Typical of Sicily
Sicily is a land of bright colours, tempestuous and passionate, that knows no half tones.
Thus the largest island in the Mediterranean, a mysterious region, but true in its every aspect and to be explored in its entirety, able to indellibly fix its image on the soul of the traveller.
The contrasting landscapes, energic sun, juicy citrus fruits are just some of its facets.
Sicily on the table
“The best way to appreciate the wealth of this island is to sit down at the table and let yourself be intoxicated.”
The fortune of Sicilian cuisine owes much to the use of local herbs and spices. The most common are basil and oregano followed by bay, rosemary, sage, thyme, saffron, rocket and parsley, present on every dish. The uncontested master of every table is bread, a not to be substited accompaniment to every main dish. Every Sicilian town boasts tens of varieties of bread, differing in their dough, the time of levitation, its shape and baking.
Equally numerous are the “votive”or festive breads, prepared on purpose for rights and patron saint festivals with precise protective intent. Sicilians nurture profound respect for their bread. Spaghetti was created for the first time in Sicily, even the term “macarones”, which was the origin of “maccherone” was coined on this island.
The only Italian region to be bathed by three seas, Sicily is rich in fish, all Sicilians love sardines, tuna, octipus and red mullet which are cooked according to ancient culinary traditions.
Pork and beef are cooked with herbs and island aromas making it unique and tasty , yet amidst the thousands of recipes, the most popular are the ones using the cheapest parts, such as offal: this is how some extremely tasty specialities came about using liver, stuffed heart, pigs’ gelatine and a range of dishes based on tripe and sweetbreads.
Green vegetables and legumes have outclassed all of the other foods in the islands diet, be it for taste, however, more often for necessity: just two extraordinary examples of dishes are caponata and macco di fave.
The production of caci (cheese) and ricotta cheese on the island is ancient: they have been classic accompaniments at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table for entire generations. Sicily also produces wonderful fruit, from the most common – easily available all over the island – to rarer varieties like winter nesbole (similar to chestnuts), lazzeruoli (a sort of gooseberry), pomegranites, corbezzoli, hackberries , spaccasassi and even the banana. The zibibbo grape gets its name from Cape Zebib in Northern Africa; the lunary lemon gets its name because in the light of the new moon the zagara blossom is formed, hence they blossom and produce fruit all year round.; the prickly pear is perhaps the most loved fruit though.
Sweets originally came from “special breads”, a variation of the daily loaf. Many of the Sicilian sweets have a geometric shape that are traditionally respected: the cubbaita (sicilian noughat), for instance, and mustaccioli (biscuits with almonds and spices)made with cooked wine are cut into rhomboides: sweet ravioli are half moon shaped, buccellati (pastry filled with dates) are in a circular crown, cylindrical cannoli; cassata and others are disc shaped, carob sweets are square.
Traditionally wine is not drunk away from the table thus a number of non-alcoholic drinks have been handed down through the ages: cabbasisate, minnulata (almond milk), siminzata from the seeds of the musk melon and finally bitterly cold, sweetened milk called carapigna or sciala-cori.
The habit of drinking strong, dark, aromatic coffee is widespread. Amongst the liquors to be remembered are home made rosolio (rosewater), others are made using the essence of citrus fruits, the cedronnella or other herbs and spices. In particular zammu, originally made by distilling the flowers and seeds of the sambuca, continuing to survive under the same name but being made using aniseed.
You can touch art with your hands and experience it first hand, following the perfumes and flavours of the “Wine Routes”, real natural trails through nature, culture and wine. The explorer can discover Sicilys’ real treasure by folowing these itineraries of flavour: suggestive landscapes, happy local festivities, delicious dishes, perfumed, full bodied elixirs. You drive along coastlines, via salt flats and tidy row upon row of vines, pull into farmsteads and vineyards in a cornice of hospitality and true tradition.
By following the Etna Wine Route you pass through a volcanic landscap., Along the Alcamo Doc Wine Route nature reserves and archeological sites, along the Wine Route of Marsala on western soil or emersed in history on the Land of the Sicane Route. And then again the novello Trail of Monreale Wine Doc, or the Ceresuolo di Vittorio Baroque and Liberty Wine Route and finally the Wine Route of the Nisseni Castles.
Sicily is the land of dessert wines. From Marsala to Passito of Pantelleria, from Moscato to Zibbibo, last but not least Malvasia from Lipari. Each label hides inebriating aromas, flavours that marry perfectly with desserts, and not only. With its 15 DOP and 10 IGP, it is third in Italy for its number of European Community labelled products. To this number must be added its 238 Italian labels which place Sicily first in southern Italy.
The Region of Sicily was the first to receive DOC recognition in 1967 for its Marsala.
