Tag Archives: CUCINA SICILIANA

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS….FRITTI DI VRUOCCULI

FRITTI….they come in all shapes, sizes, batters, breadings, fillings, foods and depending on where you are are in Italy they are called Fritti, Pettole, Pittule, Crispeddi, the list goes on. NEVER argue with an Italian about what they call a dish!!! Everyone is right!! Often blanket terms like “Sicilian” mean something from a particular region of Sicily, oh that’s right, not all Sicilian cooking is the same. But it’s all Sicilian cuisine. I started with a basic flour and egg batter for these which is a common way in Sicily to make these. I was bringing them to a family holiday dinner to I wanted to make them special. I dipped into my bag of “what are some good complimentary ingredients that echo the Isola di Sicilia and I came up with Caciocavallo cheese, Mint (yes, Sicilians love the herb), and Sesame Seeds. The Arab conquest of Sicily for centuries brought many of their food traditions, the sesames are one of them and now are emblematic in many of Sicily’s foods/sweets like Cubbaita and Biscotti Regina, topping many panini and loaves of bread. So why not fold them into a savory batter and get the taste of Sicily in every bite? By the Way, Sicily has an ancient language which often borrows from Italian and Cauliflower, in Italian called Cavolofiore is often called Vruocculi, Vruocoli.

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS

TIME: 2 HOURS MAKES; ABOUT 2 DOZEN

1 LARGE FRESH CAULIFLOWER HEAD, STEAMED, COOLED, THEN SEPARATED INTO FLORETS

2 TBS. AP FLOUR SEASONED WITH SALT AND PEPPER

2 LARGE ORGANIC (IF POSSIBLE) EGGS, BEATEN

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

1/2 TSP BAKING POWDER (CHECK YOUR CONTAINER’S FRESHNESS DATE)

3/4 WHOLE MILK

1 TSP SICILIAN SEA SALT

3 TABLESPOONS ROASTED SESAME SEEDS

1 TSP. CRUMBLED DRIED MINT

1/8 CUP GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

OIL FOR FRYING ( I USED CORN OIL)

2 LEMONS, SLICED OR IN WEDGES

10 SPRIGS OF FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

sprinkle the seasoned flour over the florets in a bowl and gently get each floret coated in flour. Add the milk and grated cheese to the eggs, beat well. Now add all the other ingredients and slowly create a thick batter. When all is blended well, reserve to the side. Heat 2 inches of oil in a high sided pan/pot ( i use my Cast iron pan) and bring to 325 degrees F. When the oil is ready, coat one of the florets with the batter, let excess drip off and test one. If it’s ready it will immediately sizzle and start fo puff up in size. About 2 minutes per side. Place the florets in the batter in batches and fry no more than 6 at a time our your oil temp drops and we have a greasy finished product. As each batch is done and draining sprinkle sea salt over them. They should be salted when hot, not when cooled. Continue battering and frying until you’re all done. Serve them piping hot on a platter with lots of lemon wedges or slices. Squeeze over the top when serving, extra on the side. Add some chopped parsley leaves as garnish. Enjoy!!

PENNE WITH “SICILIAN” SAUCE, U’ CAPULIATU RAGU’

Sicily…a land where so many of our ItalianAmerican food culture comes from. Wonderful dishes from Sicily’s coast and Mountainous inland capture the tastebuds and imaginations of food lovers all over the world. this meat sauce is termed “CAPULIATO or CAPULIATU” which means minced in Sicilian…the tomatoes can be minced, the meats are minced,,the vegetables are minced. Sicilians love peas….they ingeniously combine them in places you might not expect them, like in tomato sauce. My own Sicilian born Paternal Grandmother years ago made her very sweet thick Sicilian sauce with tomatoes, mostly paste, onions, olive oil, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and PEAS. Peas simmered in a sauce of onions, ground beef and sieved tomatoes are truly a popular style in traditional Sicilian cooking. Here’s my version of the ground meat, peas, onions, and tomato Sicilian pasta sauce. This Ragu’ of minced or chopped meats is often called U’Capuliatu. Let’s “go” to Sicily now and start a pot of U’Capuliatu.

