Basil pesto. So good and easy to make that you won’t buy it again.

Basil: a very popular aromatic herb used to make pesto and linked to an old Sicilian tradition.
Try to make your own pesto!

Photo credits:“Basil” by zoyachubby is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Every Sicilian has got a basil plant, big or small… It is used so often that having a little basil plant in the garden or balcony is the most natural thing.

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It can be used for parmigiana or pasta alla Norma to give flavour, but you really enjoy all of its potential when you make pesto. This very easy pesto recipe is so easy, cheap and genuine that you’ll never buy a ready-made pesto again.


Ingredients:

40g fresh basil leaves
30g olive oil (better if extra virgin)
15g pinenuts
50g parmesan
garlic (to taste, max 1 clove. It can be made without garlic if you don’t like it)


Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

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STEP 1
Take off the basil stems and wash the leaves. Pat dry them with kitchen roll.

STEP 2
Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and blend till smooth with a stick blender.

And it’s done!


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Try not to put too much garlic at first, you can always add it later. Salt is not needed, but you can add a pinch.

You can add this on pasta ideally, but it’s good on focaccia, homemade pizza, rice or pasta salads and everywhere you like it!

Basil is linked to an old Sicilian tradition. To show friendship between two people belonging to different families, a plant of basil decorated with a red ribbon would be given to someone. After receiving the gift, the two people would become comari di basilico or compari di basilico meaning friends of basil (women in the first case and men in the second).

This tradition is described by Giovanni Verga into his book ‘I Malavoglia’: the tormented story of a Sicilian family set in Acitrezza, where you can still visit the house where the novel takes place

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Hands, facial expressions, movements, emotions and words: that’s how Sicilians talk.

Within every Sicilian there is a world of cultures different from each other. And it seems that using hand gestures is the only way to make all of them coming out at once.

Italians use a lot of gestures and Sicilians even more. And it’s not just about moving their hands while they talk: each gesture has got a meaning that can be translated not just in words, but into emotions too.

Photo credits :“Hands Fidgeting From Boredom” by Mark Spearman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Facial expressions play an important role, also. The key for expressing yourself with Italian and Sicilian gestures is the feeling. If you don’t feel it, the movement of your hands will just be… a movement.

What is communicated through a gesture is a concept that goes beyond words. It is more about an expression of all of the emotions inside a person.

Sicilians learn to understand this special sign language very soon… no Sicilian child wants to see their mum biting her hand (meaning: if I’ll get you, you’ll be in trouble).

It seems that this habit comes from the Greeks, people to whom Sicilians still owe their special way of saying ’no’. Have you ever heard the Sicilian ’no’? Well, that’s a ntz sound (as if you wanted to make the sound of a kiss but with your tongue touching the top of your back upper teeth). While Sicilians make that sound, they lift their head up, similarly to a nod. A bit confusing, isn’t it?

Photo credits: “A view out to sea from Tahomina in Sicily. #sea #sicily #tahomina #beach #bay #island” by ocean-design is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Probably the use of gestures was born for the necessity of communicating with so many different people: Sicily is in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and it was a very popular destination for everyone.

Within every Sicilian there is a world of cultures different from each other. And it seems that using hand gestures is the only way to make all of them coming out at once.

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With my great surprise, our son who speaks mainly English, uses the Sicilian ‘ntz’ sound. Needless to say that this makes me very happy.
Here a video that explains about Italian gestures.
And this is a fun video that explains about Sicilian gestures
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Invented by the nuns, you can smell them from miles away: I biscotti della Monaca.

Anise seeds biscuits: made by the nuns centuries ago, still fill the city of Catania with their characteristic smell

The nun’s biscuits or biscotti della monaca are delicious dry biscuits that contains anise seeds. You can smell them from miles away.

This type of biscuit was originally baked and sold by the nuns of Santa Chiara monastery in Catania. The church is a few steps away from Palazzo Miceli guest houses, another reason that makes it the perfect location for a holiday in Catania.

