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Sicilian Food Stories

Italy is one of my favourite countries to visit. I love the culture, the people and of course their passion for food- growing it, making it, talking about it and eating it! On my travel bucket list was Sicily and  an Italian cooking course which I did recently.

Piazza Duomo, Catania

I visited Catania and Southern Sicily staying in  a beautiful villa on an  agriturismo farm in Rosolini with Flavours Holidays.  Sicily has so much history that has influenced the cuisine.  My key learning was ‘less is more’ with the simplicity of the recipes, using only a few ingredients and  the amazing local produce.  The understanding of how to combine them to ‘make them sing’ . Using olive oil with one or two herbs at most , perhaps a touch of garlic, delivering an incredible tasting dish- a symphony  on the tongue!

Mount Etna view, Catania

In Catania, Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano dominates the area and  its black soil is fertile producing some fantastic  food & wine such as  lemons,  olives, olive oil , honey, chestnuts, pistachios, almonds, Etna Rosso wines but more of that later.

A trip to Savia, the oldest  Pasticceria in Catania was a must. Friday afternoon was busy with locals enjoying an espresso and a pastry. I tried two Sicilian specialities – Arancini al Ragù   & Cannoli.

Arancini at Pasticceria Savia, Catania

Arancini are  risotto rice balls filled with a rich tomato, vegetable, meat & cheese filling, dipped in breadcrumbs and fried until golden. The Sicilian arancini are ‘cone shaped’, with the shape supposedly making it easier to eat, by hand as the locals informed me.  A bit of a challenge, I did eventually resort to using a fork, very tasty and filling with the layers of flavour.

Cannoli – a Sicilian Speciality, Pasticceria Savia

The cannoli were fabulous- thin, crisp outer shell with a lightly whipped ricotta filling with tiny cubes of candied lemon and crushed pistachios at each end. Much lighter & less sweet  than those I’ve tried before and absolutely delicious.

Pistachio pastry and an espresso at Pasticceria Savia, Catania

 

Meandering around the cobbled streets in search of pizza, I found myself outside Pizzeria Locanda Cerami, a restaurant with a buzzy atmosphere and  full of locals, always a good sign. They had a fantastic selection but what caught my eye was one using pistachio pesto instead of the usual tomato sauce- something I’ve never had on a pizza but can highly recommend.

Pizza with Pistachio Pesto at Pizzeria Locanda Cerami, Catania

It was delicious with some local cherry tomatoes, speck, mozzarella  and crushed pistachios on top. A perfect Friday night Sicilian supper with a glass of Etna Rosso taking in the atmosphere. I found out afterwards from Claudia, our Cooking School host , that I had eaten in one of the best pizza places in Catania.  I did a walking tour of Etna, visiting a cave and then via a cable car & all terrain vehicle up to  2500 metres .

Trekking on Mount Etna

Walking around with the contrast of black volcanic rock & soil, white snow, and steam rising from the enormous craters. An incredible and unforgettable experience- other worldly and magical. We visited a farm to taste some of the local olive oil, pesto, honey , fruit curds, and wines produced on Etna. After enjoying the pizza I bought some pistachio pesto and chestnut honey. Following a day trekking on Etna I was ready for dinner and stumbled upon one of the best restaurants in Catania – Giardino Di Bacco.

Fantastic fish tasting plate at Giardino Di Bacco,Catania

I chose  their fish tasting plate so I could sample a number of local dishes . I tasted swordfish rolls and long rolls, squid stuffed with prawns and asparagus and tuna wrapped in lemon leaves and grilled. I also enjoyed a glass of Frappato Sicilian red wine. This was  one of the best meals I have eaten and definitely a restaurant I would go back to and recommend. After my short visit to Catania  I met up with my fellow Flavours Cooking Crew- 8 enthusiastic foodies for a week cooking and touring around Southern Sicily. Our base was a beautiful 19th century villa on Schembari farm near Rosolini surrounded by fields of olive, lemon, almond and carob trees- so picturesque.  Carmela our chef was a great teacher, and she guided us through lots of Sicilian specialities with a smile and nod of encouragement and approval – she only spoke Italian- so Claudia our fab  host translated.

Carmela our chef making arancini

The savoury recipes we cooked were: arancini, ravioli filled with ricotta, tomato sauce, cavatelli pasta, meatballs with Sicilian lemon, caponata with aubergines, Falsomagro, or ‘ False Thin’ , a rolled beef or veal joint layered with salami, ham, sausagemeat and boiled eggs, then cooked in a tomato sauce-served  in slices . Definitely a dish for festivals and celebrations.

Sicilian Meatballs wrapped in Lemon Leaves from the farm

Homemade Cavatelli with tomato sauce

One of my favourites was  Scacce  Modicane – a savoury thin  pastry filled with various fillings including ricotta & sausage; tomato, aubergine, basil; potato, parsley & onion with some local casiacavallo cheese then  rolled up like a Swiss roll & baked.

Making Scacce Modicane

It was then sliced – delicious eaten just warm and also the next day  cold – perfect picnic food.

Scacce Modicane

The sweet recipes were cannoli,  the trickiest recipe we made but great fun.

 

 

Also biancomangiare, a cold blancmange made with homemade almond milk, sugar flavoured with lemon rind & topped with crushed pistachios.  

Torrone- caramelised almond brittle

We made almond biscuits and torrone- caramelised almond brittle. This was used to top my favourite dessert  a semi freddo – semi frozen ice cream-  served  with a dark chocolate sauce using the famous chocolate from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest Sicilian chocolate maker in Modica. Rich, indulgent and totally yummy. Definitely  Delizioso!  

Semi Freddo with torrone & dark chocolate sauce

We would have classes in the morning and eat what we cooked for lunch. The classes were lots of fun- with banter & bonding over who could roll the thinnest pasta!

We also visited Modica, with its history of chocolate making; Syracuse and Ortigia Island , a fab foodie market with lots of tomato paste, nuts & cheese purchased- especially after meeting Antonio the cheese maker from Borderi Gli Artisti.

Antonio the Cheese maker from Borderi, Ortigia Island

He had Italian charisma, flirting and  plying us with samples of his triple baked ricotta and pecorino with peppercorns. A great character and very effective salesman as we all ended up buying lots of cheese.

Cheese from Boderi, Food Market, Ortigia Island

We enjoyed lunch at a fish restaurant, sampling the mussels, clams, calamari and prawns, Frito Misto Di Mare and pasta alla Norma – with aubergines and rich tomato sauce.

Sicilian seafood platter, Ortigia Island

We went to Marzamemi, an old fishing village , with some wonderful wine tasting & canapés at Feudoromaddini a local vineyard nearby.

Wine Tasting at Feudormaddini Vineyard

We visited some picturesque towns such as Noto & Ragusa Ibla – beautiful baroque architecture, cathedrals and churches, and stunning views.

Claudia & Flavours Cooking Crew in Noto

Sunset travelling to Ragusa Ibla

I fell in love with Sicily – a beautiful island with great culture, people  and food. I hope to return to see more of the island for more Sicilian food stories.

Carmela & Flavours Cooking Crew

 

 

7 Comments

    • Hi Kath – we had a fab time! Lots of laughter, great banter, cooking & a great cooking crew! Hope you’re enjoying your tomato paste! Lindsey x 🍅🇮🇹

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