Among the most famous without a doubt of Sicilian wines is Nero d’Avola, a strong red which goes well with both meat and fish.
From the farms on the Sicilian hillsides come delicious salumi such as sausages, hams, coppe, bacon, guanciale, lards and gelatines, as well as, simple salami and salami seasoned with herbs, pistacchio nuts and the seeds of wild fennel. The quality of these typical Sicilian products has always been renowned and appreciated, together with ancient tradional methods and the freshness of the meat, has given orgin to High Qualty D.O.P. products.
Tasty cheeses keep the salumi company on our tables, coming from the sunny hills of Sicily and the shepherds’ centuries of experience working in absolute respect for farming traditions. The milk from the animals who have grazed on meadows of Mediterranean macchia that are rich in enzimes and bacterial flora, is knowingly transformed into full flavoured, aromatic cheeses.
The sheer variety of Sicilian High Quality cheeses is vast and includes historic and renowned cheeses like Ragusan D.O.P., Sicilian Pecorino D.O.P., Piacentino, the Madonian Provole and the many types of Ricotta and Pecorini, both fresh and matured, each one carefully made, ready to be tasted by even the most esigent of palates.
Arancine are round balls of rice, the size of a large orange, covered in a crust of golden breadcrumbs, filled with a classic meaty tomato sauce, one of the varients uses ham and mozzarella cheese;
Sfincione is one our special breads, topped with tomato sauce, onions, pieces of anchovies and shavings of caciocavallo cheese, its name probably derives from Greek “sponghia”(sponge) owing to its softness.; Panelle are flat squares of chickpea paste that have been seasoned with salt and parsley;
Crocche are made from mashed potato seasoned with salt and parsley;
Pastella: pieces of cauliflower, thistles, artichokes, courgettes and courgette flowers are dipped in batter and deep fried.
Pasta with wild fennel and shrimp is a typical Sicilian from sea to mountain dish, wild fennel is just one of the many seasonings used in Sicilian cuisine;
Pasta with sardines is part of Sicily’s ancient marine tradition, simplicity itself in its preparation combining capers, wild fennel, pepper, pine nuts and currents;
Pasta alla norma: short pasta mixed with diced, fried aubergine and home made tomato sauce, covered with a generous sprinkling of grated, salted ricotta;
Anelletti al forno: a pasta dish baked in the oven which is such a local speciality as to be not usually found else where outside of Sicily; rings of hard wheat pasta mixed into a beschamel sauce and a meat sauce in its simplest form, enriched with fried aubergine, eggs and ham in its more traditional form;
Pasta c’anciova or long, thick bucatini with anchovies and wild fennel, sprinkled with muddica atturrata in other words breadcrumbs toasted in the pan in olive oil and a sliver of anchovy that substituted cheese for poor families in the past;
Pasta con i ricci: spaghetti al dente mixed with sea urchin roe, an extremely popular dish that is however quite hard to find done well;
Pasta nero di seppia: spaghetti tossed in black seppia ink in the frying pan or with a touch of tomato sauce added to it;
Pasta con il pesce spada: an island speciality that marries small pieces of sword fish, augergine and mentuccia (small leaved mint).
Caponata: the never to be without tunisian aubergines are diced, fried, tossed in the pan in a fresh tomato sauce, celery, green olives and capers, garnished with onion, wild fennel, simmered together with olive oil and vinegar, giving it its typical sweet and sour flavour;
Sarde a beccafico: filleted “tongues” of sardines filled with a mixture of breadcrumbs, currents, pine nuts and tomato pure, rolled and “ammolicata” (left to stand), then cooked in the oven;
Parmigiana: a tray bake of fried aubergines in a tomato sauce with basil and cheese;
Cous-cous: grains of semolina steamed and served with either a fish or vegetable sauce;
Pesce spada alla ghiotta: a tray bake of sword fish, with tomato sauce, potatoes, olives, capers and celery;
Braciole di pesce spada: small sword fish parcels stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and currents;
Macco di fave: creamed broad beans served with extra virgin olive oil.
Granita: crushed ice mixed with home-made lemon juice, coffee, citrus fruits juice, almonds, mint, served in a cold glass;
Frutta di martorana: marzipan fruits that have been shaped and painted get their name from the ancient place where they were first made;
Cassata: (from Arabic kas’at) a typical Palermitan cake made of a sponge base, sweetened fresh ricotta mixed with pieces of chocolate pied on top, covered in a layer of marzipan and iced, often decorated with glacé fruits;
Buccellati biscuits: typical Christmas fare, biscuity pastry filled with dried fig jam, almonds and seasoned with cinnemon and cloves;
Cannoli: the cake that is exported all over world symbolizing Sicily, a crispy, fried dough shell filled with sweetened fresh ricotta, chocolate chips and candied peel.