Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spaghetti with pesto trapanese, a proper summer delight


Have you ever heard of the typical "pesto alla trapanese"? It's pesto Trapani style: fresh, light, tasty, ... I would call it a recipe with character, but also a proper Summer delight!

Pesto in Italian is a generic word that means smashed or crushed. Of course the most famous pesto is the basil one, originally from Genoa, Liguria, but in Sicily, in the province of Trapani they also do another kind of pesto, made of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, almonds. In our language the verb pestare actually means crush, so the actual word pesto comes exactly from there

This cold sauce was introduced by the Genovese ships coming to Trapani from the Oriental countries during the 19th century.

It was originally made of garlic and walnuts, but local people re-elaborated the recipe with their own ingredients: tomatoes and almonds, basically the same thing they did with the cous cous which was made of vegs and meat in north Africa and they changed it with fish.

The typical pasta that accompanies this pesto are the rigorously handmade "busiati"(here on the right), but you can have it also with long-shaped pasta like spaghetti or linguine. (Here another recipe with the busiati)

Ingredients and Preparation for 4 people:

  • 6 fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 60 gr chopped or grounded almonds (already peeled)
  • a small bunch of fresh basil (about 20 leaves)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Sicilian pecorino cheese
  • salt & pepper

In ancient times the garlic was crushed together with basil and salt in a kitchen mortar. The e.v.o was added little by little until you actually had the consistency of a proper creamy sauce. Then also the almonds were crushed and add to the mix and finally the tomatoes. 
For the tomatoes:
Prepare a bowl with hot water and leave the tomatoes there for few minutes. When they are soft remove the skin easily and the seeds, and chopped them thinly. If you prefer you can use the mortar for them as well. Aware of the fact that we live in 2016 and probably you don't use the mortar anymore, you can use a hand-blender but bear in mind that is not the exact same result.

Finally adjust with salt & pepper. Leave the sauce to rest while the pasta is cooking, then as soon as it's ready, drain it and in a large bowl mix it together with the pesto. 

Sprinkle with the spoons of grated cheese and you are ready to go. 

Prepare yourself for a fusion of Mediterranean flavors ready to explode in your mouth. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Sicilian "polpette di melenzane", yummy veggie fritters

Have you ever tried this amazing Sicilian recipe called in Italian "polpette di melanzane"? I know you are asking: "what does it mean?" It's aubergine/eggplants fritters.

Let's be honest:
Summer in Sicily without aubergine, eggplant or, melanzana, as we call it in Italy, is not a proper Summer. I would say without hesitation that they are the queen of the summer table in Sicily.

At the top of my head I can think at least six or seven different dishes that we prepare with this lovely and incredibly versatile vegetable in this season; (caponata, parmigiana, cotolette di melanzane, involtini, pasta alla norma, ecc...) 

This recipe, the polpette, are fritters made of a mix of boiled aubergines/eggplants, breadcrumb, grated local cheese and egg, and we can eat them in two different ways: either plain fried in e.v. olive oil or with tomato sauce (pic on the left).

The preparation is exactly the same until the final step. Either they are fried and served straight away, or fried and covered in tomato sauce, they are both delicious and unique in taste.


- 2 big aubergines/eggpants
(or 3 medium ones)

- 100 gr grated local caciocavallo cheese (or pecorino or any other tasty cheese you like)

- 1 egg + 4 tablespoons of breadrumb

- salt & pepper

- a pinch of nutmeg

- 7-8 leaves of fresh mint thinly chopped

* NOTE: Some people love to add also a handful of raisins and pine nuts.

First thing first: the aubergines/eggplants need to be boiled. Put a pot of water on a medium heat, and while the water is warming up rinse and cut the aubergine into pieces. Once the water starts to boil, put salt and drop the pieces of the veg until they become soft and tender. 

Using a pasta colander, leave the veggies to drain all the exceeding water and cool down for at least half an hour. Once they are cold and the water has been completely drained, place them in a large bowl and add all the other ingredients at the same time: breadcrumb, egg, cheese, nutmeg, chopped fresh mint, salt and black pepper. 

On a high heat place a frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot take a full spoon of the mix (or use two spoons to make a flat kennel) and start frying them until they are golden brown. 

Turn them on the other side and once they are ready, place them on a kitchen paper to absorb the exceeding oil, then serve them on a plate while they are still hot.  

The idea behind is that you get the crunchy and tasty fritters that are still soft inside. They can be eaten like finger food or as a starter or side dish. In any case, trust me, they will disappear in a flash!

*Also the good thing about this recipe is that you can make your heathier version simply by avoiding to fry them, and just roast them on a very hot grill pan.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Sicilierie": traditional Sicilian food in the heart of Brussels

My beautiful foodies,
few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit the heart of Europe, in particular Belgium and  the lovely city of Brussels, and, among the delicious Belgian products I tried, I bumped into a proper Sicilian deli in the centre of the capital. Obviously I cannot tell you how excited I was. Ahah!

The place is called << Sicilian delicatessen from Italy >> and offers the most exquisite and typical products of our homeland.

The almond and pistachio
traditional Sicilian cookies
Not only the renowned arancine/i and other rotisserie pieces, but also expressed pasta and salads, fresh patisserie with the world famous cannoli and the pistachio and almond's traditional cookies (pic on the left).

Besides the prepared food, you can also shop there for Sicilian products and ingredients, such as local cheese and salami, pistachio's pesto and other pasta seasoning, the eggplant/aubergine caponata and a lot more. 

I tried the pistachio arancina, a lovely summery salads made of barley, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and of course the cookies in the pic here on the left, which literally melted in my mouth. One of the most divine sweets ever!

Manager Antonio and me
Sicilierie opened its doors less almost three months ago and I succeeded in having a chat with both the manager Antonio, here on the right with me, and one of the owners, Mr Claudio Angiolucci from Acireale (Ct).

They told me they decided to choose Brussels for their business as more suitable, not only for the excellent location of the city but also for its openess to different peoples and cuisines, thanks to numerous tourists, but above all to the great benefits of having the European Parliament and other international offices located in the capital.

This great idea, now put into practice, is the result of "a brilliant sinergy among different people that decided to take a risk and go for it: 2 chefs, 4 entrepreneurs and an expert of International business and finance" says Mr. Claudio.

The place is very refined, in bright colors, white furniture and there is a relaxing atmosphere thanks to the friendly staff and owners. You can find SICILIERIE in
Rue de l'Ecuyer 63/65, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium.
I personally would like to thank all the people I talked to: from owner Claudio to manager Antonio, from chef Rosalia to lovely waitress Andrea, for being so helpful and make me and my friend Elisa feel at home and really really welcome.

So... please if you happen to visit Brussels don't hesitate to plan a visit for lunch or simply for a snack in this cosy place to taste and breathe Sicily, even if you are in the heart of Europe!