U’ CAPULIATU’ RAGU….SICILIAN MEAT RAGU

1 LB. MINCED OR GROUND BEEF

3/4 LB MINCED OR GROUND VEAL OR PORK

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES, CRUSHED TILL SMOOTH

1 CAN IMPORTED ITALIAN TOMATO PASTE

SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 FINELY MINCED CARROT

1 FINELY MINCED STALK OF CELERY

1 LARGE SIZED ONION, FINELY MINCED

1 CUP WHITE WINE

1 CUP OF WATER

1 CUP FRESH OR FROZEN PEAS

KOSHER OR SEA SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE FROM ITALY OR SICILY

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a large heavy bottomed pot or saucepot heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Don’t rush this step. The vegetables need to “sweat” and give up their flavor to the oil and soften. Saute’ for at least 15-20 minutes making sure the vegetables DO NOT BROWN.Once they are soft add the meats and raise the heat making sure to have the sauteed vegetables well mixed into the meat. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the meat till nicely browned for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and blend in. Cook until the wine is evaporated then add the paste and the water. Bring to a boil and blend well. Let cook for 5 minutes, then add the Tomato and 1 basil leaf. Bring to a boil and then to a simmer. Let this simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the peas and the remaining basil. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Cook on low for 1 1/2 hours. Let this sit overnight before using. Reheat gently and toss with pasta of your choice….I love it with Penne Rigati or Rigatoni…Toss the al dente pasta in the hot Ragu’ and then add 1/2 cup of grated CACIOCAVALLO or PECORINO to the pan, a drizzle of Sicilian Olive Oil, and blend in. Add more cheese to taste. ENJOY!!

Now here’s a bit more on the CAPULIATU…this is a Recipe for the Capuliatu’ Ragu….the minced meat and tomato sauce. You can make or buy CAPULIATO in Sicily and it’s a chopped dried tomato, garlic, basil, chile pepper and Extra Virgin Oil condimento that is used as is, tossed with cooked pasta and toasted breadcrumbs. My recipe is the Ragu’ Capuliatu…making sure I add this addendum so the SicilianFood Polizie don’t come after me…lol.

PASTA CON ZAFFERANO E CAVOLOFIORE..PASTA WITH CAULIFLOWER AND SAFFRON

Long before Cauliflower became a trendy-hipster-carb stand in food it was a real thing. For centuries. Sorry folks, you discovered nothing except that Cauliflower is just versatile and delicious. One of the most ancient ways to eat cauliflower is pairing it with pasta. Doesn’t that usually make everything better? I think so. My DNA is 1/2 Sicilian, both paternal grandparents were born in the Sicilian city of Sciacca on Sicily’s southwestern coast. My love of this vegetable I’m going to say is genetic. Maybe not. Maybe yes. There are many versions of this Sicilian pairing of pasta and Cauliflower most notably with Saffron, Breadcrumbs, Raisins and Pignoli. This version of mine is a little paired back but loaded with flavor. Another thing to note…Sicilian food will contain onion more often than garlic. On this side of the Atlantic garlic was added to many dishes that in Sicily were onion only. Oh they use both, rarely in the same dish and usually onion is the more popular ingredient. SAFFRON, or ZAFFERANO, very Mediterranean. The Sicilians due to the many thundering hoardes of invading nations across the island picked up many food ways from east, west, north, south. Food often is a road map of a country’s past. It’s a fascinating trip if you chose to take it. Makes food even more “delicious” for me knowing why, where, and how it became a defining dish for an area. Let’s make a pasta with a little Sicilian in it. It’s wonderful for Vegetarians too.

