Gastronomic tourism in Val di Noto
Besides architectural treasures and spectacular beaches, Val di Noto offers a rich culinary tradition that dates back to centuries of history, which saw the transition of many populations. Each one of them contributed to the development of the culinary tradition of the south east of Sicily as we know it today. In Val di Noto we find again the Sicilian specialties par excellence, such as arancini, cannoli, granite, but especially flavours, products and and scents typical from this corner of Sicily, such as scacce ragusane, horse meatballs and rustic food from Catania, ‘mpanatigghi from Modica and teste di Turco from Scicli.
Discover with us the recipes and typical products from this enchanting corner of Sicily, the legends and the stories behind their origins, in order to know and taste these specialties during your holiday in Val di Noto.
Cassate di ricotta
They are typical Easter pastries having the shape of small baskets filled with sweet ricotta cheese and sprinkled with cinnamon powder. This dish is from Ragusa and is different from the most famous Sicilian cassata, which is made with sponge cake, ricotta cheese and covered with sugar paste and candied fruit.
Cubbaita and giggiulena
The cubbaita, whose Sicilian name derives from the Arab and means “with almonds”, is a nougat made with almonds and honey. Another variety is the giggiulena, an almond brittle covered with sesame seeds and honey. In Scicli, the cubbaita is entirely made with sesame seeds and honey.
First course from Modica made with a kind of fresh homemade pasta called lolli, whose shape remembers dumplings. Usually they are served in a soup with fava beans (lolli chê favi) or with fava beans mash (lolli cô maccu)
Teste di turco
The teste di Turco, literally meaning “Turkish heads”, are typical pastries from Scicli, whose shape remembers a turban. They resemble big cream puffs filled with sweet ricotta cheese, custard or chocolate cream. Their origin derives from a legend according to which a Madonna on horseback intervened in aid of the Norman troops during a battle against the Turkish invaders. The shape of this pastry derives from their typical turban.
Spaghetti with Bottarga
This type of pasta with bottarga (tuna eggs) is tyipical of the area of Syracuse and brings together flavours of land and sea. The tuna bottarga is mainly produced in Marzamemi and Portopalo di Capo Passero, two suggestive seaside hamlets of southeastern Sicily, which became famous for their ancient tonnare (tuna fishing establishments), where the fishing and processing of tuna was boosted. Other basic ingredients of this dish are two local products: the Pachino tomato and the Avola almond.
Scacciate, cipolline e cartocciate
Typical specialties from Catania
Catania is famous for its great variety of delicious rustic food, produced in the dozens of deli shops in town. The best specialties are scacciate, focacce filled with tuma cheese, jam, sausage or spinach. Cipolline are another variety of rustic food made with puff pastry and filled with onion, jam, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. In the end, cartocciate are made with fried pastry filled with different ingredients, including jam, olives, tomato sauce, mushrooms, wurstel sausage and fried aubergines.
Typical cheese from Ragusa
Provola ragusana is a semi-hard cheese with spun dough and pear shape. It is produced with cow milk coming from a race of cow raised in the area of Modica and native of the Hyblaean territory.
Fried calzone filled with tuma cheese and anchovies
Sicilian pizza has nothing to do with the classical Italian pizza. It is actually a fried calzone filled with anchovies and tuma, a kind of Sicilian cheese produced with sheep milk. Fried Sicilian pizza is typical from Catania and can be filled with other ingredients, such as jam and other kind of cheese.
Onion from Giarratana
A variety of onion cultivated in Giarratana
This variety of onion grows in Giarratana, a town in the province of Ragusa. It is unique thanks to its tasty and sweet white pulp. It is also particular for its big dimensions (a single onion can weigh 2 kg!) and its flattened shape. The best period to eat these onions is between July and August, when you can find a lot of peddlers selling them in the whole province of Ragusa. Each year in August, a festival takes place in Giarratana to celebrate this typical product and it is called Saga della Cipolla di Giarratana.
Sweet dish from Modica
This is a traditional sweet dish made in September in the period of the grape harvest. Its basic ingredient is the must, in which is cooked a kind of short pasta. In Modica this is called cuddureddi or lolli and resembles the dumplings. Another kind of pasta that can be used is called truscitieddi, dumplings stuffed with toasted almonds and honey.
Typical from Catania
Horse meatballs are typical from Catania, where they are grilled and served as filling for bread. It is a street food that is traditionally found in via Plebiscito, where you can see the so-called carnizzeri, typical deli shops from which an inviting aroma floods the street.
Minnuzze di Sant’Agata
Pastries from Catania prepared during the feast of Sant’Agata.
The minnuzze di Sant’Agata, literally meaning “breasts of Sant’Agata”, are typical pastries from Catania. They are small sponge cakes filled with ricotta cheese. They are prepared in the occasion of the feast of Sant’Agata, the patron saint of the city, and represent the martyrdom suffered by the saint, whose breasts were cut off. It is thought that this culinary tradition could also derive from the pagan cult of Demeter, representing the mother earth, so these sweets would recall her breasts, a symbol of fertility.
These pastries typical from Modica and are moon shaped. Their filling consists of chocolate, almonds, walnuts, cloves, cinnamon and beef. They were probably introduced during the Spanish dominion of the island, as they recall the Spanish empanadas.
Pasta with tenerezze
First course with courgette leaves
Tenerumi or tinniruma are the leaves of a Sicilian kind of courgette. They are boiled in hot water with some tomato sauce and used to prepare a soup. This soup is probably one of the most delicious of the Sicilian cuisine.
Pasta with anchovies
First course typical from Catania
Pasta with anchovies, called pasta con i masculini in Sicilian dialect, is a first course originated in Catania, joining aromas from land and sea. Beside anchovies, the main ingredients of this plate of pasta are bread crumbs, wild fennel and raisins.
Flour made with a kind of legume called cicerchia
Patacò is a kind of flour derived from the cicerchia, a type of legume similar to chickpeas, which is used to prepare pasta or soups. In the areas of Licodia Eubea and Monterosso Almo the most important dish is a soup or pasta made with patacò. Once cold, it becomes like a puree and can be fried.
Big fried pastries filled with white or chocolate cream
Iris are big fried pastries filled with white or chocolate cream. They are typical from Catania and are eaten especially for breakfast.
Biscuits from Catania
Totò is another typical biscuit from Catania. It is prepared in the occasion of All Souls’ Day, a very heart-felt festivity in Sicily that is celebrated by cooking several sweet and salty specialties. Totò biscuits are oval or round shaped and have a soft consistency. They are covered by chocolate or lemon frosting.
Ossa dei morti
Bone-shaped biscuits from Catania
Ossa dei morti, literally meaning “deads’ bones”, are biscuits from Catania made with flour and sugar with a shape of bones. As the name indicates, these biscuits are prepared in the occasion of All Souls’ Day and in ancient times they were given to children as gift together with other typical desserts. They are made with a double layer: a dark and solid lower base and a white and friable topping. So… be careful with your teeth!