The city of Catania, on the east coast of Sicilia, is well known for its traditional, delicious and nutritious dishes. The foodstuffs, used for the cooking, are always fresh and surely enough healthy.
In large coastal cities of Sicilia, there are fish markets, called ‘Pescheria’, which are opened from the very morning and until the midday. Even if you are not going to buy anything, this place is worth to be seen- such a variety of fish and seafood you will not find anywhere else. If it has awoken your interest – car rental in Catania would be the perfect way to make plans for your stay in Catania without further ado.
Pasta alla norma
‘Pasta alla norma’ is one of the most famous and specific dishes of the Sicilian cuisine. It originated in Catania and became a symbol of this city. People say that it is even named after one of Vincenzo Bellini’s best operas. In the 19th century, a famous Sicilian writer, Nino Martolio was eating this pasta and he maintained that it is a real masterpiece. In addition, the writer exclaimed that it is as perfect as the “Norma” of Bellini, so people gave the name of the opera to this dish.
Nevertheless, there is also one more, not so romantic explanation of its name origin. This pasta is in full record with the accepted standards (“norms”) of the tradition pasta. The main components of the dish are tomato sauce with garlic, olive oil, pepper and basil. Sliced eggplants are fried separately. The pasta is sprinkled with grated salted ricotta, which is hard as the pressed cottage cheese.
Despite the simplicity of the cooking process, this pasta is having the certain grace. Moreover, every homemaker is having her little secrets, which are making the dish incredibly delicious. This not comparable recipe of Sicilian gastronomy is a triumph of Mediterranean tastes’ combination. It reflects the very essence of the island: ripe Sicilian tomatoes, bright purple eggplant and Sicilian ricotta gain unity in this dish.
One of the biggest delicacies in Catania is the pesce-spada (swordfish). No matter how it is cooked, the exquisite dish is guaranteed in any case. It could be an ‘arrosto’-grilled swordfish, or an ‘involtini’- a piece of fish served as a roll, or in any other form. A swordfish is undoubtedly a very tasty and nutritious fish. There is practically no bones in this fish, only a backbone. The name of the fish was given due to the peculiar form of the upper jaw, which in shape resembles a pointed sword.
The meat of the swordfish is dense and tender. Due to its density, it is suitable for cooking virtually in any technological way: braising, frying, boiling, baking or grilling. It is suitable for all kinds of smoking as well. Very tasty is the pickled swordfish meat. In any case, it is worth trying!
A ‘caponata’ is the name of the dolphinfish in Sicily. Today, it is not so easy to catch this valuable type of fish. Therefore, in length of time, the dish was cooked without fish, replacing it with eggplants, which are quite popular in the cuisine of Catania. According to another version, the word goes back to the Latin caupona – the tavern.
The celery, capers, olives, as well as a special sauce, and a little vinegar, are also added to caponata. In Sicily, there are different varieties of this dish; the other ingredients could be used: sweet peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, pine nuts or almonds. In order to give an acid-sweet hue to the dish, vinegar and sugar (or honey), are added during the cooking. The prepared caponata is often sprinkled with sliced greens, first of all, with basil.
It is served hot as an independent dish, garnish, or served cold as a snack.
Much earlier, the dish was called ‘caponatina’ in Sicily, and then, the word lost its diminutival (which meant “small bits”) when the dish became popular throughout the peninsula.
The translation of this word is ‘small oranges’, as this dish, (the rice balls with ragu stuffing, fried in deep fat), due to a rich yellow-orange color after frying in oil, is having similarity to small oranges. The rice balls with a diameter of 8-10 cm are fried (or in some cases baked) usually stuffed with meat, sometimes adding mozzarella, tomato sauce and green peas. Before cooking, as a rule, they are crumbed in breadcrumbs. The shape of arancini could be both round and conical. Their shape depends on the filling, which is often different. The arancini could be filled with the meat sauce, ham, cheese, cottage cheese, spinach, spicy sausage, boiled eggs and so on.
These rice croquettes are the pride of Sicilian cuisine. Arancini are suitable to be served as snacks, a second course or even a main course.
In Sicily, anywhere, at any time, you can always find warm and fragrant arancini.