Fritella (or Fritedda) is a Sicilian springtime braised vegetable dish or vegetable stew cooked with fresh green fava beans, peas, and artichoke hearts, and can be used as pasta sauce. I encountered this dish for the first time while in Caccamo to see U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu.
Caccamo is at the foot of Mount Eurako or San Calogero, and rises on a hill 520 meters above sea level. It was late March but still chilly and very windy up in the mountains. Hearing wind roaring in an empty flat, which I rented over the weekend, I felt myself pretty isolated in the small town with about 9,000 inhabitants.
However, the pasta con fritella I had at a restaurant in town made me somewhat relax, and I felt as if Caccamo had welcomed me warmly. This rather simple dish was a kind of mum’s or good old home cooking, and I liked very much.
I experimented with the pasta several times at home and settled on the recipe below. Just used fennel bulb without any fronds as I wanted to enjoy green peas in season. Tried fresh artichoke hearts but it didn’t work well unfortunately – maybe because they were imported and not so fresh although kept refrigerated. More likely, I didn’t clean and prepare them properly?? Cos I had never cooked before!! Well anyway, smoked hearts in olive oil from a deli worked perfectly, so I used them for my recipe. Much easier than preparing fresh ones, isn’t it? 😀
Another good thing is that this is one-pot cooking!
(for 2 – 3 servings)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100 g onion, finely chopped
100 g fennel bulb, finely chopped
100 g smoked artichoke hearts in olive oil, drained and chopped
250 g shelled fresh gｒeen peas
600 – 700 cc/ml water (to adjust)
1 tsp salt
100 g ditalini or any short pasta you like
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar (acidity 6%)
- In a pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and fennel bulb over medium heat until translucent. Add the peas to fry for a few minutes and artichoke hearts for a minute.
- Pour in the water with salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover the pan, then simmer for 5 minutes.
- Put in the pasta and cook for 5 minutes or a few minutes less than the cooking time given on the package. Add just enough water to cover if necessary.
- Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan and simmer for further 2-3 minutes.
- Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated pecorino cheese.
On Palm Sunday, Caccamo hosts U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu: a ceremony of eastern origin that recalls Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem; a parade through the main churches with an altar boy, a donkey, elegantly decked and embellished, blesses the bystanders. The altar is the smallest of the aspirated ‘russuliddi’, in clerical garb and accessories completely red. Both Jesus and the 12 apostles are played by boys holding long branches of palm trees, along the way, are intertwined, forming the arches under which passes the birthday boy. (http://www.fhshh.com)
Castello di Caccamo (Caccamo Castle) built in the 12th Century is among the largest and best preserved Norman castles in Sicily, and one of the largest in Italy. The castle is located on a steep cliff and overlooks the surrounding countryside, including the San Leonardo River Valley and the Rosmarina artificial lake.
If you are lucky (?), you might bump into ghosts in the castle!!
I saw another procession later that day. That was neither religious nor traditional one. The Comune di Caccamo just opened a museum of the castle, which is the first monument in Caccamo, so the town hold a ribbon cutting opening ceremony and a ‘Medieval’ procession. How lucky I was to witness two processions in a day!
Must Eat in Caccamo
If you visit Caccamo, you cannot miss A Castellana, where I enjoyed fritella. Their pizzas looked good as well, but I highly recommend Fiocchetti ripieni di Speck e Provola con Stracciatella di Burrata, which is a kind of ravioli pasta, stuffed with speck and Provola cheese, with Stracciatella di Burrata cheese sauce. The photo below isn’t nice, but it was fantastic!!
How to get to Caccamo
Direct bus services are available from Palermo or Termini Imerese.
For the timetable, check with Autolinee Randazzo.