Saturday, May 19, 2018

Royal Wedding: the cake has got Sicilian lemons!!!

Dear Sicilian foodies,

Could I ever let this event falling behind without notice? Of course not! :D

The big day has finally arrived: 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this morning have tied the knot on a bright and sunny day in Windsor.

Modest and elegant dress with boat neck, beautiful and shining tiara for Meghan;

while Prince Harry looked as handsome as ever in his blue distinctive uniform and ginger beard. 

In addition to all these feelings of happiness, love and excitement for this touching day there is also space for pride.

The Royal cake baker, Claire Ptak, has in fact announced that the wedding elderflower flavoured cake will be filled with lemon curd made of: 

authentic Sicilian and Amalfi lemons and she has promised it will incorporate the bright flavours of Spring. 

So, yes, the couple is Brit-American, there is a lot of talk about the Commonwealth countries, but … and I repeat but… there is also a bit of space for us Sicilians to feel proud.

Thanks Claire Ptak for choosing products from Southern Italy and all the best to the lovely #harryandmeghan :) 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Sicilian caciocavallo, one of the most ancient cheese in the island

Photo source:
The Caciocavallo is a Sicilian cow cheese produced in the whole of south Italy and in particular in Sicily, in different part of the island. 

It is considered one of the most ancient cheese ever made in the Mediterrenean area, as Hippocrate back in 500 B.C., was the first one to write about the art of preparing this cheese by the Greeks.

In Sicilian dialect its name is "cascavaddu" or "cosacavaddu", while in Italian language is a combination of cheese (cacio) and horse (cavallo) because apparently the "provole" were tied over wooden beams and left them there to mature. Nowadays it is preferred to think that the word comes from the Turkish language "qasqawal", which is a similar type of cheese produced in that area (Turkey and Greece). 

The traditional caciocavallo both in Sicily and south of Italy has got a traditional oval shape with a knot on top, or as I used to called it when I was younger "the hanged". 

Something different happens for the unique quality of the caciocavallo ragusano, a DOP (Protected designation of origin), which instead, is produced in the whole of the Ragusashire, deep south of Sicily, in the province of Ragusa but also some town and villages in the province of Siracusa, and has a long and parallelepipedon shape (pic above).

It is a semi-hard streamed stretched cheese, but it can become hard if matured for long. Normally aging time can go from a minimum of one month to a year or over. 

According to the recipe you are cooking, you can use either the fresh, the semi or the very matured caciocavallo. For the last one we also use it grated in mixture of veggies, omelettes or on top of particular pasta dishes, instead of Parmisan, when a stronger taste is needed.

The number of Sicilian recipes we use caciocavallo in, is just countless: from any 'pasta a minestra' dish to veggie pies, focaccias, pizzas, or the typical "scacce" from Ragusa, but also in main dishes like the falsomagro roll, and of course, let's not forget its own triumphant and powerful one: "the cacio all'Argentiera". 

The caciocavallo has a very strong taste, a pleasant smell and is yellowish in color. Perfect when paired with reds from the Sicilian island like a Shiraz or a Merlot. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve in Messina with the "pitoni messinesi"

Have you ever heard of a Sicilian delicacy called the "pitoni messinesi"?

One of the most traditional food you can eat in Messina's families for Christmas Eve is definitely this exquisite calzone of poor origins which you can have fried or baked in the oven.

Being a family recipe, as often happens there are several versions, some put tomatoes in the filling, some other don't, ecc...

I personally love the classic one with only 3 ingredients: anchovies, Sicilian cheese (either caciocavallo or primo sale or smoked scamorza), and, some kind of local vegetable with large green leaves, that we call indivia or scarola, and can be translated into endive or escarole or wild lettuce, or any other similar of your choice.

Ingredients & Preparation:

To make the dough for about 6 calzoni

400 gr - Flour 00
25 gr brewester's yeast
50 gr lard
12 anchovies
1 bunch of indivia or scarola (about 500 gr)
200 gr - a Sicilian cheese of your choice (provola, scamorza caciocavallo or primosale to be cut in slices).
Salt & Pepper + 25. gr salt for the dough
oil for frying (of your choice)

Place salt and yeast in a glass or bowl half filled with lukewarm water (about 200 gr) and stir until it is all completely melted in the water.

