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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

a tavola - the cuisine of sicily
(return to food)

Sicilian cuisine is the most varied and exciting in Italy. Because of the influence ofits Arabic heritage,it uses flavor combinations unheard of on the continent and they work beautifully.

see also...
* Palermo's Street Markets
* Direct from Sicily
* Fire of Mount Etna
* Bella Sicilia!
* Savor This!
*Stranger in a Strange Land
* Sicilian Cooking
* Sicily Quiz
* All About Sicily

other Italian regions...

Sicilian cuisine today can be described as fragrant and Intensely aromatic. Flavors such as anchovies, citrus, olives, capers, mint, saffron, chilies, garlic, dried fruits, chocolate, wine and honey are married with superb ingredients from the land and sea. The combination produces classic dishes like caponata (sweet and sour eggplant relish), panelle (chickpea fritters), sfincioni (pizzas with onions and anchovies), pasta con le sarde (pasta with fresh sardines and wild fennel ), pasta alla Norma (pasta with fried eggplant, tomato sauce and ricotta salata cheese), and cuscusu (fish couscous).

Then there are some of the best desserts in the world, a legacy of the Arabs, convent nuns and continental chefs. Perhaps the most famous sweets are cannoli and cassata, but there are so many others in all categories: filled pastries, fried pastries, cookies, cakes, marzipan treats, candied fruit, sorbetti (sorbet) and granite (water ices). Ironically, the best dessert of all may be the island's fresh fruit, for which Sicily has few rivals. Also unrivaled is its world-famous sweet wine, Marsala.

The following is just a taste of the vast assortment in store for you in Sicilian cooking.For more information and recipes, please see A Discussion about Sicilian Cuisine edited by our friends at


Caponata - Sweet and Sour Eggplant
This is the classic summer Sicilian antipasto which is famous world-wide.

2 medium-large eggplants (about 2 and one-half pounds)
1 and one-half cups olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
6 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch lengths and blanched for 1 minute in boiling water
1 cup pitted green olives
One-half cup capers
1 and one-half cups plain tomato sauce (see below)
One-half cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (optional)
3/4 cup toasted almond slivers

Wash the eggplants, cut off the stems, and cut the eggplants into 3/4-inch cubes. Sprinkle with abundant salt and allow to drain for an hour. Rinse well, dry, and fry in 1 cup olive oil until golden brown on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper.

Saute the onion in one-half cup olive oil until it begins to color. Add the blanched celery and cook a minute longer, then add the olives, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, and the cocoa if like.

Simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in the eggplant and simmer for 10 minutes. Correct the salt, then refrigerate for 24 hours.

Serve the caponata, sprinkled with the toasted almonds, either cold or at room temperature.
Serves 6

Vinaigrette Italiana - Italian "Butter"
This non-recipe is here for fun.

Flat plate
Olive Oil
Romano Cheese
Black Pepper

Pour the Olive Oil into the flat plate, as much as you like. Grate the Romano over the Oil. Add fresh ground Black Pepper. Dip bread, and sip some wine... enjoy Hot peppers are also a great topping.


For a complete explanation and recipes, see


Minestra di Campagna - Country-Style Soup
Here is a comfort food recipe for a chilly evening.

Creativity with simple ingredients is one of the themes of Sicilian cooking. There's no better example than this bean and vegetable soup, which some say evolved from food that fifteenth-century galley cooks made for mariners.

1/2 cup dried fava beans
1/2 cup dried Great Northern beans
6 cups water
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
8 ounces savoy cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1/2 head Bibb lettuce, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil

Place fava beans in medium saucepan. Place Great Northern beans in large bowl. Add enough cold water to each to cover by 3 inches and let soak overnight.

Bring fava beans to boil in their soaking liquid. Boil 5 minutes. Drain fava beans and cool slightly. Using small sharp knife, make small slit in skin of each bean. Peel off outer skins and discard. Drain Great Northern beans.

