Arancini: Inspector Montalbano’s favourite. With this step-by-step guide you will be able to make yours.

Montalbano’s favourite. With this step-by-step guide you will be able to make yours.

Aranicini are not easy stuff. Making the ones we eat in Sicily takes time. Lee found an easier way to make them and they taste fabulous. 

In short, Lee makes a risotto, creates some balls, coat them in batter and breadcrumb and finally he fries them. This seems quite simple, but along the way there are lots of little tricks he uses to make them taste good. He watched him closely last time he made them and I’m here now to tell you how to do them yourself. 

Arancini can be filled with anything. The classic ones are filled with meat cooked in tomato sauce. They can be vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, too depending on your choice of filling. Since Lee used to fill them in the restaurant every day in different ways depending on the fresh ingredients he was using for his other tapas, we tried any type of arancini. These ones made with mushrooms, bacon and gorgonzola is my favourite.
Photo courtesy of “Arancini from Taormina, Sicily, Italy” byjaimefok is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ingredients for 12/14 arancini (depending on size):

For the filling:
500g Risotto rice
150g smoked bacon
75g chorizo 
200g mushrooms
3 spoons olive oli 
1 stock cube 
Salt
60g grated parmesan 
125g grated mozzarella
70g blue cheese 
For the batter and coating:
300g breadcrumb
25g flour
1 egg
1-2 l of sunflower oil for frying

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

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*In a frying pan, heat some olive oil and put the chorizo, the bacon and the mushroom. Leave them to brown for a while on a medium to high flame and stir so that the bacon does not stick to the pan. You’ll see a reddish sauce forming on the bottom of the pan. That’s what is going to give flavour to the risotto. 

*In the meantime, prepare a stock using 1,5l of water and a stock cube 

*take the mushrooms, bacon and chorizo out of the pan and put them on a plate. Leave on the pan the sauce they made while they were browning. 

leave the sauce in the pan. This will give flavour to the rice

*pour the risotto rice on the pan and stir the rice on the sauce for 3 min. 

*after the 3 min start adding the stock a bit at a time, like for a risotto. Keep stirring and adding water when the rice absorbs it. Taste it and add some salt if needed.  

*when the rice will be about ¾ cooked, add the bacon, mushrooms and chorizo to it. Keep cooking and stirring. 

*stop cooking when the risotto will be still slightly, slightly crunchy.

*now add 60g of grated parmesan and mix it to the rice to create a creamy texture. The parmesan will help to bind the risotto together so that you can create the rice balls. 

*Now transfer it on a tray and let the rice cool down at room temperature. 

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*when cooled, put it in the fridge.

*when cold, take it out of the fridge. Add the grated mozzarella and gorgonzola cubes and with wet hands mix everything together. 

*get two bowls and fill one with the breadcrumbs and the other with batter (wisk together flour, egg and 100ml of water)

*with wet hands form a rice ball, roll it in the batter and then roll it in the breadcrumbs.

*heat sunflower oil in a deep pan, when hot add the 3 or 4 rice balls depending on the size of your pan) and leave it frying for about 6 min.

* Take them out and now you have got your arancini!!

You use ‘sono’ + adjective to describe more than one thing

Gli arancini sono buonissimi!! The arancini are very tasty!!
Gli arancini sono bellissimi! The arancini are very beautiful!
Gli arancini sono caldissimi! The arancini are very hot!

Arancini is the plural form of Arancino (singular). This is how we call them in Catania. 
In Palermo they are called Arancine (plural); the singular form would be Arancina.This final vowel matter is a bitter diatribe that has been wearing out East and West Sicily for years. 

I’d say that arancini are the quintessence of Sicilian cousin. So good and famous that are often named by one of the most famous contemporary Sicilian author, Andrea Camilleri. In fact, the inspector Montalbano can’t resist to an arancino and neither can we.

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Buon appetito!!

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What it is like to spend two days as an everyday person from Catania in this quirky yet traditional little apartment in the heart of the city.

On our last visit to Sicily, we decided to rent a small apartment in the city centre for one night. That was the best choice ever, holiday wise.

I lived in Catania for years and years, I know it inside out. I really love my family home with my garden and view on Mount Etna. Just one thing I didn’t like about it: it was too far away from the city centre (just a 10 min car ride, actually, but still too far to go on foot).
Photo courtesy of: “Catania” by Freebird_71 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is why, on our last visit to Sicily, we decided to rent a small apartment in the city centre for one night. That was the best choice ever, holiday wise.

