I am American by birth, but I am 100% Sicilian by heritage. Both sets of grandparents came from Sicily at the turn of the century to make a new start for themselves along with millions of others. They brought with them their culture, their history and their cooking style. The wonderful thing of the United States is that we are a melting pot, but for me, we are a cornucopia of food and cooking styles that bring new meaning to the word "eat."
So how did I learn to cook? I watched my mom, grandmother and aunts for years and later wrote down all of their head held recipes as best I could to gain the expertise to master this Sicilian cooking. I loved it! Mom would not hesitate to tell me what I was doing wrong. Once I go it down, I became as good as they were. I liked to think even a bit better.
This part of the site is a homage to my mom. "Rosie" was a 4'10" first generation Italian-American with a bigger than life personality that everyone loved and she loved everyone right back. She was smart, talented, creative and loved family, friends and her food. Her two favorites were pizza and hot dogs--a combination of the Italian and the American.
Needless to say, mom was a great cook and baker. So was may grandmother and every one of my many aunts. Of course, the house specialty was always Sicilian cuisine. For those new to Sicilian cooking, you are in for treat. The very essence of this style of cooking is simple, clean and hearty. There are no fancy cream sauces, but what you will find is more rustic and meals steeped in tradition and from various other cultures.
Sicilian style of cooking is referred to as contadina or peasant cooking. The inspiration for their faire comes from Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. Sicily was the first to adopt pasta as a staple meal. Long before the red tomato sauce was established in Italy as the "Sunday Gravy," Sicilians mixed every thing and any thing with pasta. And, it has to be home made pasta. There is pasta with peas or beans, pasta with fish, pork and veal. And when there was left over bread, they substituted bread in place of the pasta. Hearty soups and stews that were made with dry crusted cubes of bread.
Sicilians are famous for their fish and veal dishes. Olives, capers, olive oil and roasted veggies of all kinds are another staple. Never forget about the hazelnuts and almonds that grow all over and from them come both sweet and savory delights.
Sicilians are also famous for their desserts. The cannoli and tiramisu are the classic icon desserts, as well as the twice baked biscotti.
Sicilian foods and cooking style make for delicious meals. They are quick and easy to make There is no doubt that you will find these recipes to be the best additions to your personal cookbook.
My mom could cook and bake it all. Just like my grandmother, she cooked without recipes or measuring cups and spoons. It was all in the eye and in the hand. The amazing thing was they were both spot on when you actually did measure out those ingredients. I have learned to do that too, but I still measure every thing when I bake.
When mom passed two years ago at the age of 94, she was still sharp as a tack and filled with energy and more sassiness than sometimes I wanted to bear, but then, she was Rosie to the end. She was not cooking as much in her later years, as I took over that job, but she still held court over the kitchen. The picture above is mom and me at a family wedding. She was 92 in this picture.
I have now passed down this cooking style and recipes to my four sons. Two of them a good cooks the other two are our taste-testers. All in all, we now have another generation who is into this style of cooking.
Every time I cook for friends and family my Sicilian dishes, they all tell me, "This is delicious; you should open a restaurant." That is a great compliment, but a restaurant is not part of my long-term or retirement plan. So, I am just going to stick to cooking for friends and family and keep garnering those compliments.
I know you will really love these recipes as much as I do. And if you are Sicilian and have a favorite recipe or two from your family, please pass it along so I can publish it here.