“Passito” of Pantelleria
An up-and-coming D.O.C., this naturally sweet wine is made from Zibibbo or Moscatellone grapes. It has a golden yellow color with amber notes, a fragrance of fruit and flowers, and a full flavor. Also produced as a sparkling (“Spumante”) wine, the more popular passito version is derived from naturally dried grapes that strengthen its color, fragrance and structure. It is best paired with typical Sicilian sweets (which are known to be very rich) and sweets without cream, but also pairs well with sharp cheeses with herbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Malvasia of Lipari
Produced on the island of Lipari in the volcanic Aeolian Islands, the passito version of this wine is the most well known. The process of drying the grapes is the secret to the outcome of the wine, as it must not be induced, and must then age for 9 months. This naturally sweet wine has a golden yellow color with amber reflections, a fragrance of honey and apricots and pairs well with dried fruit, Sicilian cassata, and herb cheeses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Limoncello
A sweet and aromatic liqueur made from the lemons grown in Southern Italy, to which are added: water, grain alcohol, sugar and lemon rind (the rinds soak in grain alcohol for 10 days, after which they are filtered and diluted with syrup). The color can vary from yellow to pale green, depending on the ripeness of the lemons. A cream version of the liqueur is also available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mandarinetto
A sweet and aromatic liqueur made from the mandarins grown in Southern Italy, to which are added: water, grain alcohol, sugar and mandarin rind (the rinds soak in grain alcohol for 10 days, after which they are filtered and diluted with syrup). Mandarinetto is slightly less sweet than its sister liqueur limoncello.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Torroncini
A nougat candy from Southwestern Sicily, the basic mixture is egg white and orange blossom honey, with toasted almonds and pistachios of Bronte (the most precious kind). It is produced in block (“torrone”) or bite size (“torroncini”) servings that are covered in milk, dark or white chocolate. They can also be made with a marzipan covering of orange, pistachio or hazelnut, creating a rainbow of colors when served in a dish. Torrone of Butera, in the Southwestern Sicilian province of Caltanisetta, have a particular crunchiness because the IGP almonds of the region, which are small, round, oily and very tasty, are added to caramel and traditional torrone ingredients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Salt

Sea Salt: Along the west coast of Sicily, between Trapani and Marsala, are located the most important salt works in Europe, thanks to an elevated concentration of salt in the Mediterranean Sea and low precipitation, high temperatures and winds that allow for evaporation five to six months of the year.
The salt works are separated from the sea by dams and the salt is processed by a series of tanks that are surrounded by Favignana’s stone and connected by channels and shutters. First, the water enters directly from the sea during high tide and here it clarifies and concentrates until it becomes saturated with sodium chloride. Next the evaporation takes place and the salt separates and settles. Salt production takes place in July and August.

Rock Salt: Sodium chloride is made either from the vaporization of marine water or by extraction of rock crystals. Both methods are used in Sicily. Rock crystal mines can instead be found in the mountains of Sicily, specifically, in the mountains of Palermo and Agrigento, which were surrounded by a lagoon-like area that had trapped marine water and rainwater. Over time, crystals of chlorides and sodium, magnesium and potassium sulphates settled onto a rock bed of less soluble salt carbonates and sulphates, forming mines of alkaline salts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Marmalade

Marmalades of citrus are manufactured and packaged directly on the Sicilian farms where the fruit is harvested and they are always made in the traditional manner, using recipes handed down by Sicilian grandmothers – which are always free of preservatives, coloring agents and chemicals. In addition to pulp and peel, sometimes slices of fruit are added to create a more intense flavor and fragrance. Sicilian marmalades contain 80 grams of fruit for every 100 grams of marmalade, a testament to their authenticity and quality. The preservation and bottling process consists of vacuum-packing and sealing the jars in a hot environment of 100 degrees Celsius.
Citrus marmalades (orange, lemon) are made by slicing the fruit thin and baking it with sugar and lemon juice. Different methods are used for unique marmalades made from local fruits and nuts from the island (e.g. berries, prickly pear, melon, chestnut, almond, walnut, pistachio).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Honey