Bring 6 cups water to boil in large pot. Add all beans, onion, carrot and celery. Partially cover; simmer over medium heat until beans are half cooked, about 30 minutes. Add cabbage and lettuce. Partially cover; cook until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Drizzle with oil.
Serves 4

Passatelli in Brodo - Egg Drops in Chicken Soup
This classic recipe is world famous.

4 eggs
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of white bread crumbs
4 tbsp of milk
salt, pepper and nutmeg

Mix all ingredients to make a paste. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Prepare a standard chicken soup and bring to boil. Push the paste through a colander into boiling chicken stock. Cook for few minutes and serve hot with Parmesan cheese.


Pasta con Melanzane, Carciofi, e Peperoni - Pasta with Eggplant, Artichokes and Bell Pepper
A wonderful summer time dish.

Nowhere are vegetables as important as they are in Sicily, and few vegetables are as popular or have as long a history as the eggplant. There are said to be hundreds of ways to prepare it. Peppers and artichokes are almost as well loved and common.

1 1 1/4-pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups olive oil
4 large shallots, peeled, quartered
1 large red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped pitted brine-cured black olives (such as Kalamata)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large artichokes, stems trimmed
16 ounces rigatoni or other tubular pasta

Preheat oven to 400�F.
Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt in large bowl. Turn eggplant out onto paper towels and let drain 30 minutes. Pat eggplant dry. Heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat to 350�F.
Working in batches, add eggplant to oil; cook until golden, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes per batch. Using slotted spoon, transfer to clean paper towels. Reserve 5 tablespoons eggplant frying oil. Toss shallots and whole bell pepper with 3 tablespoons reserved oil on large baking sheet. Roast until shallots are tender, turning occasionally, about 25 minutes. Place shallots and eggplant in large bowl. Continue roasting bell pepper until skin blackens, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic bag; let stand 10 minutes. Peel, core and seed pepper. Cut into thin strips lengthwise, then cut strips crosswise in half. Add bell pepper strips, olives and garlic to eggplant and shallots.

Cook artichokes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, turning occasionally, about 40 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to bowl; cool. Remove leaves from artichokes and reserve for another use. Scoop out chokes. Cut artichoke hearts into 1/3-inch pieces; combine with other vegetables. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)

Cook 16 ounces of pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return pasta to pot. Add all vegetables and remaining 2 tablespoons reserved eggplant frying oil and toss over medium heat until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Divide pasta among plates and serve.
Serves 4

Spaghetti Col Pesto Alla Trapanese - Pasta With Almond and Basil Pesto From Trapani
Discover this spicy pesto sauce from Trapani. Dazzling to taste, incredibly simple to prepare, it is a sensational Sicilian alternative to the winning Ligurian combination

1 cup blanched almonds
1 teaspoon
sea salt
4 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 cup or 50 large leaves of fresh basil
5 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 small (about 1-1/4 pounds) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 quarts of water
1-1/4 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 lb spaghetti

If you are making this is a food processor, set the almonds and sea salt in the bowl fitted with the steel blade. Grind together until they are so fine they are almost a coarse flour. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the water, coarse salt and spaghetti and process until they are a creamy sauce.

If you are making this in a marble mortar, pound the almonds with a pestle. Add the salt, garlic cloves, basil, parsley and red pepper flakes and crush them well. Transfer to a bowl, mix in the tomatoes and amalgamate the mixture with the oil.

You can keep this pesto for two or three days in the refrigerator or freeze and keep it for two or three months.

Bring a large pot with at least 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil, add 1-1/4 tablespoons coarse sea salt and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with the pesto on a warmed serving platter. Serve immediately.
Serves 6


Arancini di Riso - Little Rice "Oranges" which are not oranges at all!
2T olive oil
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 pound mushrooms, diced
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup cooked peas (or pine nuts)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Place a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Heat to hot. Add olive oil. Allow to warm. Add chopped garlic and onion. Brown, add meat, salt, and pepper. Break up meat and continue to brown. Add chopped mushrooms. Mix well. Add tomatoes, allspice, and wine. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add peas. Mix well. Raise heat and allow to dry. Remove from stove. Add grated cheese and mix well.