The Church of Santa Chiara in Catania, where the nun’s biscuits were originally baked and sold.
Photo credits: Image by fazen is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
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Once you’ll bake these biscuits, you’ll be able to picture what that part of the city would smell like a couple of centuries ago.


Ingredients for 15-20 biscuits:

250g plain flour
60g butter
1 tsp anise seeds (or 1,5 tsp fennel seeds if you can’f find anise seeds)
50g sugar
1/2 tsp baking ammonia
50ml milk
a pinch of salt
some additional milk


Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

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  1. Dissolve the baking ammonia into the milk and put it on the side
  2. Put the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl
  3. Add the softened butter and mix briefly
  4. Add the milk with the baking ammonia
  5. Mix to form a dough
  6. If the dough seems too dry, add a tablespoon of milk at a time. Roughly 3 tablespoons should suffice for a compact yet workable dough
  7. Cover in cling film and put in the fridge for one hour.
  8. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out with a rolling pin.
  9. Whit a flat knife cut the dough in strips (10 cm long, 0.5 cm wide, 0.3 cm deep)
  10. Put the strips on a baking tray covered in baking paper giving the traditional “s” shape
  11. Put in pre-heated oven for 10 min (200 degrees C). Take them out and let the biscuits cool down.
  12. Put the biscuits back in the oven for 20 min (140 degrees C)

The biscuits are now ready. Buon appetito!

When something belongs to someone, in Italian we use the preposition ‘di’.

Examples:
Il libro di Simona
The book of Simona/Simona’s book

Il Duomo di Milano
The Cathedral of Milan/Milan Cathedral

I biscotti della monaca
The biscuits of the nun/The nun’s biscuits.
In this case we use ‘della’ (di+la) as what follows the preposition di is not a proper noun (like Simona or Milano), but a common noun (monaca-nun) and therefore it needs the article “la” before it.

Another example with ‘della’
L’odore della città
The smell of the city

Now make your own sentence! Get the first thing you find, who does it belong to? Use an online dictionary to find the words you don’t know.

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Almond Biscuits Christmas Decorations

In the old times Christmas trees used to be decorated with feathers, pines, cards, pictures, fruits and sweets: let’s carry on the tradition!

As for the almond biscuits Christmas tree, these biscuits can be used as Christmas decorations. In the old times Christmas trees used to be decorated with feathers, pines, cards, pictures, fruits and sweets: let’s carry on the tradition!

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Ingredients:
300g plain flour
120g ground almonds
120g caster sugar
180g unsalted butter
2 yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the icing:
120g icing sugar
1 egg white

Sugar decorations

Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

1. Mix all of the ingredients together (don’t add the ones for the icing). The butter needs to be at room temperature. It will be crumbly at first, but eventually you’ll manage to form a nice dough.

2. Wrap the dough inside cling film and leave it in the fridge for 1 hour.

3. Using different shaped cutters, cut the biscuits. Make sure that you make more than one style. Whit a toothpick, make a hole in the biscuits.

4. Put the biscuits in pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C. Leave them for 12-15 min. Make sure they are cooled down before moving them from the tray.

5. While the biscuits are in the oven, make the icing. Work the egg white with an electric whisk till it’s foamy and then add the icing sugar a bit at a time. You need a syringe or a sac-a-poche for the next step.

6. Decorate the biscuits as you like.

7. Add a ribbon and your decorations are ready!

In Italian, if we want to add an element of surprise to a question, we start it with ‘ma’ (but)

Ma cosa stai mangiando??!!
Un biscotto
-What are you eating??!!
-A biscuit

Listen to this song from Marco Masini (Il confronto) for an example of the use of ‘ma’ in questions.

Buone feste!
Happy holidays!

Almond brittle: torrone, cubaita or minnulata. Just two ingredients for a delicious dessert.

Almond brittle: torrone, cubaita or minnulata. Just two basic ingredients for a dessert that tastes like the old times.