Due to the dramatic changes in environment and altitude, honey from Southern Italy benefits from a great biodiversity. Zafferana Etnea, an area that sweeps from sea to high mountains, is considered the capital of honey production in Sicily. A key ingredient in the island’s desserts, Sicilian honey is made from a variety of Mediterranean essences, including wildflowers, eucalyptus, thyme, chestnut, as well as the more traditional orange blossom and clover. Recognized for its medicinal properties, Sicilian honey is always 100% pure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Capers

Caper cultivation in the Aeolian Islands and the island of Pantelleria is world renowned for its rich taste and fragrance. Capers are harvested by picking the “cucunci” (or bud) of the flower Capparis Spinosa, whose stalk can live past 100 years. Capers are harvested from mid-May to the end of August, after which they are dried or preserved in brine or salt for at least 2 months. It’s very important to pick the cucunci while they are pulpy but before the seeds become ripened and hard. The rule of thumb for caper quality is – the smaller they are, the better the quality. Small, firm capers are eaten uncooked, while larger ones are used for cooking. Capers can be stored for long periods of time in salt or salt and vinegar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Conserves

Conserves are made from vegetables indigenous to the island: artichokes, anchovies, mushrooms, tuna, bottarga, tomatoes, olives and caponata (a local delicacy made from eggplant, celery, olives, tomatoes and capers). Sicilian conserves are all homemade using authentic family recipes, and many of the products are organic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bottarga
Bottarga is a stupendous food made from the salting, pressing and drying of the eggs of the tuna caught in June in seas surrounding Sicily. Considered the best in the world, almost all Sicilian tuna is purchased by the Japanese at a premium price – making it an important economic resource for Sicily. However, there are still a few tuna factories left in Sicily, for example, in Favignana, where bottarga is produced. Easy to cut into paper- thin slices, bottarga is versatile for use in cooking. Bottarga is developing a reputation for being as precious as truffles and is now counted among the noble foods in the modern Italian cuisine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cheeses

Canestrato
A firm or semi-firm cheese made predominantly from cow’s milk, and rarely mixed with sheep or goat’s milk. Produced in cylindrical form in weights of 5 or 20 kg, the crust is thin and rugged. Canestrato can be eaten fresh (8-10 days), semi-aged (2-4 month) or aged. When fresh, the taste is sweet but as it ages, the taste tends to become sharp. Canestrato can also be seasoned with chili pepper or black pepper when the curd is placed in baskets to age.

Fiore Sicano
A soft, creamy cheese made from whole cow’s milk, obtained from two milkings of the cow. It has a thin crust, gray-green in color and is a typical cheese of the mountainous regions near the Palermo/Agrigento border The ideal aging for this cheese is a couple of months, but if aged in the proper environment, it could go beyond a year, acquiring a quality and taste especially prized by fans of Fiore Sicano.

Maiorchino
A highly treasured Pecorino whose origins date back to the 1600’s, Maiorchino is made from whole milk whose curd is heated to 60 degrees Celsius. The most expert dairymen gather Maiorchino in one spherical mass from this extreme heat using only their bare hands. They place it in a cheese mold (the “garbua”) and then shake it to aid in the removal of liquids. It takes at least 8 months of aging to obtain the proper Maiorchino, straw-yellow in color, with a firm crust and a delicate flavor that becomes spicy with age.
Maiorchino is a typical cheese of the Peloritani Mountains in the northern part of the province of Messina.


Piacentinu
An aromatic Pecorino colored with saffron whose production dates at least back to Medieval times. The saffron is added to the milk as soon as it coagulates (32 degrees Celsius) and black pepper is added when the cheese is placed in its basket. Aging occurs in natural caves with thick and deep walls and a terracotta tile floor that slopes toward the center to collect in a terracotta pot the liquids that drain from the cheese forms, periodically spread on the cheese as it ages. Piacentinu can be eaten after one month (advanced “primosale”), semi-aged (2-4 months) and aged. Piacentinu is a typical cheese from the Enna region and neighboring towns.