It all started at a school friends reunion when I found out that Alessia, one of my friends, owned a small property in the heart of Catania and that she was renting the first floor to tourists. As Alessia’s surname is Palazzo (palace) and her husband’s is Miceli (no translation for this, it’s a surname), they decided to call the guest house Palazzo Miceli (Miceli Palace), what a great name!

We are lucky enough to be friends with Alessia and her husband Marco, so, on the night that we spent at Palazzo Miceli, we had a nice dinner in their lovely apartment. Eating homemade food in a terrace with a view on the tops of the most historical buildings, side by side to a real bell campanile sounding the hot summer hour, under the light of a giant moon is a priceless experience. I’ll always be grateful for that dinner quickly organised with organic vegs and meats produced by my friends’ families in their lands in the centre of Sicily. 

What expected us downstairs, in the apartment we rented for the night, was exceptional too.

When we arrived in Via Consolato della Seta, we were overwhelmed by the tall grey and reddish buildings, typical architectural style of the less affluent people in the past centuries. I can’t know for sure, but some of those building must date back to the ‘700. 

The inside of the building was a surprise: both quirky and traditional, gave us the feeling of spending a day in the Catania of 200 years ago, but with all of of the modern stylish facilities. A combination of elements overlapping so smoothly that felt just right. 

Finally, my dream of living in the centre of Catania came true. From there, we had so much to reach on foot. Above all, probably my favourite place in Catania, the fish market. 
That’s a market like no one, outside Sicily. We didn’t cook that time, but next time I’ll rent my friends’ apartment I’ll definitely get up early in the morning, walk down Via Garibaldi and buy all I need to prepare some traditional dish. Eaten in that lounge-kitchen, the meal would gain something that goes beyond taste. Probably the old frescos that my friends found on the ceiling during the renovation works, still emanate some aura from the people that once used to live there. 

“Catania – Fish Market” by Flavio~ is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Being just a short walk to Piazza Duomo, where the Cathedral is, Palazzo Miceli would have been my ideal place to live. From there I could have reached my favourite Sicilan author Giovanni Verga’s museum house, Ursino Castle where some sort of art display is always on, Via Crociferi and its beautiful churches, the touristic bus, the Benedettini Monastery that I actually visited at night the day I stayed in the apartment, the long and packet with any type of shop Via Etnea, the Abbey of Saint Agata that can be visited inside and from which dome I saw the best skyline of the whole city. 

At night, the area is packed with any type of food place. Some of the most famous are at the fish market itself. What I enjoyed the most, though, was getting up early in the morning, getting ready, going out and walking to the main square, piazza Duomo, where Lee and I had a very nice breakfast sitting on the outside tables of a coffee shop, meters away from the main Church’s step. 

Everything is special for me, there. The contrast between the black of the lava rock and the light blue of the sky; the smell coming from the coffee shops mixed to the one of washing powder coming from the narrow side streets; the background sounds of splashing water and the long marketeers’ yells elevating above the people’s murmuring; the refreshing feeling of finding a bit of shade… it’s just my favourite place.

I hope that from my words you will get what it feels like to be in my hometown. Just take a plane and go there!

A presto! 

Pasta con i fagioli: pasta with beans. An odd combination for some, but for sure a winter warming tasty dish. Try to believe.

First time I suggested pasta with beans to Lee, he was a bit shocked. Now it’s one of his winter favourites (he still eats canned beans on toast, too!)

First time I suggested pasta with beans to Lee, he was a bit shocked. Now it’s one of his winter favourites (he still eats canned beans on toast, too!)

To prepare this dish, you need to start a day in advance, because the beans need to soak overnight. 

Ingredients for 3/4 people:

200g kidney beans
Half white onion
Small celery stick
Small carrot 
250g broken spaghetti (in pieces of roughly 2,5 cm)
3/4 spoons of Oilive oil 
Salt

If you want to cook for more people add 50g of kidney beans and 65g of pasta for each person.


Con (with) is a great word to know especially at the restaurant.