Almonds, along with dried figs and ricotta are the basic ingredients of the traditional Sicilian desserts. In times when sweets and big meals were intended just for the main festivities during the year, even the poorest families could afford to make the minnulata using just almonds and sugar.
Photo credits: “Tito Luis’ almonds” by Tom Raftery is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Mandorla (Italian), Mennula (Sicilian) = Almond
Minnulata (Sicilian) = something made with almonds, almond brittle.

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For this very simple but tasty almond brittle, you’re going to need just two ingredients.

Ingredients for 6 people:

200g almonds
150g sugar

Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

  1. put the almonds in the oven at 180 degrees C for 12-15 min depending on how toasted you like them.
  2. Caramelise the sugar: put the sugar in a pan at low heat. Leave it till caramelised (it needs to become golden brown and completely melted).
  3. Take the almonds out of the oven and pour them in the sugar. Stir the taosted almonds for a few seconds to coat them with sugar.

4. Transfer the almonds in an oiled piece of baking paper

5. Spread the almonds with a spoon to make a square. Careful, they’re hot!

6. Press from the top with baking paper

7. Cut the square in pieces with a big knife and your minnulata is ready!

Buon appetito!

litaleeano.com is a participant un the Amazon EU and US Associate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions income by advertising and linking to Amazon.

8th of December: let’s put the Christmas decorations on!

In Sicily, Christmas decorations are traditionally put on the 8th of December and in a little village close to Trapani, people go far beyond a Christmas Tree.

The 8th of December is the day in which traditionally all the Christmas decorations are put on in Sicily. This day is known as the Immaculate Conception (Immacolata Concezione) and it is a national festivity in all Italy.

If you find yourself to be in Sicily during Christmas time, a visit to the living nativity scene of Custonaci is well worth.

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Photo credits: “Presepe Vivente di Custonaci” by Emanuele Bellini is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photo credits:“Grotta Mangiapane – 31” by Jim Waddington is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The scene takes place in a prehistoric cave, inhabited till recent times. Such a suggestive place that is has been chosen as cinematographic set in several occasions.

Andrea Camilleri set one of his most famous Inspector Montalbano’s books in this cave, giving a vivid description of it: The Snack Thief.

If you want more info about this event, you can visit the Presepe di Custonaci’s website. It’s written in Italian, but there are lots of pics to look at.

Some Christmas vocabulary for you:

Natale = Christmas
Notte di Natale = Christmas night
Presepe = Nativity
Buon Natale = Merry Christmas

Almond biscuits Christmas tree

A stylish Christmas dessert with a traditional almond taste: the almond biscuits Christmas tree.

Almonds are the protagonists of traditional Sicilian desserts. Since the Romans’ times, Sicilians and Italians celebrate every important events with sugar coated almonds: these are called ‘confetti‘.

Photo credits: “Tito Luis’ almonds” by Tom Raftery is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

To recreate that traditional flavour while adding a touch of style to your Christmas dessert menu, this almond biscuits Christmas tree is exactly what you need.

Ingredients:
300g plain flour
120g ground almonds
120g caster sugar
180g unsalted butter
2 yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the icing:
120g icing sugar
1 egg white

Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

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1. Mix all of the ingredients together (don’t add the ones for the icing). The butter needs to be at room temperature. It will be crumbly at first, but eventually you’ll manage to form a nice dough.

2. Wrap the dough inside cling film and leave it in the fridge for 1 hour.

3. Using star shaped cutters, cut different size stars. Make sure that you make more than one of the bigger biscuits as these are the ones that are more likely to break.

These cutters are perfect for this type of job. Click the picture to get info and prices.

4. Put the biscuits in pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C. Leave them for 12-15 min. Make sure they are cooled down before moving them from the tray.

5. While the biscuits are in the oven, make the icing. Work the egg white with an electric whisk till it’s foamy and then add the icing sugar a bit at a time. You need a syringe or a sac-a-poche for the next step.

6. Decorate the stars with the icing. Pile the stars one on top of the other, from the biggest to the the smallest.

7. Add some Christmas decorations.

Your Almond biscuits Christmas tree is ready.

Buon Natale! Merry Christmas!