Aged Ragusano

Historically called “cacciocavallo Ragusano”, this is one of the oldest cheeses known to the island. There is documented evidence that it has been exported out of Sicily since the 1300’s. It is made from whole milk from the Modica breed of cows that graze in the Hyblaean region. Using ancient rules of production, the cheese is manually worked and reworked into a stringy mass, shaped with two small boards, placed in brine and left to age. The cheese maintains a unique final shape, a cylinder with a flat top and bottom, bearing marks from the rope that is tied around the cheese before it is hung from the ceiling to dry. Aging occurs in cool, damp (often basement or underground) locations called “maize”. The crust is a firm, smooth, golden yellow, glossy from having been brushed with olive oil and the body of the cheese is straw yellow in color, dense, sweet and aromatic, becoming spicy only when it is very aged, at which point Ragusano becomes a masterpiece! The best Ragusano is aged 8-24 months.


Pecorino Pepato
A firm, sharp cheese with black peppercorns, made from the whole milk of sheep fed almost exclusively by natural grazing. It is aged at least 4 months, but can keep much longer, increasing its characteristic sharp taste. Pecorino Pepato has a very dense body and is white to light straw color. It is available in every province of Sicily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Marzipan and Almond Paste (“Pasta Reale”)

The first mouth-watering souvenir that comes to a chef’s mind when buying delicacies in Sicily is “pasta reale”, a mixture obtained from ground almonds, sugar, honey, egg whites, orange blossom water and vanilla, and often called almond paste. The same mixture is called marzipan when the blending of almonds and sugar takes place over an open flame until the sugar melts completely. Delicious on its own, pasta reale (and even more so, marzipan), has for centuries been an essential ingredient in confectioner’s shops around the world. It arrived in Sicily in the 13th century and its origins are Arab.
The most spectacular and typically Sicilian marzipan-based dessert is Frutta di Martorana, named for the monastery near Palermo where nuns first made the small marzipan sweets in perfect little shapes that imitated fruits and vegetables. It became a tradition for the families living in Palermo to buy the sweets from the convent until the idea spread throughout the island and confectioners with wild imaginations began making the sweets to imitate the most bizarre of subjects. Frutta di Martorana is made using natural coloring and, Arabic gum coating to protect the sweets from humidity. The marzipan must be handled as little as possible to prevent the oil from surfacing and spoiling the appearance and taste of the product. The most renowned Frutta di Martorana is from Linguaglossa and Castelmola.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chocolate from Modica

Still produced according to artisanal techniques, they are chocolate bars (divided into quarters) made from bitter cocoa, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, cinnamon and other natural ingredients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pistachios of Bronte

The most precious and utilized in confectioners’ shops all over the world because of their splendid emerald-green color and sweet, delicate taste, Pistachios of Bronte are also the most sanitary pistachios in the world because the do not contain aflatossine, as do other types. The Pistacia Vera plant, which can grow to 8 meters in height and 300 years old, arrived in Rome in 30 A.C. but it took the Arabs, 700 years later, to diffuse the plant throughout Sicily, as evidenced by the Sicilian name for the plant “frastucarala” and the nut “frastuca”, which is very similar to its Arabic name, “fustuq”. Once cultivated mainly in Agrigento, Caltanisetta and Catania, the pistachios now grow wild all over the island. Bronte is considered the pistachio capital of Sicily because the high lava content of its terrain allows little else to grow. Pistachio plants are grown in alternating harvests – one year growing in abundance and the next year in “a rest” period – and the flower buds are pruned to encourage a more abundant harvest. They are harvested at the end of the summer and immersed in water until the empty shells rise to the surface and are eliminated. Drying them in the sun helps the shells to partially open by themselves. Before packaging, they are dipped in boiling salted water until the membrane separates by rubbing it with the fingers. This process keeps the taste, aroma and green color intact.