5 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rice
pinch of saffron
1/4 cup water
3 eggs
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 pound butter
dash of salt
dash of white pepper
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beat
pinch of salt
2 cups bread crumbs
oil for frying

Bring water to a boil. Add salt. Add rice, stir well, cover, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until al dente. Soft rice is not good for this recipe. While rice is boiling, combine saffron and boiling water and allow to brew for 20 minutes. Strain the tea. Drain rice very, very well. Add saffron tea and mix well. The saffron will tint the rice. Add eggs, cheese, butter, salt, and pepper. Mix well and set aside to cool for at least an hour. Mix should be golden orange and firm. Too moist it will be difficult to handle. Place 2-3 tablespoons of cold rice mixture in the palm of your hand. Press firmly, to make a dent. Fill the dent with slightly less than a tablespoon of the meat mixture. Cover the filling with an additional rice mixture. Press firmly together so no filling is showing. Form into a ball to resemble small oranges and refrigerate an hour to firm. Roll the ball in flour. Then dip in beaten egg to which salt has been added. Roll in bread crumbs. Place a 4-6 quart pot over medium heat. Add enough oil to cover the arancini. Heat. Drop arancini into the hot oil. Do not allow them to touch eachother. Fry golden brown, remove, drain on a paper towel.
Serve hot.

Riso con Peperonata alla Siciliana - Rice with Sicilian Stewed Peppers
A very colorful and good-for-you dish.

The people of Sicily cook multicolored peppers, sweet onion, and ripe tomatoes, gently with a bit of garlic, some olives, and a few capers until everything is meltingly tender and intensely aromatic. Traditionally, this dish is served as a vegetable, but with a little bit of creativity it can become a healthy, delicious first course.

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds red, yellow, and green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 12-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
8 to 10 small green pitted olives, quartered
1 to 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, shredded, or 1tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1-1/2 cups imported Arborio rice

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and cook, stirring, until they begin to color, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onion and cook until onion and peppers are lightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, olives, and capers and stir once or twice. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover the skillet. Simmer the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and tender and the juices in the skillet have thickened, 35 to 40 minutes.
Stir in the basil or parsley. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the rice, and stir briefly with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender but still al dente, 13 to 15 minutes.
Drain the rice, making sure to leave it a bit wet, and place it in a warm serving bowl. Add the pepper mixture to the rice and mix well. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.
Serves 4.



A perfect Easter dish.

Arrosto di Cosciotto d'Agnello con Patate Arrosto - Roasted Leg of Lamb with Roasted Potatoes
leg of lamb of about 3 lbs
bunch of rosemary
bunch of sage
5 leaves of laurel
few garlic gloves
olive oil

Remove the upper bone from the leg and add the herbs, salt and olive oil to the incisions, tie and marinate the whole leg with a bit of oil if you want to cook with the bone, marinate the leg with olive oil add the herbs and garlic and tie them around the leg. Prepare a baking pan. Add some of the herbs. Place the lamb in the pan and sprinkle some salt on it. Cook for about a half hour at 350F.
Turn the lamb. Add the salt on this side now and increase temperature to 400F. Let it cook for about 20 minutes more. Remove from oven and serve on a large platter with lemon. You can also cook the lamb by adding some broth 1/2 way to make a dense sauce.
Serve the lamb with roasted potatoes which you can cook with lamb or separately.

'Mpanata Ragusana - Cauliflower and Lamb Pie
An Unusual combination of ingredientswith a winning taste.