It is used to describe what something is with.
For example:
Arancino con la carne
(Arancino with meat)
Arancino con i funghi
(Arancino with mushrooms)
Arancino con il gorgonzola
(Arancino with gorgonzola)

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

*chop very finely the onion, the celery and the carrot and put it in a medium size pan.
* add the beans that you soaked overnight.
*cover with water (fill 3/4 of the pot).
*add salt to taste. 
*leave cooking for 1 hour and 25 min (do not stir for the first 45 min, just adjust the flame so that it does not overboil).
*add the broken spaghetti and the olive oil (add some water if it’s too dry).
*cook for another 12 min

Your pasta con i fagioli is ready!

Buon appetito!!

Pasta alla Norma: something you need to try

Pasta alla Norma: Cook a traditional Sicilian dish while learning some Italian. Buonissima!

Pasta alla Norma. A traditional recipe made with tomatoes sauce, aubergines, basil and grated salted ricotta.

I have already pointed out that in Catania we can cook aubergines in a million of ways. A classic pasta dish to prepare along with parmigiana is pasta alla Norma (possibly with the leftover tomato sauce and aubergines).

Ingredients:
1/2 l passata
1 clove of garlic
3 spoons olive oil
Salt
Coarse salt
2 oval aubergines
Salted grated ricotta (if you can’t find it use parmesan)
Basil
Pasta as much as you need

Buonissima! Very tasty!
E’ tantissima! It’ a lot!

The suffix Issima is used to emphasize something: Bellissima (very beautiful), Grandissima (very big) Carissima (very expensive).

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

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*get the aubergines ready: wash them, take off the top bit and cut them in thin long slices of more or less 0.5 cm.
Put a bit of coarse salt on top of each aubergine and put them in layers inside a bowl. Cover the aubergines with a plate and put a weight on top of the plate so that the aubergines will be squashed. All of this so that the bitter water inside the aubergines will come out. Leave the aubergines like this for about 1hour.

Bowl containing salted aubergines in layers, covered by a plate and a weight. This will eliminate the bitter water from the aubergines

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*in the meantime, prepare the sauce: In a pan, brown slightly the garlic in the olive oil and add the tomato sauce. Add a bit of salt. Cook for 30min. At the end, when it’s still hot, add some basil leaves and stir.

*get now your aubergines, rinse them and squeeze them. Pat them dry with kitchen roll.
In a frying pan, add a couple of cm of frying oil and fry each slice for about 3 min. Put them again on kitchen roll to absorb the excess of oil.

*Prepare pasta as us normal, in salted boiling water. When cooked, add the sauce, the aubergines, some grated salted ricotta (or parmesan if you can’t find hard salted ricotta where you live) and a basil leaf.

It’s ready to eat 🙂

Buon appetito! Enjoy!

Follow me for more recipes.

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Aubergine Parmigiana: a true Sicilian favourite!

Aubergine Parmigiana: A traditional Sicilian dish that you can make yourself at home as I’ll show you. But there is a faster alternative: a specific brand ready-made version, so good that brought me back to my years back home in Catania when it was my mum and dad cooking for me. Carry on reading to find out of which one I’m talking about!

Aubergine Parmigiana: A traditional Sicilian dish that you can make yourself at home as I’ll show you. But there is a faster alternative: a specific brand ready-made version, so good that brought me back to my years back home in Catania when it was my mum and dad cooking for me. Carry on reading to find out of which one I’m talking about!

In Catania we make everything with aubergines: pasta alla Norma (pasta in tomato sauce, fried aubergines and grated salted ricotta), arancini (fried rice balls), aubergine cotoletta (breaded and fried aubergines)… it can be added to pasta bake, as well, for the authentic taste of the Inspector Montalbano’s pasta ‘ncasciata!

You can make it at home too and I’ll show you how. Even if Lee is the chef, I do most of the cooking at home.


Ingredients:

3 oval aubergines
1 lt passata (thin tomato sauce, with no herbs inside)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
3 spoons Olive oil (extra virgin if you want the real Mediterranean feel)
Oil for frying
100 g parmigiano 
250 g mozzarella cheese (the hardish type for pizzas, must not give out too much water)
Salt 
Coarse salt 
Basil 


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

*get the aubergines ready: wash them, take off the top bit and cut them in thin long slices of more or less 0.5 cm.
Put a bit of coarse salt on top of each aubergine and put them in layers inside a bowl. Cover the aubergines with a plate and put a weight on top of the plate so that the aubergines will be squashed. All of this so that the bitter water inside the aubergines will come out. Leave the aubergines like this for about 1hour.

