Sicilian Seafood

27 10 2012

The best way to understand the importance of seafood on the Sicilian table is to visit the fish markets in villages along the sea. I watched these villages come to life in the early mornings. Workers unloaded their catches onto tables full of ice. There were heaps of octopuses, buckets full of snails and tiny clams, and any other form of sea life imaginable. The fish came from Mazara del Vallo, Italy’s largest fishing port, in southwest Sicily, as well as smaller ports famed for specific things: anchovies from Sciacca, swordfish from Favignana., and Tuna from Trapini. Teenage boys carried espressos in tiny plastic cups from nearby bars to the fishmongers, who—arms flailing and voices raised—were negotiating with housewives and wholesalers and chefs.

Just think of it, the fish you eat for lunch were caught that morning.

This blog is filled with recipes from towns and villages throughout the island. Read, cook, and enjoy!

Sicilian Cheeses

23 10 2012

Ricotta Salata is an aged, salted Ricotta (cottage cheese whose Italian name literally means “re-cooked”) made from sheep’s milk, produced in the Sicilian heartland. Usually only the rind is actually salted heavily, leaving the core mild and quite sweet for an “aged” cheese.

Pecorino, as its name implies, is made from sheep’s milk (“pecora” meaning sheep). It is true that Sicily’s sheep population is ever diminishing, but in Italian regions, only Sardinia presently raises more sheep than Sicily. Like Tuma, Pecorino is sometimes flavored with peppercorns or other spices. Made throughout Sicily, where it may be considered the most widely produced aged cheese product, it is a favorite for grating over pasta. Its taste, though sharp, is often less pungent and dry than that of Caciocavallo, despite a distinctive flavor and texture.

Like Pecorino, Tuma is sometimes flavored with peppercorns or other spices. Unlike Pecorino, it does not age well and is best served with ham, wines and fruits as a table cheese. It has a sweet taste not unlike that of Provola, with an equally rubbery texture.

Caciocavallo is made from cow’s milk, though its cryptic name literally means “horse cheese” –the Sicilian word “cacio” sharing the same root as casein while “cavallo” means horse. It takes at least eight months to age Caciocavallo properly, achieving a sharper flavor in about two years. Caciocavallo is a good complement to stronger wines, and widely used for grating over pasta. Indeed, it is a favorite of Sicilian chefs for use with pasta. It’s usually shaped as a large wheel. “Caciovacchino” was a similar product made in times past.


18 01 2012

Adrano is a comune in the province of Catania on the east coast of Sicily. It is situated 41 km northwest of Catania, which is the capital of the province to which Adrano belongs. It lies near the foot of Mount Etna, at the confluence of the Simeto and Salso rivers. It is the commercial center for a region where olives and citrus fruit are grown. Neighbouring towns include: Biancavilla, Bronte, Paternò, Randazzo, Santa Maria di Licodia and Centuripe.

The Castle-

The city has a rich cultural and historical structures that draws thousands of visitors a year. Among these is the castle founded in 1070 by Roger the first.

Among the beautiful monuments to visit, there is the Norman Chiesa Madre, the Monastery of S. Lucia erected in 1596, today residence of a public school, the Chiesa di S. Lucia rebuilt in 1775, and the Chiesa di S. Agostino preserving an engraved marble altar.

Clam Stew was served in all of the trattorias I visited.

Sicilian Stew of Clams

1 lb small potatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoon of chopped parsley

1 cup white dry wine

3 cans of tomato sauce

3-4 pounds of small clams

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes. When completely  cooked through cut into quarters.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. add the minced garlic and stir. Cook until garlic begins to color and add parsley.

Raise heat and add wine. Cook for about 4 minutes and add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Add potatoes and clams and cover saucepan. Cook until clams open and discard all unopened clams.

Adjust for taste with additional salt or pepper if needed.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

A Trip Along The Northern Coast of Sicily-Cefalu to Palermo

10 11 2011

It is difficult to cover the history and culture of all of the interesting villages and cities of this beautiful island.  The You Tube below should entice  the discriminating traveler to race out a purchase a round trip ticket to Palermo.  After your visit you may find you’ve wasted the money for the return ticket.

Pasta with Ricotta e Pecorino and Asparagus

The best Ricotta comes from Sicily. This dish is a sample of old peasant cooking using ingredients that are on hand.

1 lb of Penne, shells, Farfali or Spaghetti.

1 lb of asparagus-Woody ends trimmed

1 clove of finely chopped garlic

8 ounces of whole milk

1 onion chopped

2-3 tablespoons of grated pecorino

salt and pepper to taste

fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for about 4 minutes. Remove the asparagus and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Bring the water back to a boil.  Add tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook uncovered until al dente.