1 md. size cauliflower (about 1.5 lbs)
1 lg. onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup of red wine
1/2 Lb lamb sausage
2 cups of grated cacciocavallo cheese
salt, pepper
For dough:
2 lb. flour
1 .5 cup of water
2 eggs
1 pinch of salt
1teaspoon of baking powder

For filling:
Clean cauliflower and cut in large pieces. Blanch in salted water. Cut onions in small squares. Remove cauliflower from water, cut into smaller pieces and saut� in olive oil with the onion. Crumble sausage into small pieces and add to cauliflower. Add 1/2 cup of wine and let wine evaporate. Add the cacciocavallo cheese and let it bind all the cauliflower and sausage set aside.

For dough:
Make a well with the flour, add water in the center and the baking powder. Let it dissolve in the water and add the salt, slowly incorporate the flour, add the eggs as needed and mold creating a large ball.
Cut the ball in two and let it rest for about 2 hours. Stretch the dough to fit the top and bottom of a baking pan. Grease the pan with butter, add bottom dough. Place the filling on top of the dough, spread out evenly, place the top layer of the dough. Brush the top with egg and make some small incisions with a fork.
Bake for 30 min. at 350 F.


Stuffato di Molluschi alla Tarantina - Shellfish Stew alla Tarantina
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 pound large shrimp, U-15 size, peeled and deveined
1 pound calamari, cleaned of skin, ink sac and beak
1 pound small clams or cockles, scrubbed and drained
12 oysters, shucked, with liquid reserved
6 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cored, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cored, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme leaves
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup basic tomato sauce
4 slices rustic bread, toasted until hard

Cut calamari into 1/2-inch rings and check oysters for sand and bits of shell.
In a 4 quart pot, heat olive oil until smoking. Add onion, peppers and thyme leaves and cook until softened but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add wine and tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Add clams, shrimp and mussels and cover.
Cook 3 to 4 minutes until clams have all opened. Add calamari and cook 2 minutes until opaque. Season with salt and pepper, add oysters and oyster liquid and simmer 2 to 3 minutes until oysters have tightened around outer edges. Divide shellfish over pieces of bread in 4 bowls, pour in broth and serve.
Serves 4.

Sicilian Swordfish in Foil Packets
A wonderful way to serve seafood to guests.

1/4 pound swordfish or tuna steak, about 1-1/4 inches thick
A little flour for dusting the steak
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil as needed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 garlic clove, minced
1 cup chopped pitted green olives
2-inch strip of lemon zest finely slivered
1-2 teaspoons tomato puree, diluted with 1 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heavy duty aluminum foil

Dust each side of the fish lightly with flour, shaking off the excess. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat and saute the fish quickly just until it is golden on each side. Remove and set aside. Lower the heat and in the oil left in the pan saute the onion and garlic until they are soft, adding more oil if necessary. Then add the olives and lemon zest, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the tomato puree; then raise the heat slightly until the wine is reduced and the sauce thickens.
Place the fish on a large square of aluminum foil, pour the sauce on top, and fold the ends into a loose but tightly sealed packet. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the packet on a cookie sheet or a shallow baking pan and bake 15 minutes. Remove the fish from the packets and serve.
Serves 2.

A beautiful presentation of our friend, the eggplant.

Involtini di Melanzane - Eggplant Rolls with Cacciocavallo cheese, Tomatoes, Anchovies, Capers and Bread Crumbs
2 lg. eggplants
1 onion sliced thin
2 clove of garlic
1/4 olive oil
2 tablespoon minced parsley
3-4 anchovies
4 Tbsp tomato sauce
salt to taste
12 laurel leaves
1 Tbsp capers
3 oz cacciocavallo
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Slice the eggplant in 1/4" slices. Blanch them and put aside.