In a large bowl (or on the kitchen counter) place the flour and slowly pour the water in the flour, mixing all together. Add then the lard and keep kneading until you have a proper dough which has to be soft and able to come off your hands (in other words not sticky).
Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and leave it to rest the time you need to cut your cheese in slices (or cubes if you prefer), as well as the vegetable.

Once your ingredients are ready, from the dough form at least 6 balls of the same size (you can weight them if you want to be more precise). If they are slightly smaller can be 8.

Roll each of them with a rolling pin (about 2/3 mm thick) giving it a rounded shape and start filling half of it, as you would normally do with a classic calzone. Put 3 pieces of anchovies, a handful of endive or escarole, salt and pepper and finally abundant cheese on top (at least 3 or 4 slices).

Cover with the other half left without filling, making sure the edges stick one another and there are no holes in the dough otherwise the cheese will come out and get burnt.
Once you have all the pitoni ready, fry them in oil (or bake them in the oven if you prefer at a temperature of 180° for about 12 to 20 minutes (it depends how big they are).

Tips: If you are frying, the pitoni have to float in the oil, so if you don't have a proper electric fryer, you can use an aluminium old casserole or pot of medium size with high rims which will allow you to get the perfect result. 

Once they are golden brown on both sides leave them on kitchen paper to absorb the exceeding oil for a couple of minute, then serve hot.

It's such a simple recipe and it is so incredibly tasty. I am sure you will love it, whether you choose to fry it or bake it, whether you go with the provola or the wild lettuce, the essence of it is using the most basic everyday ingredients and create something exquisite with it, perfect to be enjoyed for Christmas Eve.

Happy Holidays lovely foodies and enjoy!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Traditional Sicilian Caldarroste vs Modern Chestnut Cake

Which one is gonna win: Sicilian tradition or a bit of food innovation and creativity? Today is all about chestnuts, but there is a tough match in the house: 

Typical "caldarroste" VS Innovative Spongy Chestnut Cake. 

Let me explain.

Sicily is definitely well known for its almond trees and its pistachio nuts on the slopes of Mount Etna, but majority of people doesn't know you can also find several chestnut trees areas in our island, and their exquisite fruits, which are harvested between the middle of September and October, are mainly eaten in the Winter season, starting from November...ish.

Photo Source:
In this period infact we start seeing the "caldarroste", delicious roasted chestnuts you can buy in the corner of every street. (Also in the rest of Italy are pretty popular.)

The name, which is a mix of two words in Italian (calde and arrostite) literally means "hot and roasted", prepared in an old cilindric semi-open flame oven called fornacella.

You will buy them from the "caldarrostaro", the man will sell it to you in the traditional "coppo", a cone made of either paper or soft cardboard, and because you can find it in the streets, it is considered part of the Sicilian street food (or snack) although seasonal. 

One point for tradition and back to square one.

Now let's move on from caldarroste to chestnut flour. 

This type of flour was used a lot in ancient times, but very little today and is a bit of a shame, as you can prepare many dishes with it, from fresh gnocchi to bread and pasta, and of course amazing desserts.

It is a naturally gluten-free product because is made from dried chestnuts, but be careful (if you are celiac) when you buy it, as sometimes they would grind it in the same mills they use for other flours, so it could be "contaminated".

Talking about desserts, few years ago my mom had some chestnut flour that she wanted to try in a new cake and the result was this beautiful spongy treat which up until today is one of my favorite soft cakes of all times. 
It is extremely tasty and stays fresh for days, if you store it properly in a cool place, but you won't have this problem, (unless you live on your own), because it will literally disappear in minutes. 

You can have it plain for breakfast, with an additional sugar glace on top for your tea-time with friends, or even served with whipped cream on the side for a more scrumptious and luxurious end of a meal. 

Rounded, rectangular or even in mini-cakes shaped, like you can see in the different pictures, it will still look fantastic and more important taste delicious.

Everyone will go (chest-) NUTS! Ah ah ah....