Cut the asparagus diagonally  into 1/4 inch pieces and combine the them with remaining ingredients in a large bowl while pasta is cooking. Combine mixture and when the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the bowl. Mix and serve.


5 10 2011

Since 1970, Giardini Naxos has become  a popular tourist destination. Famous for its beaches, it attracts foreign visitors and Italians alike, many of whom own summer residences in the comune. The seafront, Via Tysandros, is lined with hotels, smaller pensions, pubs, restaurants and pizzerias.

In the summer months, Giardini Naxos has many tourists. The public beaches are quite crowded in the months of July and August, especially around Ferragosto which occurs on 15 August and people celebrate this event by camping on the beach in tents and running into the sea at midnight for a swim with an accompanying display of fireworks. Besides swimming and boating, there is plenty to do and see in Giardini. There are shops, discothèques, bars, strolling musicians wearing traditional Sicilian costumes, live bands, theatrical productions, and impromptu dancing on the beaches at night.

The beautiful town of Taormina is situated in the hills above Giardini and can be easily accessed by car and bus. Giardini also has many churches and an archaeological park.

I was there in April and the beaches and shops were still crowded.

Pasta with Garlic and Olive oil

1 lb spaghetti, pasta (uncooked)

3 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup reserved pasta water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 tablespoons fresh minced garlic, divided

1 teaspoon dried red pepper  flakes

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

salt and black pepper

2 Basil leaves-chopped

Bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil with 3 teaspoons salt; add in the spaghetti and cook only until firm-tender; drain but RESERVE 1/2 cup pasta water.

Start this when you are boiling the pasta; Heat about 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat in a skillet.

Add in 3 tablespoons garlic and about 1/2 teaspoon salt with black pepper to taste; saute stirring often until the garlic is light brown (about 6-8 minutes) remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, parsley, lemon juice and about 2 tablespoons of pasta cooking water; mix to combine.

Transfer the drained pasta to a large serving bowl; toss with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining reserved cooking water.

Add in the garlic mixture; toss well to combine.

Season with more black pepper and salt to taste if desired.

Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.


17 09 2011

The Fountain of Diana, in the town-hall square, rises in the ancient Roman baths, and pours water from a spring through 13 spouts. The Gothic Castello dei Naselli, with an 8-sided tower and 14th-century frescoes in the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata, was rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake.

Inside the church there are a 16th-century statue of St. Nicholas and paintings by Salvatore Fiume (1983). The Church of San Biagio, that was built in the 15th century, is set on the ruins of an early 4th century church and surrounded by picturesque small houses.

The United States Air Force deployed Ground Launched cruise missiles (GLCM) to Comiso Air Base in June 1983. The missiles were eventually dismantled after the Intermediate-Range and Short-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed by the former Soviet Union and the United States on 8 December 1987. The last 16 GLCMs left Comiso Air Base in 1991.

Veal Saltimbocca

  • 4 (5-ounce) thinly sliced veal cutlets (scallopini)
  • 4 slices thinly sliced prosciutto
  • sliced black olives
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth

Place the veal cutlets on a sheet of plastic wrap. Place a piece of prosciutto on top of each piece of veal. Gently flatten the cutlets with a meat mallet, until the pieces are about 1/4-inch thick and the proscuitto sticks to the veal. Stick a toothpick in and out of the veal to secure the prosciutto. Put some flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to combine. Dredge the veal in the seasoned flour.

Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter and in a large skillet over medium flame. Place the veal in the pan, prosciutto-side down. Cook until crisp then turn the veal over and saute the other side until golden. Transfer the saltimbocca to a serving platter, remove the toothpicks, and keep warm.

Add the wine to the pan, capers and black olives. Let the wine cook down. Add the chicken broth and remaining tablespoon of butter, swirl the pan around. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca. Serve immediately.


9 08 2011

The providence, Enna is situated near the center of the island. Enna, the village is sitting on a mountaintop and affords the visitor a panoramic view of the valleys below.
It is unique as it is the most important city in Sicily not founded by foreigners. Scholars believe it was founded in 1200 BC. That would make it the oldest continuous-inhabited city on the island. Enna is the only province of Sicily that has no coastline.

The Castello di Lambardia is Enna’s most impressive building. Built in the late 13th or early 14th century by Fredrick III. It’s duomo was built-in the early 13th century. The city was once surrounded by walls and had seven entrances into its numerous cobblestone streets and alleyways.

Since it has no coastline, fish is not the main thing on their restaurants.

Oven roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

For he best flavor, select yellow-fleshed potatoes or white fleshed Maine potatoes. Serve with Veal,  lamb chops, or steak.

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

12  cloves of garlic, crushed

1 1/2pounds of yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices

9 rosemary sprigs, salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

In a metal baking pan over low heat, warm olive oil and garlic until the garlic blends with the oil.  1-2 minutes.

Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Place potatoes in boiling water for about 10-15 seconds and drain.  Place the potatoes in the pan with the garlic.  Sprinkle the potatoes with the rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes so as to thoroughly coat them with the oil and  rosemary.

Spread the potatoes out in a single layer in the baking pan. Place the pan in the oven and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.  Roast, stirring 2-3 times until there is even browning. Roast for about an hour or until they are tender (test by piercing with a fork).

Plate immediately and serve.


15 06 2011

The towers, that protect this village, give the landscape a mystery halo, which mixes history and nature. This village has risen from a Arab country house and was used as a system of defense.

Scopello lies between Castellmmare del Golfo and San Vito lo Capo and is packed during the months of July and August. It derives its name from the Greek Scpelos and from the Latin Scopellum, both meaning rock.

There are no hotels close nearby, however farmhouses houses are rented out during the busy summer months. The main attraction in this village is he bigilo. (Beams or towers) It’s a day trip away from Castellmmare del Golfo.

Sicilian Bouillabaisse

1/2 cup Olive oil

1-2 pounds of Oysters, clams, or mussels

1 cup cooked shrimp

1 cup thinly sliced onions

4 Shallots, thinly sliced

2 Bay Leaves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 large tomato, chopped

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon of fennel seed

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 teaspoons salt

1 tabsp capers

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup clam juice or fish broth

2 Tbs lemon juice

2/3 cup white wine

Crusty Italian bread

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large (6-qt) saucepan. When it is hot, add onions. Sauté for a minute, then add crushed garlic. Add tomato, celery, and fennel. Stir the vegetables into the oil with a wooden spoon until well coated. Then add another 1/4 cup of olive oil, thyme, bay leaves. Cook until the onion is soft and golden.

Add oysters, clams or mussels and shrimp, cut into pieces or left whole. Add salt, pepper and capers. Add clam juice, lemon juice, and white wine. Bring to a simmer again and cook about 5 minutes longer.

Into each soup bowl place a thick slice of crusty Italian bread.


18 05 2011

Acireale, the city that sits at the foot of Mount Etna, on the coast of the Ionian Sea, is famous for its spectacular floats, and costumes. The festival dates back to 1594 and is rated the best carnival in Sicily. The city is also famous for its Baroque and Neo-Gothic styled churches.

As Sicilian cities go, Acireale is a mere infant. It was founded in 1326 and was built on the layers of lava from Mount Etna. The city was nearly destroyed by the 1693 earthquake. In 1941, it was bombed by the Allies, resulting in many innocent civilians being victims being killed.
If you’re visiting the east coast of Sicily, it can be a satisfying day trip away from the dull fields of Mount Etna.

Piazza del Duomo is the heart of Acireale. It was built in the 16 century, the church as suffered from the eruption of Mount Etna, and the area earthquakes. The piazza is dominated by the cathedral, and is filled with cafes and shops.

Sicily is known for its pastries and deserts. Sicilians have a saying about their sweets. “That which gives pleasure, and warmth, does no harm.”

Below is a recipe for one of those pleasures.

Strawberries in Sicilian Red Wine

4 cups of strawberries
1 1/2 cups of sugar
Red Sicilian wine- A Nero d’Avola or Perricone would work here.

Cut strawberries in half
Sprinkle sugar and fold over berries
Place berries in martini type glasses
Pour wine into each glass and DO NOT REFRIGERATE


4 04 2011

As a seaside resort 7 1/2 miles west of Palermo, Mondello is on a par with San Vito lo Capo. During the heat of the summer Palermo residents flock to Mondello which was a small fishing village before it started attracting tourists, and Sicilians, from all over the island.

Its sandy beaches stretch 1 1/2 and during July and August and are filled to capacity.

Other than the beaches, the village holds little interest and should be used as a early morning trip from Palermo. Early morning, so you can get a spot on the sand, and not in the sea.

Posted below is a shrimp/scallop cream pasta I had in Mondello.

Seafood Cream Pasta

Any type of shellfish can be used here, but of course, without the shells. The one listed below is shrimp and scallops. Lobster can be added or substituted.

1 pound of pasta-Penne, Farfalle, or Rotini

Fill a large pot with water add the pasta when the water comes to a boil.

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups of half and half

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 small onion-chopped

2 cloves of garlic-minced

6 pieces shrimp

6 pieces of scallops

1/2 cup of parmesan cheese-shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan saute the onions chopped and with the butter. When the onions are soft, add the minced garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk the flour in with the butter, onions and garlic into a re-aux. (a light re-aux, not a dark one)

When the cheese has melted, add the shrimp and scallops. Drain the pasta and pour into cream sauce mixture.

A bottle of Pinto Grigio