YIELDS: about 4 SERVINGS TIME: Approx. 1 hour

1/4 TSP. SAFFRON THREADS

1 CAULIFLOWER HEAD, well trimmed and then cut into smaller florets

3 1/2 TBS. SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (regular fine if that’s what you have)

1 MEDIUM DICED ONION

1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 lb PENNE COOKED AL DENTE

1 TBS FRESH SQUEEZE LEMON JUICE

2 TSPS FINE MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

SEA SALT

CACIOCAVALLO OR PROVOLONE CHEESE GRATED

Start by soaking the saffron in 2 tbs of hot boiling water. Set to the side. Fill a large pot with water, add plenty of sea salt and bring to the boil. Gently add the Cauliflower florets and cook till tender…around 5-7 minutes.. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain further. Bring the Cauliflower cooking water back to the boil. In a heavy skillet add 3/4 of the olive oil and when it’s hot add the onion,pinch of sea salt, peperoncino. So many recipe tell you to cook the onions for about 5 minutes, can we talk here? They will still be crispy. Here’s a trick, AFTER about 8 minutes of cooking, add 3 tbs of the cooking water and let this dance around the pan until it’s evaporated. Don’t listen to me here, TASTE one of the onion pieces and LET YOUR MOUTH TELL YOU it’s now soft. It will NEVER take only 5 minutes to break down onions into delicious softness. The water helps the process. Take your time. Now raise the heat and add the cauliflower and let the florets get some color from the pan, then add 1/4 cup of the cooking water and the saffron with its water. Season with more sea salt and cook till the water is almost 3/4 reduced. Meanwhile you will be cooking your penne just until Al Dente in the Cauliflower cooking water. Drain. Add to the pan of cauliflower and mix well. Drizzle more olive oil over it and toss then remove from the heat and add about 1/2 cup of grated Provolone or Caciocavallo, the lemon juice and the parsley. A very pretty and tasty dish. For those who want a little more Sicily in the dish saute’ a few Anchovy fillets with the onions.

SFINCIONE…A PIZZA FROM SICILY TOPPED WITH TOMATO, ONIONS, ANCHOVY, CHEESE AND BREADCRUMBS

SFINCIONE….pronounce it with me…SFEEN-CHEE-OWNAY.  Nice, you’ve said it.  Speaking like a Sicilian because this is the pizza that our SicilianAmerican Pizzeria SICILIAN PIZZA has roots in.  A risen dough pressed into a rectangular pan, somewhat thick, then topped with a slow cooked tomato sauce loaded with onions.  On top of that is a layer of breadcrumbs, anchovies and Sicilian grated cheese, like a Caciocavallo, but Provolone or Pecorino Romano work too.  Caciocavallo isn’t always available.  A little Sicilian Oregano, Sicilian Olive Oil and this bakes into a delicious treat.  My Sicilian born Paternal Grandmother made this and hers had lots of onions on it. Maybe I get my love of anything with lots of onions from her.   Grazie Grandma Battaglia.  Sfincione made this way seems like it may have its origins in the Western part of Sicily, especially the Palermo region.  As with most Italian dishes there are wide variations and what’s most popular will always be one version that seems to be the most popular.  Mine is the more popular version.  There are Sfincione that are also stuffed, or sparsely topped.   Mine is closer to the Sfincione (also spelled Sfingiuni) Palermitano.   Sfincione denotes a larger version of Sfince or Sfingi…those fried dough creations.  The heart of the word SFINCE means “spongy” and it’s a reference to the spongy dough used to make these treats.  Interesting stuff.  Next time you bite into a wonderful square of Sicilian Pizza you’ll now know where its origins are from.  So happy to have been introduced to this dish by my grandmother who, btw, never called it Sfincione.  She just called it A’Pizz.  

As they say in Palermo…” Scairsu r’uogghiu e chin’i pruvulazzu”… meaning Top it with a little Olive Oil and lots of dust…. 

MY VERSION OF LO SFINCIONE

for the SFINGE, the Spongy Dough

3 1/2 CUPS OF TIPO 00 FLOUR OR SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

2 1/2 TEASPOONS OF GRANULATED DRY YEAST DISSOLVED IN 1  1/4 CUP OF  WARM WATER WITH 1 TSP. SEA SALT (FINE GROUND, NOT COARSE) let this sit for 15 minutes or until it’s foamy on top.

