The cuisine of Sicily is unique and exceptionally varied, and no wonder; it is the culinary reflection of all that Sicily is—-a land closely linked to historical events dating back to the Ancient Greeks, and cultural and religious influences of numerous peoples like Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Islamic, Norman, Catalan, and Spaniard. Over and above this, Sicily is an island in an exceptionally strategic position for Mediterranean trade routes. How could all these factors not have contributed therefore to the making of a cuisine abounding in delicious dishes and rich in Mediterranean flavours, reminiscent of Greek cuisine but also of the typical spicy savouriness of North African dishes? What’s more, each province of Sicily includes dishes that characterize not only the eating habits but also the traditions of each of its cities. This is a regional food culture therefore that preserves the gastronomic customs of the last two millennia, passed down from generation to generation, and sometimes, even recorded in literature. Some recipes of ancient origin are, in fact, still prepared and served regularly.

Syracuse, with Ortigia as its city centre, is an ancient city with an alluring charm. In addition to its archaeological and architectural heritage, —-perhaps the richest in Europe —–, this city offers a gastronomy based on the rustic everyday recipes of the agrarian tradition of Syracuse. Since its first days in the early 700s BC as a Greek colony, Syracuse and its rich fertile lands was colonized by the Corinthians who brought with them a multitude of new foods such as grapes, figs, pomegranates, wheat, walnuts, and hazelnuts. They planted olive trees and vineyards and created pastures for the grazing of sheep and goats whose milk was made into the cheese we know today as ricotta. 1.

“The colonies continued to grow and prosper, particularly Siracusa, which eventually extended its domain over the whole southeastern corner of Sicily. Throughout the island, the settlers constructed horti: vegetable gardens fenced in with stone walls that were the predecessor of the present day kitchen gardens called orti.”

When the Saracens arrived in the mid 800sAD they settled the area around Palermo, and thereafter the west end of the island became known as the Arab side, wheareas the east continued to be referred to as the Greek side. The Arabs enriched the lush horticulture left by the Greeks by adding fruits such as blood oranges and lemons, bananas, date palms, pistachios, mulberries, watermelon, apricots, and tangerines . “Flowering jasmine, roses, and bergamot provided the flavoring for the exotic beverages the Arabs enjoyed, which they discovered could be mixed with the snow of Mount Etna to create ices, or sharbat (known as sherbet today). 2.

With the passing of time however, many of the Arab dishes were added to and changed; the Bourbon dominion contributed its own Spanish essence as did the French cuisine imported by Maria Carolina, the wife of Ferdinand I and the sister of Marie Antoinette. Inevitably, there evolved a new gastronomy,—- an amalgamation of all the flavours, elements and traditions of those that had passed through this island—, which became the Sicilian cuisine we know today.

From the East: Catania Pasta Alla Norma

In 1920, Nino Martoglio, a playwright of some fame happens to be dining at the home of friends when he tastes for the first time a singular dish composed of pasta with tomato sauce, basil, fried eggplant and ricotta salata, (an Italian cheese made from the whey part of sheep’s milk, which is pressed, salted and aged for at least 90 days). Martoglio praises the hostess exclaiming “Signura, chista è ‘na vera Norma”, intending through his comparison to the “then”, new and exciting opera titled “La Norma”, his admiration for what he felt was an absolute masterpiece. 3.

How to prepare a good Pasta alla Norma:

Note: in Catania this dish is prepared with spaghetti, whereas in Palermo short pasta is preferred; as long as it is absolutely cooked “al dente”.

To make the “sucu” or tomato sauce, proceed as you like, but be sure to start with lightly sautéed fresh garlic. Salt the sliced or cubed eggplants (preferably using the black ones), and press with a heavy object to allow them to drain out their liquid. Fry the eggplants in abundant olive oil, and set aside. Cook your pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain, and toss the pasta briefly together with the sauce in the pan in which the sauce was cooked. Add the eggplant and a generous amount of grated ricotta salata (This can be purchased in Italian specialty stores and delis). Serve on a hot plate and garnish with a fresh basil leaf.

From the West: Pistachio Pesto

The pistachio pesto is typical of Sicilian cuisine and has a very basic and simple preparation. This is such a great, fresh taste especially if you like the taste of pistachios. The recipe requires very few ingredients: pistachios, Parmesan cheese , olive oil, garlic and lemon zest . The original recipe demands the use of the mortar to make the pesto, but considering our busy lives, I’m sure we can be forgiven for using a food processor. Be careful to not overheat the pistachios and pulse rather than chop. You can make this pesto in larger quantities and freeze it . Enjoy the pistachio pesto as a condiment for pasta, but also as an appetizer, spread on crispy toast.

For a pesto serving 4

  • Pistachios 300 g
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 150g olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • grated parmesan 40g
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • basil 50 g

1. Shell the pistachios, and cook in a saucepan in plenty of boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and carefully peel the nuts.

2. In a processor combine the garlic, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pulse the ingredients until creamy. Add the pistachios, the washed basil, Parmesan and grated lemon zest . While pulsing gradually add the remaining oil until you obtain a grainy but well amalgamated sauce.

recipes and photos coutesy of :

The 5 Best Bars To Visit in Siracusa:

Bar Midolo, a small out of the way cafe in Ortigia serves the best, hands down, arancini in the world! Big claim? Not at all: Here you can find arancini galore, of every imaginable filling : the classic meat sauce, ham, spinach and even artichokes . Impossible to say what is the best! Try them all ! The arancino of Midolo stands above all the rest for its crunchiness and abundant filling, An unforgettable experience of the palate.

The cannolo, is the universally recognized Sicilian dessert which consists of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta. As difficult as it is to find the perfect cannolo, Bar Pasticceria Rizzo

wins this contest, perhaps because of the long tradition of culinary excellence and skill of its master pastry chefs.

In the heart of the city, the Siracusa known mostly only to the locals, is a nondescript cafe-bar that makes the best granita. This too, this icy slush of strong espresso and simple syrup sometimes served as a parfait layered with rich, lightly sweetened whipped cream, represents Sicilian culinary excellence. At the Kennedy, the granita, whether you prefer it more granuley or creamy, you’ll get the best you’ll find anywhere. It’s a great stop for a refreshing pause from the hot Sicilian sun.

The custom of the aperitif is not typical in the day of the Siracusani. But if you are visiting, you might want to enjoy a cocktail in the evening, accompanied perhaps by some good local delicacies. Bar Leonardi of Peruch is an excellent deli and bakery and close to interesting sights such as the Neapolis Archaeological Park and the Paolo Orsi Museum.

There are many spots in Siracusa that offer spectacular, breathtaking views, but without a doubt, one of the best has to be the Gran Caffè Del Duomo

in Ortigia. Located right in the center of its most beautiful square, the Piazza Duomo, this little bar offers its patrons, sitting at the outdoor tables, an unparalleled feast for the eyes! What could anyone want more than this!

from: I cinque bar migliori di Siracusa


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