Food and Wine
A Melting Pot Cuisine in Sicily!
The variety of the culinary art in Sicily is the result of thousands of years of mixed settlements. Numerous historical strands come together to create a tradition that combines dishes from as far back as the ancient Greeks, Arabs and Normans and as far afield as Spain, Greece, North Africa and the Middle East.
Traditional recipes have survived for centuries and Sicily’s rich pantry was filled over a long period. The abundance of fruit and vegetables was considerable since the times of the Greeks, but it wasn’t until the Arabs came to the island that the cuisine really took shape, introducing spices and sultanas and contrasted the flavours with pistachios and almonds.
The Saracens bought the ever present Aubergine (eggplant) as well as citrus fruits and believed to have introduced pasta to the island. On top of this they also bought sugar cane to Sicily helping it develop all those fantastic sweets.
Sicily’s favourite ingredients can be grouped together according to the Tricolore – the three colours of the Italian flag: Red is not only the colour of passion in Sicily but it’s also the colour of the most important ingredient the tomato “il pomodoro”. White is of course garlic a major ingredient used in 80% of all savoury recipes. Green is good quality olive oil, the prime delicacy of Sicilian cuisine.
What is really impressive about Sicily’s cuisine is that most of these amazing tastes came out of poverty and deprivation. Ordinary Sicilians applied the principle of preserving the freshness of the ingredients, and most importantly never letting one taste overpower another. The key to all of Sicily’s dishes is simplicity. Prepare to have your taste buds educated, converted and pampered.
Archaeologists suggest that wine has been made in Sicily since at least the 1400bc. Sicily’s climate and terrain are almost too good for making wine, vineyards cover nearly 120,000 hectares making it the second largest wine producing region in Italy.
Sicily’s climate of long hot summers and the dependable yields meant that until recently the island produced quantity rather than quality where wine was concerned. However there has been a dramatic change in Sicilian winemaking, modern viniculture techniques have been introduced and the island is now one of the most exciting wine destinations in the world. With this renaissance in the last 20 years, the islands world renowned wineries have won prestigious international awards.
Western Sicily is synonymous with Bianco D’alcamo and of course the sweet thick Marsala. Nero D’avola and Cerasuolo di Vittoria with their deep red hues are the products of south eastern Sicily. The Nerello Mascalese comes from the foothills of Etna with its rich lava engrained soil.
Producers have not totally abandoned the old and make a point of combining local traditional grape varieties with international staples. With white wines the age-old Grecanico, Catarratto, Inzolia and Grillo grapes are combined with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the occasional Viognier. Sicilian Reds have now overtaken the whites, the basic improvement has been the blending of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pino Nero and Merlot grapes with traditional Sicilian varieties, the most notable of these is the Nero D’avola.