On a large working surface or board pile the flour into a mound then create a well in the center.  Pour the yeast and water mixture into the center and gently work the flour and water together until it’s all incorportated and you can easily knead it into a ball.  Cover this with a towel and let it rest for up to 5 hours.  

for the topping:

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sicilian if possible.

3 MEDIUM ONIONS SLICED THIN

1 CAN ITALIAN PEELED PLUM TOMATOES, SAN MARZANO WORK

1/2 CAN ITALIAN IMPORTED TOMATO PASTE

1ANCHOVY FILET, CHOPPED

3/4 LB COARSELY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO (A SICILIAN/SOUTHERN ITALIAN CHEESE)..IF NOT AVAILABLE PECORINO ROMANO OR SHARP PROVOLONE (BOTH FROM ITALY) CAN BE USED

1 TBS. DRIED SICILIAN OREGANO

1 1/2 CUPS ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS (UNSEASONED)

In a large heavy pan heat 1 tbs of olive oil.  When it gets hot add the onions tossing them well in the hot oil.  Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Continue to cook over high heat stirring frequently then add 1 chopped anchovy and a pinch of Oregano.  Let this cook on medium until the onions are soft.  DON’T RUSH THIS!! The longer the onions cook…the better this will taste!!  After about 25 minutes add the Tomato paste and blend in well.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Now with your hands crush the tomatoes and add to the pan.  Mix.  Add a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce to a simmer and let this good as long as it has to so it becomes thick.  Rule of thumb, it will cook for at least 1 hour.  No liquid pools should be accumulating on the top.  

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Well oil (grease) a Rectangular 1/2 sheet baking pan and press the dough into the pan all the way up to the sides.  Dough should be about 1 inch thick.  Brush the top with olive oil…a sprinkle of sea salt, black pepper, and 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Then top with the tomato and onion mixture.    Now top with the remaining cheese mixed into the breadcrumbs along with the remaining oregano.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for at least 15 minutes being careful not to burn it.    When done the bottom is nice and browned as is the top, more of a golden brown.  It’s amazing.  As always, ovens are all calibrated differently.  My recipes are tested in my oven.  There may always be a temperature/heat difference in your oven so adjust accordingly.  If there is one thing I hope every home cook can learn, is that this recipe is a guide.  Follow it and you’ll be happy with the results but common sense always needs to come in and if your sfincione isn’t quite done when my directions say it is…bake for longer.  Just pay attention to it.  When the pie is cooled down a bit cut into squares and serve.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.   It’s a wonderful addition to a Christmas Eve La Vigilia seafood buffet.  And as a closing note…can we please stop the debate on Italian Seafood and cheese?  Here is an example of seafood and cheese being paired.  Not an Italianamerican idea, or a mistake.  It’s how it’s done.  Enjoy.

