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Cooking classes in Palermo.
It's more than artichokes and red wine! Enjoy learning to cook classic, and not so classic, Sicilian dishes with the staff of one of Palermo's finest restaurants. More than artichokes. Discover real Sicilian cuisine!From market to table! Visit our site for more information. (Above: Fritella, made with fave, artichokes, peas and virgin olive oil)

Classic (Traditional) Sicilian Recipes
The recipes on this ever-growing page are a great way to discover the Mediterranean Diet. We also suggest the Food and Wine and Restaurant pages. These recipes are selected on the basis of availability of ingredients (outside Italy) and ease of preparation. They are traditional, not something somebody invented ten years ago - which distinguishes this list from longer ones which include recipes for numerous "new" Sicilian dishes. If you're looking for something more challenging, try a recipe book like those available on the Book Page. Since our visitors come from around the world, measurements provided here are metric with some American (U.S.A.) conversions; certain measures (such as cup and spoon sizes) may vary from nation to nation. Wherever you are, Buon appetito!

Chicken Marsala - Pollo alla Marsala
Eggplant and Caper Salad - Caponata
Red Mullet in Onion Sauce - Triglie di Scoglio
Pasta with Fennel and Herring - Pasta con le Sarde
Stewed Squid - Calamari in Umido
Caltanissettan Chicken Stuffing - Ripieno alla Nissena
Rabbit Amandine - Coniglio con Salsa di Mandorle
Artichoke Rice - Risotto coi Carciofi
Favas with Artichokes - Fritella (Fritedda)
Orange Salad - Insalata d'Arance
Zabaglione - Egg Nog
Granita - Ices

Chicken Marsala (Pollo alla Marsala)
This dish was made famous with the growing Marsala wine industry during the nineteenth century. Veal Marsala probably originated among western Sicily's English families. Real Sicilian Marsala is the only wine we recommend for use in preparing Chicken Marsala.

Ingredients: Two large chicken breasts sliced into thin pieces (an equal quantity of turkey breast or lean veal may be substituted), one bottle of marsala wine (either dry or sweet according to preference), whole or white flour, refined olive oil for cooking, 50 grams of capers, juice of one large lemon, two tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley, salt, pepper.

Preparation: Over medium heat, warm several tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan for a few seconds, being careful not to burn the oil. Generously coat chicken pieces with flour and place in pan, turning occasionally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add juice of one lemon. When the chicken is essentially cooked, carefully pour a half bottle of marsala wine over it, stirring the mixture gently. Allow alcohol to evaporate as sauce thickens. This may take about two minutes. Add the parsley when it's almost done. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add a little flour. Add capers last or sprinkle them over the chicken as a garnish. Serves four to six.

Caponata (Eggplant and Caper Salad)
Reflecting Sicily's Arab heritage, this classic recipe (but without the tomatoes, a New World discovery) probably dates from the ninth century, when it is believed that the eggplant (aubergine) was introduced in Sicily by the Saracens. Culinary historians debate whether eggplants were grown in Sicily earlier, perhaps in Roman times, but hardly anybody disagrees that caponata is delicious. It should be served chilled as an antipasto (appetizer). There are popular variations of this recipe; some versions call for the addition of artichokes, sweet peppers or more sugar.

Ingredients: 8 medium size aubergines (eggplants), 400 grams of peeled mature tomatoes, 2 medium size sweet white or yellow onions, the heart of a large celery, 200 grams of pitted large cured firm green olives, 200 grams of capers (if salted soak in water and drain to remove salt), extra virgin olive oil, white vinegar, sugar, salt.

