I’ve never really understood how a country that puts so much emphasis on cooking and eating can result so careless with everything else. Of course, I’m talking about my home country, Italy. But I’m particularly referring to Sicily where I spent 4 days. Most of the time eating. Here my personal top 10 of Sicilian dishes.
1. Alici alle arance (Anchovies with oranges)
Salad made of oranges is a very typical Sicilian starter or snack. The recipe differs from region to region. My preferred one includes salted anchovies, pine nuts and parsley. Marinated fresh anchovies are also a very popular in the mediterranean cuisine, but the combination of these two plates made me feel like heaven.
2. Insalata di carciofi e fave (Salad of artichokes and broad beans)
Two vegetables that I connect immediately to spring time: artichokes and fresh broad beans. But I’ve never tasted a salad made with this two ingredients. An excellent fresh starter.
3. Pasta alle sarde (Pasta with anchovies)
Pasta with anchovies is a very typical dish during the feast time before eastern, originally from Palermo. A main ingredient beside the fish is wild fennel. The chef of the Hotel Timeo in Taormina prepared one of the best Pasta alle sarde I’ve every tasted.
4. Spaghetti marinara (Spaghetti with seafood)
It’s a threshold of the Mediterranean cuisine. And my father is a master in preparing this dish. In the photo the version with bavette instead of spaghetti.
5. Pasta alla Norma
Forget boring tomato sauce. This is Sicily and in its hometown Catania, the pasta sauce is made with tomatoes, fried eggplants and served with salty ricotta cheese and mint leaves.
6. Frocia ai carciofi
Frocia is a Sicilian Omelette, only thicker, made of vegetables, eggs, bread crumb, parsley, milk, pecorino cheese and everything else you want to add. It’s a good way to consume rest of vegetables. This version is made with artichokes and recalls my childhood. It was one of the typical dishes my grandmother used to prepare when visiting her during the Eastern time.
7. Cuscusù con Cernia marinata (Couscous with marinated grouper)
That’s my first time I’ve tasted couscous with marinated grouper. Although I liked it, I prefer the more traditional version with an immense plate full of all type of fishes and seafood wet with fish bouillon. It’s a typical dish cooked in th region of Trapani, in Western Sicily. My favorite place for tasting it is the Alla Kasbah in Mazara del Vallo.
A sort of ratatouille made of eggplants, zucchini, onions, peperoni, tomatoes, potatoes, basilic, capers, olives with a pleasant taste of sweet and sour.
9. Pesce spatola ai ferri (grilled scabbardfish)
First time I met this fish plate was in Portugal. Strangely in Portugal it’s called Peixe Spada. That sounds very similar to the Italian Pesce spada (swordfish), but it’s a complete different fish. Very good, and very well prepared by the friends at Maffei’s restaurant in Taormina. Beautiful place and excellent food.
10. Sfinci di San Giuseppe
This is a typical Eastern pastry, a sort of Sicilian donuts made fried puffs stuffed with sweet cheese cream from sheep milk, and candied fruits. Sfinci originates in the latin name (spongia) or even arab name for sponge (isfanǧ). I visited a diary near Mazara del Vallo. The place simply named Caseificio da Vita. When I arrived there was a big pot with boiling sheep milk from where the cheesemaker skimed the warm cheesecream, the Ricotta.
10. Granita siciliana
That’s not really a dessert but something to eat at breakfast. Yes, it’s no mistake. The granita with whipped cream and the brioche is served in the oriental part of Sicily between Milazzo and Catania for breakfast (or as a snack). In Taormina I’ve tasted a one with coffee and almonds at the Bambar.
Where to sleep in Taormina
I’d like to return to Taormina. Here are two accommodations I can recommend
Hotel Porta del Tocco, at the entrance of Taormina. Stylish little design hotel with 6 rooms and a great view from the balcony on the Etna. I spent there one night and would definitely return for a longer stay with my wife.
Casa Turchetti, in the heart of Taormina, set close to the main place, Piazza IX Aprile. Luxury Bed & Breakfast with very high standard and a maniac love for details. Pino and Francesca are managing this property with dedication and passion. I met Pino when I was working for the holiday review site Zoover, as his property win regularly the national award for the rated hotel. Impossible being in Taormina without going to see him for a coffee. Hope to return to this place for a longer break!