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER AND POTATO CROQUETTES, CAZZILLI DI VRUOCCULI E PATATE

12301481_523460571155581_6765352164488669537_n Italians love fried little bits…fritti…and the fritti come in many forms.  Depending on the region you will often find little street stands or stores that specialize only in Fried Foods. Stop.  I see your eyes rolling.  Life’s too short not to enjoy a fried treat now and then.  The list of Italian fried bits is very long AND delicious but let me introduce you to this one from Sicily.  The CAZZILLO.  Plural, CAZZILLI.  Now pardon my comments here but Sicilians love the bawdy and love things that make you laugh in embarassment.  Cazzo is Italian for the male organ…Cazzilli is Sicilian for, well, a little one LOL.  Are you embarassed and shocked?  The Sicilians have done it again.  Have some fun, life’s too short not to laugh a little.  This dish combines the Sicilians love of a good joke with a few of their favorite foods, potatoes and cauliflower.  VRUOCCULI is actually a type of cauliflower, a little greener than our pure white American Cauliflowers.  This CAZZILLI recipe is a version of the typical Sicilian potato croquette combined with mashed cauliflower.  Sicilians make their potato croquettes either simply rolled in flour and fried OR breaded and fried.  Generally when I’m making a Napoletana style Potato Croquette (Panzarotti) I will bread them. But when making Sicilian ones I don’t bread them.  These Cazzilli have a hefty helping of grated Caciocavallo cheese in them.  Now Caciocavallo is not available everywhere so instead you can use the more accessible Provolone or Pecorino.  See, I”m not going to give you a recipe that you can’t reproduce in your kitchen.  Truth be told most cooks in their homes will use what’s on hand to make a dish so it’s fine to use any one of the three.  Caciocavallo is most Sicilian.  If you have a good cheese store by you see if they carry CACIOCAVALLO RAGUSANO, from Ragusa, Sicily. It’s amazing.   Now here’s a few tips.  Start with leftover or day old Mashed Potatoes.  Many recipes tell you to make it all the same day.  No.  There’s a magic that happens when a cooked starch sits overnight.  Trust me.  ItalianAmerican Moms and Grandmothers would make their versions of Potato croquettes usually with leftover mashed potatoes from the day before’s dinner. Same for RiceBalls (Arancini).  The end result is just better, and they don’t fall apart.  You’ll need 3 cups of mashed potatoes of this recipe.  Steam the cauliflower the day before as well.  One head of cauliflower for 3 cups of mashed potatoes.  When the cauliflower is still warm, mash it well.  set it in a strainer and let it drain overnight.  OR if you have leftover cauliflower, simply mash it.  So those are the starting points for these CAZZILLI.  Let’s get cooking now!!

TIME: 24 hours                   SERVES: 6 (up to 3 per person)

3 cups chilled day-old Mashed Potatoes

1 mashed steamed Cauliflower head

2 beaten eggs

1 1/4 cup grated CACIOCAVALLO or PECORINO or PROVOLONE cheese

2 tbs. All purpose flour

1 tbs. minced flat leaf Italian parsley

salt, fresh ground black pepper

Olive oil for frying

Lemon slices for serving

Simply blend ALL the ingredients and season with salt and lots of black pepper until you can form a small oval shaped croquette, about 2 inches long.  Roll each one in flour, and then chill for 1/2 hour.  In a large heavy high sided pan (pull out the cast iron skillet for this!) Bring 2 inches of  oil to 360 degrees F and start frying the Cazzilli.  DON’T CROWD THE PAN!!! 5-6 at a time works well.   Fry till golden on all sides, takes about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.  When done frying transfer to a nice serving platter and garnish with lemon slices.  They are wonderful hot or at room temperature.  Enjoy your CAZZILLI!!! HAPPY COOKING.

ST. VITO’S PIZZA..SFINCIONE DI SAN VITO, A SICILIAN STUFFED PIZZA

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Stuffed Pizza, or more specifically Sfinciunu di San Vitu (Sfincione di San Vito)..a specialty from the
sunny Island of Sicily which is eaten to celebrate St.Vito’s Day, June 15.  Actually the St.Vito piece of
this food puzzle comes from where the savory pie was first made, at a Convent of San Vito in Sicily.
The nuns did some job in putting together some of Sicily’s favorite ingredients.  A Sfincione is a
Sicilian word denoting their  regional pizza..a spongy doughed rectangular pie topped with a slow
and sweet cooked tomato sauce, anchovies, sauteed onions, caciocavallo, black pepper, olive oil
and bread crumbs.  This morphed in America to our Sicilian thick crust pie.  A St.Vito Sfincione is
a calzone or a two layered crust covered pizza, differing from the other Sfincione.  Confused? You
should be.  No matter…follow me on this St.Vito’s Pizza journey.  Let’s go to the namesake.  St. Vito
himself.  One of those early Saints of the Christian period who are part of various legends, in
addition to Central Europe, St. Vito became a popular saint throughout Italy, especially down south
and in Sicily where there is a huge following.  One of the prettiest towns in all of Sicily to the west of
Palermo is the beach resort of San Vito lo Capo (Cape of St.Vitus) where there is a huge cous cous
festival held every year.  Interestingly enough, this Pizza is more associated with New Year’s Eve than with the actual feast day of S.Vito.  I like to highlight though for this June 15 feast day.