Preparation: Cut the eggplants into chunks about one inch or two centimetres square. (You may prefer slightly larger or smaller pieces.) Do not peel. Cook these by steaming covered in a large pot until completely cooked but firm. (Don't boil them.) Drain well and set aside. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces or a thick pulp, without discarding the juice or seeds. Chop the onions into medium pieces or thin slices. Cut the celery stalks into pieces about one inch long. Discard leaves. Halve the olives. In a large pan, sauté the onions and celery pieces in olive oil. The celery should be lightly cooked, firm but not raw. Add the tomato pulp and bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes until the sauce changes color to a lighter red. At this point, simmer over low heat for another 4-6 minutes. Add the eggplants, olives and capers to the mixture. Also add a few tablespoons each of olive oil, vinegar and sugar. Stir gently and allow to simmer covered (steaming) for about five minutes over medium-low heat until mixture thickens but doesn't burn. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Salt to taste. Then chill for at least three hours before serving.

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Red Mullet in Onion Sauce (Triglie di Scoglio)
In Sicilian waters, the best mullet is caught in the Spring. This dish, famous in Sicily's seaside communities, was a favorite of the aristocracy, with which it is strongly identified. The link is probably due to the rarity of good mullet during certain seasons. The use of cane sugar (introduced into Sicily by the Saracens) and onions in this way is essentially a North African touch the Sicilians call cipollata.

Ingredients: Two red mullets (about 250 grams each), 200 grams of sliced white or yellow onions, whole grain or white flour, half cup of white wine vinegar (a good varietal vinegar is best), 50 grams of white sugar or refined (crystallized) brown sugar, two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley, refined olive oil (for frying), virgin olive oil (to sauté onions), two eggs (well beaten), salt, mild white pepper.

Preparation: Clean the mullets but leave the heads attached. Liberally coat the fish with flour, dip them in the beaten eggs, and dredge them in flour again. Fry the mullets in refined olive oil over medium heat, turning as necessary, until fully cooked. (Do so carefully; olive oil has a very low burning point.) Remove mullets from pan and drain oil by placing fish on absorbent paper. Discard frying oil. Very slowly sauté onions in virgin olive oil in a separate pan. When cooked, add about a half cup of vinegar. Add sugar and stir mixture. When sugar begins to thicken or crystallize, add salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat. Add parsley. Add cooked mullets, or place fish on a plate and pour sauce over it. Serve with a large slice of lemon. Traditionalists believe this dish is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature. (This makes it ideal if your dinner guests arrive late, after you've cooked the mullets). Serves two.

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Pasta with Fennel and Herring (Pasta con le Sarde)
When Sicilians talk about this dish, they never mention the finocchio (fennel) that makes it special. Dating from early medieval times, this classic Sicilian recipe is delicious when made with the right ingredients --that's the secret to successful preparation of all these recipes-- which are sometimes difficult to find outside the Mediterranean region. (You may have to try a specialty fish market for fresh herring. If you don't find the fennel at a specialty grocer or large supermarket, try an Italian specialty store. If they don't have the ingredients, they may be able to recommend a source.) In preparing this recipe, there's really no substitute for fresh ingredients. The herring described here are large sardines (by definition the sardine is any small herring rather than a particular species of fish). Even if you don't like the canned variety, you may enjoy the fresh ones. Remember that Italians don't sprinkle cheese over pasta dishes made with fish or other seafood. This recipe serves four.

Ingredients: 1 kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of fennel (tender anise leaves may be substituted if necessary), 500 grams of fresh small herring fillets (actually large sardines as long as 20 centimetres, or about 8 inches), 500 grams of long pasta such as thick spaghetti (bucatini is traditional; it's long like spaghetti but tubular), 2 medium-size sweet white onions, extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of powdered saffron, 50 grams of small raisins, 50 grams of pine nuts, 3 large anchovy fillets (salted or in oil) finely chopped, salt, pepper, sugar.

