TOP SIX SICILIAN DISHES TO TRY
In Sicily, their culinary traditions are a unique mix of Greek, Arabian, and Nomadic flavours. A recipe for full-flavoured, full-bodied dishes. But if hopping on a plane to sun-scored Sicily isn’t an option, then hop on the tube to Piccadilly Circus and swing by Tasting Sicily Enzo’s Kitchen for food as authentic as it is on the island.
1. Caponatina Siciliana (Ve) – a sweet and savoury blend of aubergines, celery,
onions, olives, Pachino tomatoes and capers, the ingredients that make up this wholesome delicacy. It can be served as a cold starter or as a warm side, accompanied by some bread.
Traditionally the name ‘caponata’ derives from the term ‘capone’, which in some areas indicates an expensive fleshy fish, very popular among the wealthiest families and usually served with a typical sweet and sour sauce. Since most people couldn’t afford this pricy fish, in peasants homes this ingredient was swapped for the more affordable aubergines.
Why try it? Little else epitomizes Sicilian cuisine as much as the famous antipasto dish, caponata. The perfect balance of sweet and sour from the blend of aubergines and capers make this wholesome (completely vegan) delicacy one not to miss. This dish is one of the Italian favourites when it comes to mix vegetables together, and despite the simple ingredients, the final flavour of this course is all but ordinary.
2. Arancina – certainly another one of the best Sicilian dishes, basically a risotto shaped into a deep-fried rice ball, the traditional arancine are filled with ragù, or simply ham and cheese. But, really, you can put in whatever you like. Chef Enzo prepares both classic and vegetarian version.
Why try it? Rice balls are the golden jewel in the crown of Sicilian cuisine. It has been probably imported by the Arabians, who would usually ate rice, and saffron with meat and herbs. Even though they’re mostly called arancini (as people use in eastern Sicily), their actual name is arancine (literally, “little oranges”) from the Italian arance. Inspector Montalbano, the main character of Andrea Camilleri’s detective novels, is a well-known lover of arancini. The success of the book series and the television adaptation has contributed to making this dish known outside of Italy.
3. Cannoli Siciliani – translating in English to ‘little tube’, the Sicilian pastries are crispy brown shells filled with fresh sweet ricotta cheese and chocolate chips, garnished with candied fruits or pistachio. A classic!
Why try it? The mouth-watering cannolo is one of the island’s greatest exports, now sold all over Italy. If you are looking for an indulgent treat to enjoy, try Chef Enzo’s cannoli, a truly wonderful dessert or snack. Historically, Cannoli was prepared as a treat during the Carnevale season but eventually became a year-round staple as locals couldn’t get enough of its sweet crunchiness! When you next order Sicilian desserts, to quote Paulie from The Godfather (1972), “Don’t forget the cannoli.”
4. Pasta Norma– the most famous Sicilian recipes in the world. It really embodies the flavours of the island. It is a fairly simple dish with good, fresh tomato sauce, fried aubergines, ricotta salata cheese and short pasta.
Why try it? This dish is named in honour of the opera by the 19th century Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini. Several historians link “Pasta alla Norma” with it, as an homage to his masterpiece. One story goes that a group of musicians, when presented with this dish, exclaimed “Chista è una vera Norma!“, which is to say, “Wow! This is a real Norma!” because, at the time, the opera was a by-word for all that was really, really good. Whatever the origins, this dish really is delicious and one of Chef Enzo’s bestseller.
5. Anelletti alla Palermitana (Ve) – This incredible dish is a classic pasta dish from Sicily that combines made Anelletti – little ring-shaped baked pasta – with ragú and peas, minced meat, eggs, ham, Sicilian caciocavallo cheese, aubergines and breadcrumbs.
Why try it? It’s a Timballo, so you could easily transport it. In Sicily, the hearty meal is loved all year round, but always prepared for special occasions, also during Christmas time. It is an extremely popular picnic choice in Palermo, where Chef Enzo hails from! He prepares the most traditional one, as in his native Palermo!
6. Sicula – vibrant low-fat Sicilian fennel and blood orange salad. One of Chef Enzos signature dishes. Its fresh flavours and textures come from juicy oranges, crunchy and slightly sweet fennel pieces, and salty olives, oregano and mint.
Why try it? It lifts the ancient Sicilian traditions of fresh food and vibrant flavours to today. It was a meal typically eaten by farmers while out in the countryside, as oranges were abundant in Sicily. It’s a wonderful Mediterranean flavour combo and makes a great salad to enjoy during all the seasons.
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