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This is my personal card of St.Vito which I got in the old San Vito Club in NYC..  My first introduction to St.Vito was when I was a kid and
exploring the old sections of Little Italy in NYC which then extended above Elizabeth St and below
Mulberry St.  In fact, the section of Little Italy now known as NoLita was once the first home in America
for thousands and thousands of Sicilian immigrants, Elizabeth Street.  Each group of people (paesani)
from a particular town would inhabit one or two adjacent tenanments and would provide a safe place for
new immigrants from that town to stay in upon arrival in the New Country.  My grandparents, both from the
town of Sciacca in Sicily lived in opposite buildings, all with other paisani from their town.  At one end
by the former Old Church of Our Lady of Loreto a group from the Sicilian town of Cimina settled and in
Our Lady of Loreto was a shrine to St.Vito. Every town had a Society on that street, and one of them was
the Mutual Aid Society of St.Vito for the people of Cimina.  All gone now.
So there’s a little history of St.Vito to get you in the mood to cook a pizza named after him.  This stuffed
gem is loaded with flavors and fun to make and eat.  It would be a great party food, or a full entree,
served with a salad.  This recipe will make one Sfinciuni (say it, you’ll feel Sicilian!).  Start with the dough.
Don’t be afraid, it sounds scary to make your own dough, but it’s not only tastier and healthier, but it’s
theraputic.  8-10 minutes of kneading is a great stress reducer!  In a bowl, add 1 cup of warm water. To
that add 1 tsp. sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1 packet of dry yeast.  Mix.  Let this sit for up to 15 minutes. The top
will be frothy..IT’S ALIVE!  Add 1 cup of sifted bread flour and blend in well with a wooden spoon.  Now add
an additional cup.  Keep stirring, it should be getting more difficult to stir and the dough will be moving from
the sides of the bowl.  It will still be somewhat sticky. Slowly add an additional cup of flour now mixing with
your hands.  This should give you an elastic, smooth ball of dough. If it is still sticky sprinkle a little more
flour on.  Turn this out onto a floured board and knead for 8-10 minutes.  Rub olive oil over it and place it
in the bowl, kitchen towel over the top and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.
On to the filling…you’ll love this.  Saute’ 1 lb. of loose sausage meat in a little olive oil still just cooked, about
10 minutes.  Remove from the pan.  While the sausage is cooking, slice 1 large onion and dice one medium
sized potato.  Now add the potato to the pan with a little more olive oil, some salt and pepper and fry the
potatoes for about 10 minutes, till done.  Add to the sausage.  In the same pan fry the onions for 10 minutes
till soft and sweet, then add 1 sliced clove of garlic and when fragrant add 1 tsp. fennel seeds, 1 anchovy filet
and cook for 2 minutes.  Now add 1 14 oz Can of Imported Italian Cherry Tomatoes (my new favorite in-
gredient).  add some salt and pepper, and stir.

Add all of the sausage and potato to the tomato and onion and cook it on medium-low for 25 minutes.  Some versions, and there are many of this, will include 1/2 tsp of ground Cinnamon. That’s up to you.

Now add 1 cup of coarsely chopped black olives, then a sprinkle of oregano and 3 torn basil leaves.
Cook for additional 5 minutes.  Turn off the flame and add 1/8 cup grated pecorino, and 1/4 cup diced
caciocavallo.  Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes.  Pre-heat your oven to 450 now.

So from friend Michael Gottuso who used my recipe when I originally posted this a few years ago, this is his picture of the filling after it was completed:0002

Time to stuff!  Pat down the dough and turn it out onto a board or stone counter.  With your hands press
it out into a circular shape about 3/16 of an inch (get our your kitchen ruler..lol) and let it rest for about
5 minutes.

