housing thousands of mummies (Catacombe dei Cappuccini) are also interesting. In the city centre, try the street food stands, pastry shops and gelaterie. Lemon and coffee granita are specialities as are fruit gelati such as mulberry (gelso) and jasmine flower (gelsomino).
From Palermo you can take a boat to the island of Ustica, a volcanic island with a prehistoric village and volcanic island that is also a marine reserve, great for snorkelling or diving. Ustica is famous for its tiny lentils.
Cefalu by Salvatore Freni Jr
East of Palermo, on the road to Messina is Cefalù, a small fishing village on the coast that boasts a beautiful Duomo and fine mosaics.
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.
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
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.