Bowl containing salted aubergines in layers, covered by a plate and a weight. This will eliminate the bitter water from the aubergines

*in the meantime, prepare the sauce: In a pan, brown slightly the garlic in the olive oil and add the tomato sauce. Add a bit of salt. Cook for 30min. At the end, when it’s still hot, add some basil leaves and stir.

*get now your aubergines, rinse them and squeeze them. Pat them dry with kitchen roll.
In a frying pan, add a couple of cm of frying oil and fry each slice for about 3 min. Put them again on kitchen roll to absorb the excess of oil.

Now you have all you need to create your parmigiana

Get a baking dish and spread some tomato sauce at the bottom.
Add a layer of fried aubergines to cover the base of the dish, all in the same direction, left to right (horizontally).
Sprinkle parmigiano and mozzarella cheese.
Spread more tomato sauce.
Now form another aubergines layer, but this time put the aubergines vertically.
Sprinkle cheeses, spread tomato sauce.
Carry on till you have aubergines.
Finish with a nice layer of sauce and chesses sprinkled on top.

Now put everything in the oven at 180/200 degrees for 40/30 min or till the cheese il melted and nicely golden on top.

Take it out and eat it!

If you remember, I said at the beginning that I found a fast alternative to make all of this. I still make my own parmigiana, but sometimes it’s nice to let someone else to cook for you.

Do you recognise the brand?
Yes, it’s Gino D’acampo’s aubergine parmigiana! When I tasted it the first time, it threw me back to my years in Sicily, when I was still living at home and my mamma and papa’ used to cook for me. Believe me when I say that this is an original Mediterranean taste experience! 

 Buonissima e bellissima: la parmigiana di melanzane!
Tasty and beautiful: the aubergine parmigiana!

Follow me for more recipes… Buon appetito! 

Sparrow – the story of a Sicilian lockdown

In a time when liberty is threatened by lockdown and restrictions, Maria’s story, written in 1869, is more than ever contemporary.
Let’s talk about love and freedom.

In a time when liberty is threatened by lockdown and restrictions, Maria’s story, written in 1869, is more than ever contemporary.
Let’s talk about love and freedom.

It’s 1854 and a Cholera outbreak forces Maria to move from Catania and isolate with her family…. Reminds you of something? Yes, this is very similar to what we’re living now. The only difference is that, while we feel that our freedom has been taken away because of coronavirus, Maria actually gains freedom because she’s moving from the austere convent she has been forced into, to the beautiful countryside on Mount Etna, where she’s finally free from her constrictions.

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This story was written in 1869 by Giovanni Verga, an author I would recommend if you feel like being thrown inside the real Sicilian way of living of the 1800s. It is called ‘Storia di una capinera’ (Story of a blackcap).

Sparrow(and other stories): Sicilian Novelle (Dedalus European Classics S) by [Giovanni Verga]
Click to shop UK
Click to shop US

If you’re not a fan of books, on top of telling you that the only reason why you don’t like books is that you haven’t found the right one for you, I can recommend the film inspired to this book directed by Franco Zeffirelli: “Sparrow”(1993). 
Among the others, the great Vanessa Redgrave, Angela Bettis and Jonathon Schaech paly the main roles in the film.

I would say though, that the two experiences are completely different: Verga’s work is a unique example of epistolary book, while Zeffirelli put a lot of his own imagination into the film. As to say, they are almost two different stories… 
The only voice that you would read in the book is the one of Maria. Through letters addressed to her friend, Marianna, she will tell you all about her story and you’ll witness, as a powerless observer, her fall into the spiral of madness caused by the confinement of her freedom to love.

The part of Catania that is described both in the film and in the book is the beautiful Via Crociferi, a place definitely worth a visit. There is a real monastery of cloistered nuns there. I remember that years ago I use to see their black shadows at the other side of window grills located at the top of the church below the monastery. They always reminded me of Maria. 


Picture courtesy of: “Sacred music” by Mire74 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

All of us have that one film that was played in loop as a child or teenager. For me it was “Sparrow’, the Italian/Sicilian version, of course. And every time, towards the end, I would shout to Maria to run away.

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MARIA, SCAPPA!
Maria, run away!

This story and the current restrictions we are forced into have lots in common, they make me realise the importance of freedom and, extending the concept, the importance of being free to love. Verga tells this all through Maria’s pen in this  sentence:

“How many things there are in a ray of sunshine!.. All those things that he sees and illuminates at this very moment…so many joys, so many pains, so many people who love each other… and he”

Giovanni Verga, Storia di una capinera

Now, what is it that you love? Cosa ami?

