It is difficult to summarize the enormous cultural, architectural and natural heritage of Sicily in a few lines. The same goes for the great wealth of its produce and cuisine. It has always been a gastronomic warehouse, since the days when it was the breadbasket of the Roman Empire. A land which has been shaped and chiseled over centuries by diverse influences and where every single province produces products of excellence. The cuisine is often vastly different though always recognizable, tied by an invisible red thread which is almost a brand, unmistakable for those in the know.
The pasta used is often short but always varies, as does the sauce which reflects the produce of the area. Let’s begin with Vincenzo Bellini’s city Catania and one of the most well known dishes: “pasta alla norma”. This dish is very much Sicilian, using eggplant, tomato, oil, basil and salted ricotta.
Another must is “busiate trapanesi”, small maccheroni made 5 by twisting the pasta around a stalk of a common grass that grows in the typically arid sandy soil of the Mediterranean. Tomato, preferably pizzuttello, is the preferred traditional accompaniment. Fish is favoured over meat, an inheritance from Arab traditions. Sicily has also adopted the extraordinary dish of “cous-cous”, originally a tradition of Trapani, it has now become widely popular. Arabic influences can also be found in the use of dried fruits, which are rarely missing from a Sicilian meal.
Who has never heard of “sarde a beccafico”, a dish wonderfully enriched with raisins. Dried fruits are common in desserts, while in Palermo one can easily come across wafts of offal served with “pane ca’ meusa” typical of the city markets. “Arancine” which are deep fried rice balls are round and considered feminine in and around Palermo, but become more elongated and pointed and considered masculine the further east one goes, the filling also differs.
Another symbolic Sicilian dish which differs according to region is “caponata”. Classic Sicilian vegetables are cut in dice, fried and then cooked in a sweet sour tomato sauce. Every family maintains they have the original recipe, there are over thirty recipes which are considered “traditional”. The Noto Valley has wonderful agriculture and marvellous confectionary: opulent, prized and unforgettable.
Praise be to “cassata” and “cannoli” which pay tribute to ricotta, candied fruit and the art of confectionary, not to mention pasta di mandorla (almond paste), where almonds are
at their most sumptuous and to a certain extent express the warmth of the Sicilian people. The photographs were taken at the “Terre di Vendicari” Resort at Noto (SR).