Prepare filling:
saut� onions with minced garlic clove in olive oil, add minced parsley, add anchovies, add tomato sauce and check salt & pepper. Clean and wash capers and add to filling. Add a handful of bread crumb, add cacciocavallo, mix well and be sure it has a rather thick paste consistency. If too soft add some more bread crumbs, if too hard add some more tomato sauce. Place on a flat slice of eggplant a spoon full of the filling roll and secure with a toothpick. Line up with a leave of laurel separating each roll of eggplant squeeze some lemon a and bake for 20 min. at 350F.


Cassata Siciliana al Forno - Baked Sicilian Cassata
This is a traditional Easter dessert in Sicily.

1 1/4 pounds fresh ricotta (the crumbly kind one buys in delicatessens)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 pound diced candied melon rind, finely diced
1/4 pound diced candied orange peel, finely diced
1/4 pound baking chocolate, finely shaved
A pinch vanilla (figure 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Pasta frolla sufficient to line and cover a 9-inch pan (see below)
Confectioner's (powdered) sugar for dusting
Pan di Spagna

This is the recipe developed by Salvatore Beninati, pastry chef of the Antica Pasticceria Mazzarra in Via Generale Magliocco 15/21, where Tommasi di Lampedusa wrote much of his celebrated Il Gattopardo.

Put the ricotta through a strainer and mix it with the sugar (Ada Boni, in her recipe, suggests you beat the sugar and ricotta until the mixture is light and fluffy). Stir in the vanilla, candied fruit and chocolate, mixing well to distribute them evenly.

Roll out your pasta frolla and line a 9-inch cake pan with it. Lay down a layer of crumbled pan di spagna over the dough, spoon the ricotta mixture over it, and cover everything with a second sheet of pasta frolla. Bake in a moderate (370 F, 185 C) oven until the pasta frolla is lightly browned (don't let it over brown or it will become quite hard). Remove it from the pan when it has cooled and dust it with the confectioner's sugar.

Note: Ada Boni suggests a slightly different procedure. She has you line your cake pan with oven paper, then with pieces of pan di spagna cut into strips so as to make a pan di spagna box, which should be filled with the ricotta mixture and covered with a thin lid of pan di spagna. She then has you chill the cassata and remove it from the pan by covering the cake with a serving plate, flipping everything, and carefully lifting away the pan and the paper. Then she tells you to dust the cake with powdered sugar -- no baking other than that of the pan di spagna involved.

In any case, with regards to Cassateddi di Ricotta, Mr. Correnti says, "they're an Easter cake, common throughout the Island (in the past they were also made from boiled ground chick peas mixed with cooked wine), especially in the Modiciano area. They're made by splitting small loaves of pan di spagna and filling them with ricotta that has been put through a strainer, sweetened with sugar, and enriched with chocolate and candied fruit. At Modica they're also made with tuma, a very fresh unsalted cheese. Dusted with an abundance of confectioner's sugar, they're topped with candied cherries. A more recent variation has them filled with crema pasticcera (pastry cream) and topped with sugar frosting. The popularity of "cassatelle" has led to the saying, cu nn'appi n'appi cassateddi ri Pasqua, which one uses in Sicily at the end of any event, meaning that it's time for all, those pleased and those less so, turn their attention to other things."
Serves 10.
From Italian Food

Pasta Frolla:
Pasta frolla is quite similar to shortbread, and is used primarily to make pies, cookies and crostate, though it does also get used in some main-course dishes, for example pasticcio di tortellini all'emiliana. This recipe, which is derived from Artusi, is pretty much standard.

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg and 1 yolk
The grated zest of a half a lemon or a quarter of an orange

Mix the flour and sugar; cream the butter. Combine the ingredients, handling them as little as possible to keep the butter from melting (a pastry blender makes this easier). If it's more convenient for you to make the dough a day ahead, do so because it improves with age; it should in any case rest for at least an hour.

When you roll it out, do so quickly, without working it overmuch, lest it become crumbly. When you bake it (use the times suggested in the recipe), only bake it until it's a light golden brown -- if it starts to darken it's burning (this can happen quite suddenly, so keep an eye on your oven).
From Italian Food.


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