Pasta con Fritella – Braised Green Pea Pasta – and Caccamo

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.

fritedda
Fritella – from ‘Best of Sicily Magazine’

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.

 

rush hour traffic jam – on the way up to Caccamo

caccamo
Caccamo Castel (right) and Chiesa Madre (left)
Chiesa Madre di San Giorgio

 

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.

 

Ditalini con Frittella – ‘Antica ricetta siciliana con piselli, carciofi, finocchietto selvatico e cipolla’- @ A Castellana

 

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? 😀

 

carciofi
carciofi (artichoke) @ Ballarò Market in Palermo, 2014

 

Another good thing is that this is one-pot cooking!

 

 

Ingredients

(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%)
pecorino cheese

 

 

 Method

  1. 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.
  2. Pour in the water with salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover the pan, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan and simmer for further 2-3 minutes.
  5. 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!!

 

Caccamo Castle (pic from TripAdvisor)

view from 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!

 

Maltese Cross? the Knight of Malta??

 

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!!

 

Fiocchetti ripieni di Speck e Provola con Stracciatella di Burrata

 

How to get to Caccamo

Direct bus services are available from Palermo or Termini Imerese.
For the timetable, check with Autolinee Randazzo.

 

 

 

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Macco – Sicilian Fava Bean and Fennel Soup

I ran into finocchio, or Florence fennel at a  nearby supermarket the other day. ‘Wow, this is really something quite unexpected…. How on earth can I miss this???’ I had never seen the fresh ‘vegetable’ in this country, but I had been hoping to cook with finocchio or finocchietto since I had Macco for the first time in Sicily this March.

Macco (also known as macco di fave), or Maccu, is a traditional Sicilian thick soup or a soup dish cooked with dried fava beans and wild fennel as primary ingredients. The name of this dish derives from the Latin word, macero which meansto soften or tenderise’. Macco is strongly linked with St Joseph’s Day and eaten well around the saint feast day.

Macco di fave e finocchietto

In Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their Patron saint, thanks are given to St. Joseph for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honour him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s Day custom. Maccu di San Giuseppe is a traditional Sicilian dish that consists of various ingredients and maccu is prepared on this day.    — Wikipedia

fave
dried fava beans @ Ballarò Market in Palermo, 2013

Many activities are scheduled for the feast, including the one called la tavola di San Giuseppe, the St Joseph’s Table. The Table manifestation takes many forms, depending on towns or villages. Upon St. Joseph’s Day altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies as well as other meatless dishes.

Tavola di San Giuseppe

The central element on the feast of San Giuseppe is bread.  Speaking of bread, I missed the Easter Arches or Bread Arches in San Biagio Platani near Agrigento.

bread arches
Archi di Pasqua – all made of bread

Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach Borgetto to see la Tavola di San Giuseppe due to limited public transportation on Saturday. Instead, I witnessed another interesting custom in Caccamo, a small town up in the mountains where I visited for U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu on Palm Sunday.

dried fava beans
dried fava beans on a front porch on the day after St Joseph’s Day
dried fava beans, empty pot, oranges at a front door
oranges, bread, ash (representing burned sawdust?), flowers, dried fava beans on an alley
baskets on a front porch
empty baskets for petition for the needy? or representing carpenter’s implement (Joseph was a carpenter)?

Not sure what those are for as I didn’t have a chance to ask the locals about the custom. It’s not on the altar but a kind of la Tavola di San Giuseppe, I guess.

Macco ingredients

Sorry for the long introduction. Anyway, I was so fascinated by the soup, very simple dish though, that I was thinking about making this soup. Dried fava beans are used for this dish, but I cooked with fresh ones now in season here. And used finocchio bulb, the fronds and fennel seeds because finocchietto/finocchietto selvatico, i.e. wild fennel is unobtainable.

Macco

Ingredients

(for 2-3 servings)

500 g shelled fresh fava beans
800 ml/cc water
1/2 tbsp salt
100 g onion, finely chopped
100 g fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped fennel fronds (strip leaves from stems)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper (to season)
(optional: extra virgin olive oil and fennel fronds to garnish)

 

Macco

Method

  1. Pour the water in a pot and bring to the boil. Add the salt and beans, then cook on medium heat for 5 min.
  2. Remove the beans from the water (retain the cooking liquid ) and rinse under cold water. Let cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and fennel bulb with the olive oil for about 5 min or until tender and translucent but not brown.
  4. Pinch each bean to squeeze out of the skin. Mash the beans or purée the beans through a sieve.
  5. Put the bean paste into a pot and mix well with 500 cc/ml fava bean liquid. Add the onion, fennel bulb, fennel fronds and fennel seeds. Bring to the boil and simmer on low heat  stirring occasionally for 15 – 20 min or until thick.
  6. Add the salt and black pepper to taste.
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle olive oil and garnish with fennel fronds on top.