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Tiramisu’, the Italian classic pick-me-up.

Tiramisu’ is the classic Italian dessert. Make it to impress your gusts. Everyone loves it!

Tiramisu"

Tiramisu’ is the classic Italian dessert. Make it to impress your guests. Everyone loves it!

Tiramisu’ is the classic Italian dessert. Everyone knows it. Most Italians have made it at least once in their lives. You can’t go wrong with it!

Here what you need to make the Tiramisu’:

Ingredients:

6 small cups strong coffee
500g mascarpone
3 eggs + 2 yolks
200g sugar + sugar for coffee
20g dark chocolate
300g Savoiardi biscuits

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Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen

1. First thing you do is the coffee: prepare 6 small cups of strong coffee. No need to say that in Italy, tiramisu’ is made with espresso coffee. Put sugar to taste.

2. Make the mascarpone cream: with an electric whisk, work together sugar and eggs for at least 20 minutes. The more you whisk it, the better. If you’re serious about cooking you might consider to get an electric food stand mixer .

https://amzn.to/3o7nZwx

3. After whisking for 20 min or more, add the mascarpone with a spatula till everything is blended together. Leave the cream on the side.

4. Get the coffee you made and add some warm water in a ratio 1 to 4 (one cup of water every 4 of coffee)

5. In a tray, put a layer of cream first. Then dunk the biscuit into the warm (not hot) coffee and create a layer. One biscuit at a time. Once you finish a layer, add more cream and create another layer of dunked biscuits on top.

6. Finish with a layer of cream and one of grated dark chocolate.

Your Italian tiramisu’ is ready to go in the fridge for a couple of hours. After then, Buon appetito!

Tirami-su means pick me up or pull me up.

Tirami = Pick me
su = up

But in the unfortunate case in which you are stuck somewhere high, you can say:

Tirami giu’!

Tirami = pull me
giu’ = down

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A strategy that lots of people are using to crush mafia’s oppression. And there is something you can do, too

A strategy that lots of people are using to crush mafia’s oppression. And there is something you can do, too

It is quite common that the first thing a person links to Sicily is mafia. Very sad, but very true. Mafia exists, it’s closer to us that we might think (independently from where we live) and at the same time it is so subtle that goes unnoticed to most. 

Far for the romantic idea of being honourable men wearing Italian tailored-made suits, mafia people have ruined many lives and many places. 

Pic courtesy of: “Piazza Chiesa San Giusseppe-Taormina-Sicilia-Italy – Creative Commons by gnuckx” by gnuckx is marked with CC0 1.0 

The link mafia-Sicily is not something Sicilians go proud of. We prefer to be known for Falcone, Borsellino, Peppino Impastato: all people that fought mafia paying with their lives. Like them there are many, many more. 

Sicilians wants to be known for Franca Viola, who fearlessly fought for women emancipations; Archimede, who went far beyond the triangles; Pirandello, who has translated into literature the secrets of the human essence. 
Pic courtesy of: “Palermo – I mitici Giovanni Falcone e Paolo Borsellino” by Claudio Nichele – Twitter: @jihan65 / Instagram: c is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In simple terms, mafia is a criminal organization. Who knows what they do, one can just guess. Anyone who can assert something specific should report names and surnames to the police. One thing  that any Sicilian knows is that their attitude has ruined our beautiful island. But how did they do it? It’s quite simple: they scare people. Fear is the most effective weapon any not-so-good organisation uses to manipulate people and obtain whatever it wants (usually power and money). 

To make things more clear, picture this. Wonder you want to open a shop in Sicily. You are very enthusiastic, what you want is just a simple life working with people and selling what you are passionate about. After going through the thousands of bureaucratic hoops, you finally open. One night a guy enters the shop. You address him politely. He asks you for money. If you’re Sicilian you know what is going on. But you are probably not Sicilian, so I’ll explain. You ask the reason why you owe him money. The man says that the money will protect your shop. “From who?”, you would ask. “From us”, the man would reply. 