Joke aside, bear in mind that chestnut flour is a bit heavier than white flour, which means that tends to absorb more the humidity from the liquids so if you use it in pureness (like I do) you need to double your liquid ingredients such as eggs and butter. 


- 260 gr. chestnut flour
- 220 gr. sugar
- 6 eggs to be separated
- 200 gr. butter
- 16 gr. baking powder 

- half glass of milk
- 125 gr white yogurth or vanilla flavor one

*NOTE: In my mom original recipe there were 6 eggs and 250 gr of butter, but no yogurth at all, I decided to reduce the butter and replacing it with the yogurth, which gives that extra moisture. You can also replace it completely by using coconut oil, or margarine of course. I would still use the yogurth with them though. 

*Preheat the oven at 180° degrees.
1. Separate the yolks from the whites.
2. Leave the whites aside and add the sugar with the yolks.
3. Mix it until smooth and fluffy, than start adding chestnut flour and butter (or whatever you prefer), 4. Continue adding the yogurth and the remaining flour until the end.
Don't worry if it looks really thick and hard to mix, that is the flour that absorbs a lot but remember you still need to add 2 more liquids.
5. Lukewarm half glass of milk and pour the baking powder in it. Stir quickly with a teaspoon, until the foam fills the whole glass and while still stirring, pour it  all into the cake mix. Gently fold it with the rest of the dough using a spatula or a wooden spoon.

6. At this point the consistency should be still a bit dense but easy to fold.
7. Whip the whites with a pinch of salt until they are stiff and the fork stuck in the middle does not fall on the side.

8. Gently pour the whites into the cake dough and slowly mix it together from bottom up, so that the whites won't deflate and loose their air. When you can't see anymore white bits in the mixture it means is ready for baking.
9. Butter a cake tin and dust it with some icing sugar (instead of the common flour).
10. Pour all the mix in the tin and place in the oven for about 40-45 minutes.
After 30 minutes just check the centre of the cake with a stick, if it is still very wet but the top is ok, reduce the heat at 150° and cover the top with some aluminium foil.
11. Keep checking every 10 minutes until it comes out perfectly clean.
12. Once is ready take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for half an hour. 

13. Sparkle icing sugar on top (or whatever else you prefer from the options I gave you above); then place it onto a dish, ready to be served. 

Done and dusted!

Let's go back to my initial dilemma then:

Typical Sicilian "caldarroste" vs Modern Spongy Chestnut Cake?

Do you know what? I say... BOTH of them! 


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

10 days of Sicilian food & culture in Palermo for the 3rd edition of the Street Food Fest

Are you ready for a complete full immersion of Sicilian Street Food? Well... you'd better be because is coming up in few days a Christmas edition of the Sicilian Street Food Festival in the heart of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, from the 7th until the 17th of December. 

It is going to be a true celebration of food not only from our island but also from different countries like Uk, Thailand, North Africa, Usa as well as other parts of Italy to have a more international atmosphere and a bigger variety of stalls.

The designated area will be in the so-called lower "CASSARO" which is the area that stretches from via Roma down to the gorgeous Piazza Marina in the oldest part of the city.

During the whole period people will be able to listen to live music events, attend cooking shows and of course taste any type of street food. There will be chances to learn more about Sicilian tradition and cultural identity. Street food is a massive part of Sicilian people and its roots are quite old.

Besides, thanks to an Association named "Terra d'amare", guided tours will be available for tourists and locals (why not?), anyone that wants to discover the beauties of the city: ancient monuments and open-air markets, churches and historical buildings, not to mention charming hidden corners.

So... what are you waiting for? Don't you want to have a bite of the succulent Sicilian food and culture? Immerse yourself in this amazing world of diverse and unique smells, colors, textures, flavors and stimulating cultural outlooks.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Homemade little gifts for your Christmas or Secret Santa? Here some ideas!

December has definitely arrived: cold, a bit wet but always extremely charming. Going out in December is so beautiful as you get to see Christmas decorations in the shops and all those colorful lights everywhere. In some kind of magical way Christmas fills your heart with joy and hope and lifts up your spirit... or ... well, at least this is what happens to me every year.

