The tradition of Sicilian pastry
Sicily is a fantastic destination for food lovers. But above all it is famous for its pastries, so rich, varied and colorful.
These crunchy wafers filled with sweetened ricotta is a typical Sicilian specialty. The cannoli were “invented” by the Romans. The tubo farinarius dulcissimo edulio ex lacte factus was the favorite dessert of Cicero.
The filling of the wafer is very important to maintain its freshness and it should be done only at the last moment, just before serving. In true Sicilian bakeries you will have to follow this directive: if you order a cannolo, one usually asks Mi rassi’ n cannolu (would you give me a cannolo?); but better Mi inchissi ‘n cannolu? (would you fill a cannolo for me?). Good to know so it’s always fresh! and a must is the piece of candied orange on top!
Another delicacy that you should definitely try during a visit to Sicily is the cassata – a round cake made with ricotta, marzipan, candied fruit and whipped cream. The word cassata would be a derivative of caseum, cheese in Latin (due to the ricotta), while according to others it derives from the Arabic qas’at, tray (due to its round shape).
The current shape of the cassata dates back to 1870, during the time of the Florio family in western Sicily. Salvatore Gulì, one of the most renowned pastry chefs at that time, worked for this family and at a major exhibition for pastry chefs made a “modern” version of the cassata of today. He became so famous that this sweet suddenly was baked everywhere.
Besides a triumph of taste it is also lovely to see with its’ white base, decorated by green marzipan and various colors of candied fruit.
The Fruit of Martorana is one of the symbols of sweet specialties in Sicily. Its name and origin come from the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio in Palermo, also called La Martorana.
Tradition dates back to the Norman period, when the nuns of the Benedictine monastery prepared for the first time cakes of the shape of fruit (citrus). They hung them on the trees of their garden to replace those already picked, so that it looked prettier during the visit of an important prelate.
The dough is made originally with raw sugar or honey, almonds and egg white. Over the centuries and with some changes it has become today’s marzipan, under the name of Martorana fruit.
Patisseries today not only bake citrus fruit, but also bananas, figs, pears, strawberries … basically all the fruit. Some have fun to bake vegetables and even fish!
Another delicacy – I Minni ri Virgini
On the 5th of February, in honor of the feast of St. Agatha, the patron of the city of Catania, tradition is to eat the minne di Sant’Agata, in honor of the saint. They refer to the breasts that were cut during her martyrdom to which she was subjected to force her to renounce her faith. The legend says that the saint’s breasts grew back, so, for devotion, this is why they became a ritual and propitiatory food for that day.
They are small and have a round shape, just like a breast, made of sponge cake and ricotta and covered by white frosting and topped with a candied cherry that resembles the shape of a nipple. Absolutely to taste!