Pesto alla siciliana

Pesto alla siciliana

Have you perhaps grown tired of the typical green basil pesto? In that case this recipe, Sicilian pesto, is ideal for you. Ingredients that are typical for this region are used: fresh and ripe red tomatoes, ricotta, pine nuts and of course basil. When put together, these ingredients create a paste that is at the same time light, fresh and nourishing. There is a myriad of regional recipes, and some of them call for almonds or dry tomatoes, or even pistachios, but the common denominator remains ricotta. This recipe is especially good on a hot summer’s day, but it can be had all year round. Prepare long and dry pasta, like spaghetti, casareccia or penne, with it for the best results. The leftovers can be had the next day as a spread over bread.

Ingredients: 

ca. 20 leaves fresh basil

250 gr/ 9 oz tomatoes

25 gr/ 1 oz pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, minced

50 gr/ 1 2/3 freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano 

75 gr/ 2 2/3 ricotta

salt and pepper to taste

75 ml/ 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

dry pasta of your choice

Instructions: 

Rinse and dry the basil leaves. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in two. Remove the inner part including the seeds and all excess liquid with a spoon. Put the tomatoes in a blender and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Add the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, ricotta and the grated parmigiano and continue the process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the oil and check the taste and consistency.

Meanwhile, prepare the pasta by cooking it in salted boiling water until al dente. Combine with the pesto and serve immediately.

Pesto alla siciliana

Pasta al forno

Pasta al forno

Fresh, dried, canned and frozen – peas are readily available in many shapes and forms, but only about 5% of the peas grown are sold fresh. Frozen peas are able to retain their color, texture and flavor, but they don’t have an unlimited shelf life. It is recommended that they are consumed within 6-12 months of the packing date. Overall,  frozen peas are recommended over canned peas. Peas are rich in potassium, phosphorus, protein and group B vitamins, and good quality peas can be recognized by their smooth, elastic and bright color. Green peas also stand out as an environmentally friendly food, because according to agricultural research, pea crops can provide the soil with important benefits. Green peas are perfect for numerous recipes, as side dishes e.g. with pancetta, and as an ingredient in pastas and risottos. Here, the peas provide a colorful and healthy addition to this Sicilian dish.

Ingredients: 

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

500 gr/1 lb lean minced beef

2-3 Italian sausages, casing removed

2.5 dl/ 1 cup red wine

500 gr/ 17 2/3 oz passata di pomodoro

200 gr/ 7 oz frozen peas

fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

150 gr/ 5 1/3 oz cheese, a combination of freshly grated Parmigiano and freshly grated smoked cheese

mezzi rigatoni pasta

Pasta al forno

Instructions: 

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion becomes golden. Add the minced meat and the sausages and continue frying. Pour the red wine in and let it evaporate. Add the passata di pomodoro, fresh parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Then reduce the heat, and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes. Add water if necessary. Add the frozen peas into the mixture and cook for another 20-30 minutes on a low heat. Once the sauce has thickened, take the pan off the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the mezzi rigatoni al dente in salted boiling water. After draining, mix the pasta with the sauce.

Add the freshly grated parmigiano cheese and the smoked cheese of your choice to the pasta mixture and mix thoroughly. Grease a deep oven tray with some olive oil. Bake in the oven, preheated to 180 C/ 355 F, for about 30-40 minutes. Let the pasta rest for a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle some parmigiano on top.

Pasta al forno

Penne alla Norma

Penne alla Norma

“Pure Goddess, whose silver covers these sacred ancient plants, we turn to your lovely face unclouded and without veil…”

As the story goes, Nino Martoglio, a famous Sicilian poet, writer and theater producer was enjoying this typically Sicilian pasta dish, and he was so enamored by the wonderful taste that he exclaimed: “this pasta is a Norma”, referring to the opera by a fellow Sicilian Vincenzo Bellini and its titular character, Norma. The word Norma was synonymous with perfection, and the nickname stuck. It is safe to say that Nino Martoglio had not exaggerated the qualities of this dish, it is remarkably fresh and fine –  a true Norma…

“Temper, oh Goddess, the hardening of you ardent spirits temper your bold zeal, scatter peace across the earth thou make reign in the sky…” 

(lyrics to Norma’s aria Casta diva)

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized eggplants, sliced

sea salt

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3-5 Roma tomatoes, sliced

handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded

salt and pepper to taste

60 gr/ 2 oz ricotta salata

penne (or spaghetti)

Instructions: 

Slice the eggplants and sprinkle some coarse sea salt on all the slices. Set them aside for 1 hour. To remove the sea salt, gently shake the slices.

Prepare the pasta sauce by sauteeing onion and garlic in a pan. Once the onion has softened, add the sliced tomato and continue frying for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the eggplant slices in a separate pan. Mix the fried eggplant slices with the tomato sauce, and season with salt and pepper and fresh basil leaves. Cook the sauce down and check the taste. Cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with boiling salted water. Serve with ricotta salata, if not readily available, substitute it with Parmesan cheese.

Penne alla Norma