Add the filling to the center of the dough and smooth it out so it’s all the same thickness.  Gently
pick up one side of the dough and fold it over the filling..gently gently  so you don’t tear the dough.
If you do you can always patch it up.  Roll of the edges and tightly crimp them in a semi-circle where you
overlapped the dough.  This will form a crust.
Dust the top of the Sfinciunu with black pepper
and bake for 16-20 minutes, or till golden brown on top and bottom.  When done, tap on the top and
it should be firm and sound hollow.
Let this rest for 10 minutes before you cut into it, it lets all the juices go back into the filling.  Cut and
serve, feeds 4-5.  A very Sicilian combo here…serve it with a Sicilian red or white…a side of broccoli rabe or a salad.
Let me confuse you even further..as with many recipes centuries old there are many versions.  One presses the dough into a round pan and it resembles a Chicago style DeepDish Pizza.. The top crust is covered with tomato sauce.  My preference is the calzone style.  You make it as you like.

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Happy Sfinciunu i San Vitu making!  Enjoy your St.Vito’s Pizza.

ANELLETTI AL FORNO, THE REAL SPAGHETTI -O’S, FROM SICILY

  Italy is a land of many regions like every other country and each area fiercely promotes it’s different foods, traditions, and dishes.  One of the biggest arguments you will encounter when two Italian-Americans get together will be about food, precisely about a dish.  One says his mother never made the dish, or makes it a certain way.  The other fights back with his mother made better and more importantly his mamma’s way is the RIGHT way because that’s what Mamma made.  This bickering is fueled by repetitive filling up of empty red wine glasses and reaches a crescendo when their stomachs are full and the argument is a draw.  Both sides walk away thinking regardless of what just went down, they are right, their momma is queen, their region of Italy is the only one that matters so, let’s have espresso and maybe a cannoli. Italian-Americans are a very unique blend of these hardcore Italian regions.  Most Italian-Americans (let’s call them IAs, too much typing) are American born of one or both parents having Italian lineage but there are many different regions that married together to form the current IA profile in America.  Take A FOOD OBSESSION, my Paternal grandparents were both born in Sciacca, Sicily. My mother’s mother was born in Castelbaronia, Avellino and lived in Naples from 10 to 20 years of age and my maternal grandfather was born in Grassano, Matera in Basilicata.  That makes me a product of 3 distinct regions, with my mom’s mom having lived in 2 towns in Campania bringing both those areas’ food traditions into the kitchen.  At some point the cooking of Italian food in America became an amalgam of all these regions, some very similar some quite different so remember that next time you hear two IAs making a fuss about whose food is more authentic.  What’s all this blabber about anyway?  It sets up this blogpost and I present to you a very regional dish, ANELLETTI AL FORNO which comes from in and around the Palermo region of Sicily.  It’s basically a baked pasta that uses ANELLETTI (means Little Rings).tomasello_aneletti  That’s right..WHOAAA…they look like Spaghetti-O’s..that All American kid’s canned pasta from Chef Boy-Ar-Dee.  I’m sure some of you love it as it was served with love to you as a child.  IA’s don’t do canned pasta, ever. We’d rather have our tongues cut out.  I’m sure the good Chef Boiardi’s employees used this pasta dish as the basis for stuff in the can.  Let’s freshen that idea up and go a little “authentic” (almost a silly word, no one really knows exactly what was or is authentic anymore but this is close) and go with my preparation of Anelletti Al Forno.  To show you how regional and isolated the food cultures of Italy can be, my Sicilian Grandmother who did cook a tomato sauce with peas (and potatoes) in a very Sicilian style never ever made Anelletti.  Why?  She came from Sciacca which is directly south on the Mediterranean shore below Palermo.  A few hours and some mountains made this dish totally unknown in her kitchen.  I was introduced to this dish at the FEAST OF SAINT ROSALIA on 18th Avenue in Brooklyn in the 70’s.  Back then the feast which celebrates the patron saint of Palermo was mostly lined with Sicilian food vendors, along with the usual suspects at an Italian-American street feast. teschio  In the shadow of Santa Rosalia I enjoyed Stuffed Artichokes, Panelle (Chick pea fritters), Arancini (Rice Balls) and a serving of Anelletti al Forno.  I fell in love and never looked back.  Sept. 4 in the traditional Feast of St.Rosalia but it’s celebrated in Palermo on July 15 during a celebration called IL FESTINO.  Don’t use one or twospecial days to make  this pasta, although making it on those days  does make it taste a little special..i’m not lying to you..maybe just a little bit.  Make it anytime and serve with a nice salad.  Let ‘s hit the kitchen.