But there is also the negative consumistic aspect: the stress kicks in, too many things to juggle, presents to buy, the festivity to organise, the big family lunch, and maybe at work they even asked you to organise the Secret Santa? 

Well,... sometimes all we need is a good organisation and a couple of fresh ideas to avoid being swallowed by the crazy Christmas vortex.

I thought I might share with you some ideas of lovely and thoughtful little presents I prepared for some friends and colleagues. 

If you want to give something really nice but personal, that shows how much you care, then just go for some homemade delicacy: some cookies for example, your favorite jam or chutney, the Sicilian pistachios pesto, just to name a few.

Homemade? Yes! I know what you are thinking.

"I don't have time, I am not great a cooking", but listen to me first. 
Let's say you have few close friends and a couple of colleagues to whom you want to give something for Christmas.

Instead of rushing from a shop to another, trying to save as much money as possible, just plan few hours in the kitchen.

In 2 or 3 hours you can either make a jam or prepare cookies for at least 8 people. You save lots of money and you dedicate the time to all of them at the same time! Isn't it great?

Of course if you have more time you can even decorate your biscuits as much as you like and let your creativity prevails. It took me only 2 hours and a half to prepare all the cookies and do the packaging as well, and the homemade touch, I am telling you, it is so appreciated!


If you feel like is not enough in some cases, you can always combine one of those things with another little gift like a Christmasy mug or a kitchen towel or glove, (or all of them), just like it shown in the pic on the left and below.

In the first one I filled this lovely mug with the cookies.  

These kitchen towels are from 'Penelope' textile shop, Palermo - Italy

In the second one I wrapped the packet around the kitchen towel, making sure it looked pretty. 

And why not add a nice glittery card too?!


In the third one I prepared the pesto of pistachios because I know one particular friend of mine is crazy about it. I bought this cute little jar, filled it with the pesto and give it to her with a cute red ribbon. 

She absolutely loved it, because it took her by surprise. She definitely did not expect that!

So, ...although I know this festivity period is overwhelming and sometimes we get caught up in the thousands of things that we have to do, try to enjoy its charme and its profound meaning. Do not stress and do not despair, because the way I see it, Christmas is not about making expensive gifts, it's about showing that we care and we think of others as much as we think of ourselves.

We all agree then? Let's plan few hours ahead in our Calendar to prepare something genuine and full of love. Something special for our special loved ones. It is incredibly worth it!


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Scacce ragusane, delicious food from the deep south of Sicily

Have you ever heard of the famous "scacce ragusane" or the "schiacciata modicana"? I am talking about the beautiful Ragusashire, where Ragusa and Modica are situated, two beautiful jewels in the deepest south of the triangular island. To clarify even more is the area where famous Inspector Montalbano lives and where curious tourists can check out his home.

My nonna Nuccia (my nana) grew up in the town of Modica and she loved this typical "schiacciata", which in Sicilian is called scaccia, made with basic local ingredients, but still incredibly tasty and delicious!

You can find different fillings and shapes, but the most ancient and traditional one is filled with tomato sauce and local onion (the perfect one would be the type from Giarratana), while the other one is tomato sauce and the typical local cheese: caciocavallo ragusano.

The dough is very simple and it is rolled out so thinly that you do different layers of the pastry before baking it in the oven.  

Bear in mind that this is a traditional recipe of the Ragusa province (where Modica is also part of), so you won't be able to find it in any other parts of the island.

Ingredients and preparation for 4 scacce:
  • Flour gr 500

  • Water ml 250
  • Brewer's yeast gr 30 (2 blocks)
  • Extra virgin olive oil 75-80 ml
  • Fine salt: 2 teaspoons

    1. Warm up half of the water in a glass or in a small bowl (125 ml) and put the brewer's yeast inside. With a teaspoon gently stir until it is all melted.

    Place the flour on the kitchen counter (or in a large bowl) and make a hole in the middle, then mix the salt and the oil, then start pouring the water with the yeast little by little.

    3. Knead the dough until is smooth and homogenous, then separate it in blocks of about 350 gr and let them rise in a warm place for 40-45 minutes.