Preparation: Clean the sardines (herring), removing the head, tail and bone. Cut the fish into pieces about 4 centimetres (2 inches) long. Thoroughly rinse the fennel and chop it into fine pieces about 2 centimetres long, removing any thick stalks. Dice the onions and anchovies into very small pieces. Steam the fennel for 3 or 4 minutes and then strain it thoroughly, but save the greenish water for the pasta. Boil this water (strain it first) and add the pasta. Meanwhile, sautè the onions in a large pan for a minute or two in olive oil until almost transparent. Then mix in the anchovy and herring. Cover the mixture, occasionally stirring gently. Flaking of the herrinng is natural. When the rather liquid mixture is cooked (which should only take a few minutes) minutes, remove from heat and stir in the saffron, raisins and pine nuts. Add a teaspoon of sugar if desired. Mix the fennel into the mixture, taking care that the fennel strands don't stick together too much. The mixture should be as uniform as possible. By now, the pasta may be ready. Strain the pasta and carefully stir a teaspoon or two of olive oil into it. Then add the fennel-herring mixture, thoroughly stirring it into the pasta until it is more or less uniformly distributed. Let the entire mixture set for a minute or two. Then mix it again, adding a dash of pepper and, if you prefer, salt, and serve.

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Stewed Squid (Calamari in Umido)
This is one of the many simple yet delicious seafood dishes for which Sicilian cuisine is famous. It can be served alone or as a sauce with long pasta such as spaghetti. (Remember that Sicilians do not sprinkle grated cheese over seafood pasta dishes.) This is actually similar to a Neapolitan recipe. The success of this recipe depends on the freshness of the ingredients (fresh squid rather than frozen ones, fresh tomatoes rather than canned ones). It's healthy and easy to prepare.

Ingredients: 1 kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) small to medium squid (there are various varieties but "medium" means the body is no longer than about 20 centimeters or 8 inches), 1 kilogram of mature plum tomatoes, 6-8 large anchovy fillets (in oil) finely chopped, one-half cup chopped parsley, one-half medium size white or yellow onion very finely chopped, one-half cup white table wine, extra virgin olive oil, ground red pepper, salt, one large lemon.

Preparation: Steam or boil the tomatoes for a minute to remove the skins ("blanching" them) and then chop the tomatoes into medium sized chunks. Set aside. Clean the squid well, removing the backbone. Remove and save the heads with the hard "jaw" removed but the eyes and tentacles attached. Cut the squid bodies into ring segments about two centimeters (or one-half inch) in width. Set aside. In a small pan, sauté the onions in olive oil. Then add the anchovies (chopped), pepper and parsley. Allow these to simmer for a minute or less, forming a paste. Add the wine and allow the mixture to simmer for a minute or two until most of the alcohol has evaporated. Then add the squid rings and heads (drained well so that you add as little additional water as possible). Allow these to cook over a low to medium flame, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes. Salt to taste. Cook the complete mixture over medium to low heat for five to ten minutes. When it reaches a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Serve with lemon. As we mentioned, the stewed squid may be served over pasta.

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Caltanissettan Poultry Stuffing (Ripieno alla Nissena)
The residents of Caltanissetta, a small city in central Sicily, are called Nisseni, and their mountainous region is famous for meat and poultry dishes. This simple recipe offers a pleasant alternative to meat-based chicken or turkey filling. Since the size of poultry, and measurements by volume, can vary, we'll describe these by proportion. (Whether you're in the UK, the US, Brasil, Australia or Japan, this makes the precise size of a measuring cup irrelevant.)

Ingredients: 1 cup finely chopped white or yellow onions, 1 cup grated hard Italian cheese (pecorino, made from sheep's milk, is preferred), 1 cup "southern style" bread crumbs (including the ground crust; "northern style" Italian bread crumbs are made without the bread's crust), one half cup chopped fresh parsley, 2 medium-size eggs (or 1 extra large one), one-half teaspoon ground white pepper (black pepper may be substituted),1 teaspoon virgin olive oil, salt to taste.

Preparation: Mix the ingredients in a large bowl, kneading the mixture until it's uniform in consistency. Add a little water if necessary to make it more workable. Then stuff the mixture into the cavity of the chicken or turkey before roasting. In Sicily, the chicken is sometimes garnished with fresh rosemary, and Marsala wine is poured over it at several points during the baking.

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Rabbit Amandine (Coniglio con Salsa di Mandorle)
Once favored among Sicily's aristocratic hunting set, roasted rabbit isn't as popular as it once was. Then again, neither is hunting, but today's farm-raised rabbit is no match for wild rabbit or hare, which has the unique taste of wild game. In Sicily, some rabbit or poultry is fed a traditional diet rather than commercial feed, and this "raspante" meat has a slightly gamier flavour.