Makes: 5-6 servings   Time: about 3 hours

1 LB. ANELLETTI (PASTA RINGS), COOKED TILL JUST UNDER AL DENTE, follow the package directions but knock off a few minutes at the end.

1/2 lb. GROUND VEAL or BEEF

1/2 LB. GROUND PORK

3 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 FINE DICED ONION

1 28 OZ CAN IMPORTED ITALIAN TOMATOES (SAN MARZANO IF YOU HAVE THEM, not Sicilian, but very delicious)

1/2 can IMPORTED ITALIAN TOMATO PASTE

3 CHOPPED CELERY LEAVES

1 fine diced CARROT

1 cup RED WINE

2 cups WATER

Kosher salt

Black pepper

pinch of OREGANO

1 cup shelled GREEN PEAS

Olive oil and butter for greasing the Baking Pan

3 tbs. BREAD CRUMBS for LINING THE PAN

1 cup grated PECORINO OR CACIOCAVALLO

1 cup diced PRIMOSALE CHEESE or MOZZARELLA or PROVOLONE

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS: FRIED SLICES OF EGGPLANT (no breading), CHOPPED WHOLE HARD BOILED EGGS,  CHOPPED SOPRESSATA

In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbs of olive oil…add the onions, carrots, and 1/2 the celery leaves , season with salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 15 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Add the ground meats to the pot and cook until you don’t see any pink, stirring from time to time, about 10 minutes. Now season with salt and pepper and the celery leaves. and oregano.  Cook for 2 minutes then add the wine, bring to a slow boil. Add the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, then add the water, bring to a boil then down to a simmer. Add the tomatoes, that you crushed with your hands, to the pot.  Let this cook down for a good 1 hour 15 minutes.  It should be thick, if still watery, continue to reduce until that water is cooked out. Add the peas  and the balance of the celery leaves and cook for additional 10 minutes.

While all that is happening, cook the pasta until just under al dente according to the package directions.  Notice I’m not telling you to substitute the pasta.  This is not a universal pasta dish, it’s a regionally SPECIFIC heritage dish from the Palermo province of Sicily.  There’s no substitute..and to make it easy for you here’s a link where you can buy it on line:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Anelletti-No-Tomasello-16oz-1lb/dp/B000LRKPRA

There are other places too on the web. as well.  It’s INTRINSIC to use the Anelletti.  In a baking pan that you have lightly greased with butter or olive oil sprinkle 3/4 of the breadcrumbs around the pan.  Mix the pasta and the cheeses together with sauce( reserve 1 cup of sauce for the top)  then turn it into the pan.   Sprinkle with the diced cheese, the reserved sauce and more breadcrumbs.

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Bake in a 375 F degree oven for 40 minutes.  Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

This delicious treat sometimes has a thicker layer of crumbs around it, or is cooked in a ring pan or mold.  Be creative but keep to the traditions, there’s plenty of wiggle room there.

 

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Here’s the “moral” of this blogpost/story, especially for the most opinionated of you out there—open your mind to things that are not part of the kitchen you grew up on and see why it may be a valid authentic dish.  Until that visit to the streets of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn for the St.Rosalia Feast in the 70’s I would have said that Anelletti is NOT a Sicilian dish because my grandmother didn’t make it.  How wrong I would have been!  And when you hear this jingle from the 60’s you’ll have a WHOLE’nother idea of what that dish is: