Wandering aimlessly in the baroque towns of Sicily, inhaling the distinctive smell of fresh coffee, chatting up with the locals, looking for old charming places serving Sicilian specialities for lunch and finally soaking up some mediterranean sun, is my idea of spending a perfect day in Sicily. I have dreamt of visiting Sicily for quite sometime now. A place of mystery and fascination. Stunning mediterranean coastline, valleys and mountains, isolated islands, a long and rich history and some fantastic food. As I plan for my upcoming trip to Sicily next month, I am super excited and already cooking some fab Sicilian recipes which are so healthy and full of strong flavors. I get more excited!

Sicilian food is like a journey back through the history, from the wine and olives that came with the Greek, to the rice, saffron and cinnamon of the Arabs and the meat dishes inherited from the Norman invaders. Marzipan, cassata and sorbets have become emblematic Sicilian delicacies.

There is a controversial theory that ‘dried’ pasta originated from Sicily and it is a gift from Sicily to the world. Well, if the rumor is true, I love Sicily even more because I think dried pasta is a blessing when you have just come home from a long day’s work and dinner is still to be made.

Sicily is also home to more vineyards than any other region in Italy and produces as much wine as as Australia. The most famous Sicilian wines are alcamo, a robust, dry white from Trapani, marsala, a dessert wine, moscato, sweet, full bodied, amber colored wine from Pantelleria.

One interesting thing which I have learnt about Sicilian dishes is use of breadcrumbs, either as a crumb coating or in a stuffing. The reason is that for a long time, the price of pasta was a lot higher than bread and hence was used in stuffings to make the dish more filling. Eventually, Sicilians acquired the taste for breadcrumbs and became part of their traditional cooking.

Shopping List
Serves 6
For Tomato Sauce
25 gm unsalted butter
2 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves very finely sliced
6 fresh sage leaves
2 fresh rosemary springs, woody stalks discarded
2 fresh bay leaves
150 gm tomato concentrate
400 gm canned italian tomatoes
salt and pepper
For Pasta
Sunflower oil for frying (see point 3)
1 medium eggplant cut into small cubes
500 gm anelli pasta or any small pasta shape of your choice
2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1 large fresh mozzarella ball, cut into small cubes
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degree centigrade
2. To make the sauce, heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and herbs, taking care not to burn the garlic. When soft, add the tomato concentrate and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture darkens in color. Stir in the tomatoes and cook over gentle heat for about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and season to your liking.
3. Heat the sunflower oil in a small frying pan and, when hot, fry the eggplant in batches until pale gold. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. If you don’t want to fry them, you could also roast them in the oven, which is what I did. Healthy!
4. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until just al dente. Drain well and mix in the tomato sauce so that the pasta is evenly coated.
5. Thoroughly butter a round non-stick oven dish, either one large one of about 25 cms, or small ramekins. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the bottom and up the sides of the dish, then pour in half the pasta. Top with a layer of eggplant and mozzarella, then cover with the remaining pasta. Bake for 15-20 minutes
6. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for about 3 minutes before turning upside down on a serving dish.

This recipe comes from a fab book on Sicily called ‘Spring in Sicily’
There is a lot more coming on Sicily and its fantastic food, so drop in again soon. Also, if there are any recommendations for my Sicily trip, pls leave a comment. It is always highly appreciated.
Happy Days!!

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