We’ve been trip planning. This July we will return to Italy, stopping in Rome to visit family and then proceeding on to Sicily.
The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has been at the crossroads of Western civilization for over 2,500 years, due to its strategic location in the middle of Mediterranean trade routes.
Ruled at different times in history by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Germans, Spanish, and finally Italians, Sicily boats a spectacular cultural heritage evident today in its architecture, music, and of course, its cuisine.
Sicily has a stunning variety of landscapes to match its cultural richness: inland mountain ranges, desert-like expanses reminiscent of the Middle East, the lava-spewing volcano Mount Etna, and pristine white sand beaches with merging with the sparkling green-blue sea.
From Catania to Palemo, and the cities and villages in between: Syracusa, Ragusa, Agrigento, Sciacca, Marsala, Trapani, San Vito lo Capo. We’ll soak in the sun on some of the world’s most amazing beaches, visit stunning ancient ruins such as the Valle dei Templi and the Tempio di Segesta, and (of course) sample Sicilia’s unique culinary splendors.
Among the delicacies on our list are arancini, panelle, cous cous, insalata d’arance, caponata, ‘mpanata, pasta con le sarde, granite, paste di mandorle, cannoli, and cassata. And obviously, seafood. Tons and tons of it.
We capped off our afternoon of vacation planning with a Sicilian classic, pasta alla norma.
Two medium eggplant
1 large (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons diced onion
Dry white wine
Ricotta salata (approx 200g)
Slice the eggplant about 3 to 4 mm, or 1/8th inch thick. Place them in a strainer one layer at a time, sprinkling a dusting of salt over each layer. Place a dinner plate on top or something similar that adds weight to help press the bitter liquids. Let them degorge for about an hour.
While the eggplant is resting, prepare the sauce. Dice the onion and garlic, and sauté it in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, passing them through a food mill to render them smooth. If you do not have a food mill, you can blend the tomatoes. Let simmer for 45 minutes, salting to taste. After about 30 minutes, add a dash of dry white wine.
Return to the eggplant. Rinse and pat the slices dry. Dust them with flour, and then gently fry them in hot olive oil, just until golden brown. Let them cool on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
Cut the eggplant into thin strips about 1 to 2 cm, or 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Set aside a handful of eggplant, and add the rest to the sauce, along with a about 1/4 cup of grated ricotta salata. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Toss your short pasta of choice – penne or rigatoni perhaps – into the water, along with a generous handful of salt. Cook until al dente. Transfer the pasta to a large pan. Add the sauce (saving just little), and grate a little more ricotta salata over it all. Stir over medium heat until the cheese melts.