Mean, vile and simple. 
You don’t pay, they set fire to your shop (and this is a not-too-bad scenario).

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Still, some people manged to overcome this nasty situation. These are the people who deserved to be mentioned above and of whom not all names are not known. These are the people who said “NO” to mafia. 

How did they do it? They simply put a sticker on their shop doors saying “Addio Pizzo” (goodbye extortion). 

Addiopizzo is an organisation of businesspeople and consumers saying ‘NO’ to mafia. It’s that simple. The just say “NO” all together. What was not so simple was to mobilize the mass towards a no-fear attitude. It all started with 5 graduate guys from Palermo who wanted to open a coffee shop but didn’t want to pay pizzo. They chose dignity. You can read more about their story on addiopizzotravel.it. In this website you can find a way to contribute to eradicate mafia in Sicily by choosing the businesses who refuse to pay pizzo. Please, consider that there might be businesses not listed on addiopizzotravel website who don’t pay the mafia.

Mafia turned their back to the shops displaying the sticker as it would have represented too much hassle to deal with them. Sometimes, all it takes is to say “NO” all together. 

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Sesame seeds biscuits: Biscotti con il sesamo. The best things are simple!

Sesame seeds biscuits: the best things are simple!

Sesame seeds biscuits are my favourite! I asked many times to my parents to send them to me in boxes, I put them in my luggage to bring back to the UK, I asked friends coming back from Sicily to bring me some. This till I found out how to make them myself.

These type of biscuits are called in Sicilian biscotti col cimino (English ‘ch’ sound) or biscotti con la giggiulena (all the g’s pronounced as the the final ‘g’ sound in ‘fridge’). They can be found in bakeries and are not fancy biscuits at all. Still they are very good. Once I start, I can’t stop eating them.

Looking on the internet I found out some recipes and I finally managed to recreate them my own way with the ingredients I can find in the UK.

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Ingredients:

250g plain flour
80g spreadable butter (if you use normal, unsalted butter you need to add some salt)
80g caster sugar
1 egg  
3g baking ammonia
100g sesame seeds

Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

*first thing, get the spreadable butter you need and leave it outside of the fridge for 10 min so that it cools downs.

*in a bowl, put the flour, sugar and baking ammonia. Create a little hole on the top. This is where you’ll put the butter and egg.

*put the egg (room temperature) and the cooled down butter in the bowl with the flour, sugar and ammonia.

*mix everything together with your hands to create a ball. You’ll see that the mix feels crumbly, don’t worry. It will get to shape. If it doesn’t, with your fingertips, get some of the leftover butter at the bottom of the bowl you used earlier and carry on working the mix. It will form a ball eventually.

*put the ball in cling film or freezing bag and leave it in the fridge for 45 min.

*in the meantime, get a medium size pan and pour the sesame seeds inside. Toast them on low heat. Stir till they become brown. You’ll see they become shiny too.

*After the 45 min (even more, it’s not a problem), get the dough from the fridge. In a bowl put the seeds and in another bowl some water to deep your fingers in.

*get a piece of dough and form a long cylinder a bit wider that a finger. Cut the cylinder in pieces the length of a baby finger. 

*deep your hands in water, get what you have just cut and wet it a bit. Roll it in the sesame seeds so that you can cover the whole biscuit. Put it on a tray with baking paper on. 

*do this till you have dough.

*put the uncooked biscuits in preheated oven (180 degrees C) for 15 min (using baking ammonia, you need to make sure that they are cooked. Cooking time depends on the type of oven, too).

*take them out and let them cool down.

*when cool, put them back in the oven at 150 degrees C for 10 min.

Your biscuits are ready! If you have some leftover sesame seeds, sprinkle them on an apple. It will taste amazing!

Biscotto means cooked two times (bis-cotto: 2 times-cooked).
 Some Italian words have ‘bis” in them, like Bisnonno (bis-nonno: 2 times-grandfater, greatgrandfater).

When someone takes a second portion of the same dish, they say: faccio il bis!

Give a try with these biscotti: a simple, yet full of taste Sicilian experience!

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