Ingredients: 1 large rabbit quartered (a skinless quartered chicken may be substituted if your sensibilities don't favor eating rabbit), one-half bottle (about two cups) dry white wine, a sprig of fresh laurel (bay leaves), a sprig of fresh rosemary, a few small leaves of sage, 100 grams of shelled toasted blanched ("white") almonds, 50 grams of pine nuts, 50 grams white or golden raisins, 1 white or yellow onion, 2 anchovy fillets (may be canned), 50 grams capers, 2 tablespoons low-alcohol almond extract (the kind used in baking), extra virgin olive oil, white pepper, salt.

Preparation: If it's not already quartered, cut the rabbit (or chicken) into pieces. Remove the herb leaves from the stalks. If you're preparing this recipe with rabbit, marinade the meat in the white wine with the rosemary, bay leaves and sage for 3-4 hours before cooking. Then chop the onion into thin slices and place it in the bottom of a roasting pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the rabbit and other ingredients, including the wine and herbs. Roast the rabbit in the oven for an hour or more as you would roast a chicken, occasionally basting it with the wine and oil mixture. The rabbit should be covered during half of the baking time, and turned over when it is about half cooked. Add wine if necessary if the liquid sauce seems as if it will evaporate. Meanwhile, chop the almonds and pine nuts into a fine granular consistency, almost powdery if possible. Chop the anchovy fillets into a paste. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the almond-pine nut mixture with the anchovy paste, almond extract, the juice of one lemon, the capers and raisins. When the rabbit is completely cooked, remove it from the oven and quickly stir in this combined paste before serving, adding a little olive oil and water if it seems too liquid. You may wish to remove the bay leaves. Salt and pepper lightly to taste. Italian arborio rice, prepared as risotto, makes a nice complement to Rabbit Amandine.

Artichoke Rice (Risotto coi Carciofi)
Risotto seems a Northern Italian dish, but in fact white arborio rice has been consumed in Sicily for a very long time, being imported from Lombardy and Piedmont since medieval times. This dish is a good complement to the meat and fish recipes presented on this page.

Ingredients: 400 grams (about one pound) arborio rice (There's no substitute for this uniquely Italian rice; buy it in an Italian specialty store if necessary.), 6 large artichokes, 1 yellow or white onion, 1 clove of garlic, one-half cup dry white wine, 100 grams grated cheese (Sicilian caciocavallo is best but parmesan or pecorino are suitable), virgin olive oil, 1 lemon, about 50 grams (a small bunch) of fresh parsley, salt, pepper.

Preparation: Clean the artichokes, leaving the tender inner leaves attached to the hearts, and chop into spoon-size chunks. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Boil in a large pot. When they're tender and almost cooked, add the rice. Cooking arborio rice sometimes seems an art in itself. Prepare it as you would other rice, but remember that it should be allowed to absorb more liquid. When served, this dish should be almost creamy. While the rice begins to cook, chop the garlic and onions and slowly sautè these together in olive oil. Then add these, with the wine, to the boiling rice mixture. Finely chop the parsley. (True Italian chefs achieve this with scissors, cutting tiny segments from the bunch until only a few short stems remain.) When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and allow it to set for a few minutes to absorb any remaining liquid. However, it should not be too dry. Just before serving, mix in the cheese and chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Fave with Artichokes (Fritella or Fritedda)
This Spring dish is prepared with fava beans (green broad beans), artichokes and peas. It is essential that all the ingredients be absolutely fresh because that's what makes fritella tasty. Nothing frozen or canned! The fava beans should be real fava beans (Vicia Faba Linnaeus), a food consumed for thousands of years found in archeological sites in the Middle East dating from 6000 BC. We suggest wild artichokes (the kind with thorned leaves) and real unfiltered, fresh, extra-virgin olive oil such as that sold by Titone (near Trapani in western Sicily). Fava beans are a healthy food. However, people who suffer from the rare but potentially fatal condition called "favism" (hemolytic anemia or G6PD deficiency) should not consume fava beans, which may also affect individuals suffering from certain forms of thalassemia. This recipe serves 6-10 and may also be used as a condiment (sauce) for pasta.