————————

I made it really thick – thicker than the one I had in Palermo – so that it can be used in a pasta dish as well. Browsing on the web, I noticed ‘pasta con Macco’ exists.

pasta con Macco
Trecce di Giulietta (fusilli) con Macco

Still bunches of finocchio left. Okay, Bucatini con Sarde next!! :-9

Sicilian Holy Week – Settimana Santa e Pasqua 2016

Some of you may already know, but I went to Sicily last month – travelled around during Holy Week and Easter. That was my fourth trip to the island, and I had already seen a lot. The purpose of visit this time was to see the religious traditions of Holy Week.

In Sicily, various towns and villages celebrate the week in their own ways, and there revive very ancient and picturesque traditions: procession with religious symbols is one of them. I planned a tight itinerary so that I could observe as many festivities as possible.

<Itinerary>
Palermo – (Selinunte : one day trip from Palermo) – Caccamo – Enna –  Trapani -(Favignana, Marsala : quick visits from Trapani) – Palermo – (Cefalù : one day trip from Palermo)

I took hundreds of photos, and have so many things I want to write here, esp. food stuff 😀 – put on 2 kg during the trip 😦   – so this is a digest of the trip, and I will post more details later on.

 

Palermo – St Joseph’s Day (19th March 2016)

The first one was Festa di San Giuseppe, or St Joseph’s Day on 19th March. St Joseph is the patron saint of Sicily. Actually, the festa is not a part of Holy Week, but it fell on just before Palm Sunday this year, so I luckily witnessed the event – St Joseph’s Bonfire the night before St Joseph’s Day.

A Sicilian friend mentioned the fire is a symbol of coming of spring, and I learnt that St Joseph’s day brings the hope of spring and a break from Lent for Sicilians. Just thought it might be a pagan origin like the bonfire of the eve of All Saints’ Day, i.e. All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween.

And also, it probably comes from Joseph’s profession as a carpenter. In Spain, ‘carpenters and woodworkers clean out their shops and burn all the wood scraps on the evening of the patron’s feast.’

 St Joseph's Day
Vampa di San Giuseppe, or St Joseph’s bonfire in Palermo

And enjoyed Sfincia too.

Sfincia
Sfincia di San Giuseppe – fried pastry puffs filled with ricotta cream for St Joseph’s Day

Just wondering if Sfincia, Krapfen/Pfannkuchen and Sfganiyah have the same origin?????

 

Selinunte

Tried Selinunte this year as I saw the archaeological site at Agrigento in 2012. Segesta maybe next time.

The Temple of Hera
Temple E, or the Temple of Hera at Selinunte (c. 650 BC)

 

Caccamo – Palm Sunday (20th March 2016)

U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu
U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu on Palm Sunday in Caccamo
Palm Fronds
palm fronds for Palm Sunday

 

Enna – Holy Monday (21st March 2016)

Holy Monday Procession
Procession of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Visitation in Enna

 

Favignana

Made a quick visit to the island – about 30 min hydrofoil journey from Trapani.

Cala Rossa, Favignana
Cala Rossa, Favignana

 

Marsala – Holy Thursday (24th March 2016)

Holy Thursday Procession
Holy Thursday Procession in Marsala

 

Trapani – Good Friday (25th March 2016)

Processione dei Misteri
Processione dei Misteri in Trapani
Statue of the Mysteries
One of Jesus statues of the Mysteries

 

Palermo & Cefalù – Easter (27th March 2016)

Pasqua seemed very quiet and nothing special other than going to church.  Just a day to spend with family?

Agnellini Pasquali
Agnellini Pasquali – marzipan lambs for Easter

One of my favourite places in Sicily. Lots of people were enjoying the sun and the beach on Pasqua.

Cefalù
Cefalù – one of ‘Cinema Paradiso’ locations: Elena’s apartment, outdoor cinema scenes