Pasta- Sicilian Style
By Charles Oppman
Pasta – Sicilian Style
Sicily, like many other cities and areas of Italy is a wondrous place. It is geographically in the Mediterranean Sea – part of Europe and Africa, but arguably belonging to neither. There is much evidence of rich cultures left behind by a plethora of conquerors. As a result, Sicily has evidence of varied customs, languages, cooking, architecture, art, etc.
The Romans ruled Sicily in the 3rd century BC. They were followed by the Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Normans, Spanish, Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs and French…not necessarily in that order. There is evidence of many other conquerors from many other countries, but it would take pages to fully explore the impact they all had on Sicily. In researching this article, I found the World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica reliable sources of information.
In addition to its unique history, the food of Sicily is exquisite. Some Sicilians still eat the same food, and prepare it exactly as their ancestors did centuries ago. That cuisine consists mainly of fish from the sea and home grown vegetables.
I had a wonderful dish from Palermo that was made by a native Sicilian, now married to an Italo-American and living right here in Northern Virginia. The recipe is a little unique because the only ingredient cooked is the pasta! If you try it, I think you, too, will find that it is worth the time it takes to prepare this fresh food the Sicilian way.
6 medium to large cloves of garlic, minced finely
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil for the sauce
6 medium very, very ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch chunks. Do not use canned tomatoes as it changes the taste and the thrust of the recipe
1 cup of tightly packed, fresh basil leaves
*1 lb. to 1 /1/2 lbs. of spaghetti
2/3 cup of pine nuts or walnuts
½ to 3/4 cups of freshly grated Parmigiannno Regianno cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour the olive oil and garlic into a serving dish or platter. Add the peeled and seeded tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Do this early in the day so the tomatoes and garlic can macerate for at least four to six hours. Put the basil, pine nuts and ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil into either a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Mix until the ingredients become “lumpy” but not liquefied. Then cook the pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is al dente, drain (do not rinse) and add to the tomato, garlic and oil mixture. Then add the “lumpy” mixture. Working quickly, mix in the grated cheese and more pepper. Toss well and serve immediately. If the pasta gets too cool, reheat in a 350 degree oven until it is warmed to your liking. If there is any left, it can be reheated in the oven, or in a non-stick, large frying pan on a very low heat. It does not microwave well.
If you feel the pasta is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of oil at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
*This recipe will feed 4 to 6 people depending on how hungry they are!