Ingredients: Two pounds fresh fava beans, one pound artichoke hearts and tender leaves, one-half pound fresh peas, six tablespoons raw, unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil, salt.

Preparation: Chop up hearts and tender (edible) leaves of artichokes. Separate the beans and peas from their pods. Boil the artichokes for five minutes before adding the fava beans and peas, then boil the complete mixture for another fifteen minutes or until well-cooked and tender, and perhaps even slightly mushy. Strain the ingredients, sprinkle with olive oil and salt to taste.

Orange Salad (Insalata d'Arance)
This typically Sicilian salad is excellent as a side dish, or a separate course leading into dessert. Serves 6.

Ingredients: 4 large naval oranges, 1 large fresh anise bulb (the crisper the better), 1 small lemon, 1/4 cup shelled almonds, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon white sugar, 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine, 1 head of lettuce, dried coconut shavings, a branch of fresh peppermint leaves.

Preparation: Separate mint leaves from stalk. Clean the anise well. Peel the oranges and lemon, and remove the tough heart of the anise, as well as the stalk and leaves. Cut the anise, oranges and lemon crosswise into thin slices. Toss together with almonds and mint leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, olive oil and Marsala wine, and toss again. Chill for a few hours. Toss again before serving. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves. Sprinkle dried coconut shavings over the top.

Zabaglione (Egg Nog)
This is the the Sicilian version of this traditional winter drink usually made with rum or strong brandy. Marsala, as this fortified wine similar to Port exists today, evolved in the early years of the nineteenth century. Nowadays, zabaglione is usually served cold, but this drink can also be served warm. It goes well with cookies. Egg nog itself has English origins, and it was the English who developed the Marsala wine industry in Sicily.

Ingredients: 3 cups of whole milk, one-half cup heavy cooking cream, 5 large egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 6 tablespoons refined white sugar, 14 tablespoons or one-half cup of sweet Marsala wine, nutmeg.

Preparation: Beat the sugar into the eggs, then adding milk and cream for a smooth mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk the Marsala into the mixture, adding a pinch of nutmeg to taste. Heat for 4-5 minutes over a very low flame in a double boiler, whisking occasionally, being careful not to cook the eggs. Continue to beat the mixture occasionally, increasing the volume slightly so that it is creamy. Here's an alternate preparation method which we prefer. After whisking the Marsala into the mixture, eliminate the heating phase and simply whip up the ingredients in a blender. This can be served cool or, if you prefer, heated just before serving.

Granita (Ices)
Outside Italy the lemon version of this delightfully refreshing treat is the best known flavour, but in Sicily you'll find traditional Sicilian flavours like strawberry, mulberry, peach and almond. Nowadays, there is even pineapple and kiwi fruit flavour. Like gelato (ice cream), granita probably traces its origins in Sicily to Roman times, though it was popularised by the Arabs.

Ingredients: One cup chopped and crushed fruit (including juice), one cup of white granulated refined sugar, four cups of water.

Preparation: Chop and crush the fruit. An electric blender is practical for this. Heat the sugar in two cups of water over medium-low flame for a few minutes, until the mixture is completely liquid and the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat and place into a bowl. Allow to cool. Add the remaining water and the crushed fruit. Freeze for about forty minutes, then remove to thoroughly mix the granita with a large fork or other heavy utensil before replacing it in the freezer. As its name implies, the dessert should be "granulated." Continue to remove it to quickly mix it and replace it in the freezer for further freezing every twenty minutes. The preparation phase should require about two hours, depending on the temperature in the freezer. (In Italy there are special machines for making granita.) You want to avoid the granita forming into heavy lumps or a block. The texture should resemble grains or flakes. The mixing method is the most important phase of preparation, as the granita should be granular but not liquid.

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