Personally, I love freedom, Io amo la liberta’.

Follow this link to practice these words singing “A modo mio Amo” (In my own way I love) and leave a comment saying what you love.

A presto!

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.

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Lee finds out that in Sicily we have the ‘day of the dead people’

Halloween can’t be considered a traditional Sicilian festivity even though nowadays is celebrated by some. When Lee asked what Halloween used to be like when I was a little girl, I had to explain that things are a bit different in Sicily during that time of the year.

Halloween can’t be considered a traditional Sicilian festivity even though nowadays is celebrated by some. When Lee asked what Halloween used to be like when I was a little girl, I had to explain that things are a bit different in Sicily during that time of the year.

In fact, Lee was a bit shocked when I told him that instead of Halloween, we celebrate the first of November as
‘All Saints day’ (Tutti i Santi). This is a National festivity: children don’t go to school, offices and banks are closed. 

Just in Sicily, though, following Tutti i Santi day, we celebrate the dead people. The second of November is called 
Il giorno dei morti’ (the day of dead people).

TUTTI I SANTI
All Saints

IL GIORNO DEI MORTI

The day of the dead people

The night between the first and second of November, according to what has been told to children for generations, relatives and friends who have died come to Earth to pay a visit and to bring sweets and toys. These spirits were said to be quite mischievous, hiding the presents and the sweets baskets for the children to find the following morning. And if children had misbehaved during the year, their feet would have been tickled by the spirits!

In the past, il giorno dei morti and Christmas were the only occasions in which children used to receive presents. Some parents had to take away the toys after a few days and save them for the following year. What was supposed to be enjoyed on the same day with no objections was the basket packed with sweets. The central piece of the composition was a doll entirely made with sugar: la pupa di zucchero. 

PUPA RI ZUCCARO
Doll of sugar (as in, made of sugar) Sicilian

This is an example of basket made for our son, Logan Tancredi. My mum and I picked a Donald Duck pupa di zucchero. The rest of the basket is traditionally filled with dried fruit, marzipan, chocolate, etc… 

Today, as in the past,  il giorno dei morti is an occasion to visit relatives at the grave yard, but it is a time to go out shopping for toys and traditional sweets as well. It’s a tradition to go and visit the market that is specifically held in this time of the year. Lee visited it once and was impressed with the amount of stalls. Lots of people from Malta come to visit the market, too. It is definitely worth a visit!

If you feel like learning a good sentence along the line of il giorno dei morti, listen to this song by Zucchero: E’ un peccato morir (It’s a shame to die)Follow the link and sing along.

Now, leave a comment saying what a shame is for you. For example, for me…..

….E’ un peccato non mangiare la pupa di zucchero. What did I say?? 

A presto!

Introducing yourself

Lee has just arrived to Sicily and he’s ready to meet my family and friends. What will he say to them? Follow Lee in his first journey in the most beautiful garden in the centre on the Mediterranean Sea.

Lee has just arrived to Sicily and he’s ready to meet my family and friends. What will he say to them? Follow Lee in his very first journey in the most beautiful garden in the centre on the Mediterranean Sea.

No one knows him and everybody is very excited to know the very first English man that will join the family. In fact, my family members are all Sicilians, or Italians at the most!
Before arriving, I told Lee to introduce himself with one of these two forms:

MI CHIAMO LEE E SONO UNO CHEF
My name is Lee and I am a chef

MI CHIAMO LEE E FACCIO LO SCHEF
My name is Lee and I’m a chef (literally: I do the chef)

Lee will soon learn that some people in Sicily like to gossip a lot. In Sicilian Gossip is called ‘Cuttigghiu‘ from “Cortile” (Courtyard), the place where women used to sit on chairs in front of their house doors and talk about all of the interesting facts happening in the village.
Some people still spend the hot summer nights sitting on chairs just at their doorstep.

Now it’s your turn to practise a bit and learn these two forms Lee has just used with my family.

I’ll redirect you to a web page where you can listen to and sing along a beautiful song from Antonello Venditti, Che fantastica storia e’ la vita. Make sure that you can see both the Italian and English lyrics versions on your screen. You should be able to play the song through a YouTube video on the same page, but this depends on the device that you’re using. Click here to visit the page.


Best way to learn is having fun! A presto!