    4. Once the dough is soft and bigger, it needs to be rolled out very thinly.
    Photo source:
    5. At this point you can stuff the schiacciata with the filling of your choice, that you had prepared before. Careful on how you fold the pastry because has to be done exactly like this pic on the right
  • The two parts has to be folded like a book (pic 2) and the final width of the folded scaccia has to be roughly 8 cm. (pic 3)
6. Brush the top part with olive oil or with a beaten egg. Place the schiacchiata on an oiled oven tray (or with some baking paper) and bake at 200°. They will be ready as soon as they turn into a golden brown color.

For the fillings:

As I said, the most traditional ones are with tomato sauce and matured caciocavallo cheese or tomato sauce and onion, also called by the locals "cipuddata" (ital. Cipollata), but in our family we have always made a combination of those three ingredients.  

This is the perfect match as the onion has a sweet gentle taste while the caciocavallo is salty and sharp, so they balance each other out perfectly. 

Roughly chop the onion and let it fry in a pan with a drizzle of oil for 10 minutes, then add the tomato sauce and season it as usual with salt, pepper, nutmet, sugar and fresh basil.

Once the sauce is ready let it cool and cut the caciocavallo in cubes (pic on the right), then add it to the passata.
Once is ready place the condiment of your choice on the dough and fold it as shown in the pic up above.

Other fillings are tomato sauce and fried aubergine, ricotta and spinach or, ricotta and local sausages. Scacce are ideal for picnics, for friends get-together at home, or for your kids to take to school. It's the simple flavors that makes it exquisite and no matter which one you choose the result will be absolutely delicious!!! 


Friday, November 3, 2017

Most sought-after Sicilian delicacy? The pistachios pesto!


Have you ever heard of the pistachios pesto from Bronte? The pistachios pesto is a Sicilian delicacy that can go with pasta as sauce combined with other ingredients, as well as on bruschettas, pizzas, and even second dishes. 

As Eastern Sicily is the land of pistachios there are many recipes that have this amazing colorful nut especially in the provinces of Catania and Siracusa. The quality of the Bronte's nut, also called the green gold, is renowned worldwide and considered unique, if you woud like to read more about this amazing Sicilian product click HERE.

Few weeks ago my mum gave me some grounded pistachios because she knows how much I love it. She thought it to be used in a cake, as I love to bake especially in this period of the year when the cold starts kicking in.

It's the November feeling, as I call it, that feeling that makes you wanna stay inside, all warm and cosy, that makes you wanna cook something special despite the laziness, while you watch a funny movie on tv.

And that is exactly what I did, but I didn't bake a cake this time, I decided to go for the pesto instead, as I had never tried the homemade version before. And I have to say I made the right decision, as I was extremely happy with the result.

The recipe is incredibly easy to make and tastes fabulous!

Ingredients & Preparation for 4 people:

200 gr grounded pistachios from Bronte, Ct (or any others you have)

3 tbs grated Grana or Parmisan cheese
5 large leaves of fresh basil
30 gr pine nuts
1 clove of garlic (*Optional but I recommend it)
A pinch of salt & pepper
8 tbs e.v.o (extra virgin olive oil)

The preparation could not be simpler: put all the ingredients in the blender (or a mixer bowl) and start to drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth, creamy and oily.

Try to adjust with salt and pepper and if you think that the pesto is still too thick you can add some more olive oil and/or add a spoon of creamy cheese of your choice, like philadelphia or ricotta cheese to give it a more smoother creamier texture. Not too much though, as you don't really want to ovepower the delicate pistachios taste. Everything needs to be balanced! 


Please keep in mind that if you are going to use the pesto for your pasta sauce, you will also add some hot pasta water so definitely better to keep it a little more thicker than too watery. Here on the left you can see the right consistency.

Keep it in the fridge for not more than 3 days.

Sooo let's go ladies and gents... what are you waiting for? Are you nut about the pistachio nut like me? If the answer is yes, you have to try this gorgeous recipe and let me know how it goes... in the meantime I am gonna toast some bread for my bruschetta ;)

To read some other recipes with this lovely Sicilian product click HERE.