Friday, May 6, 2011

Sicilian food – part 1- Ricotta

We have said it before, Sicilian food is wonderful. It’s not the spiciest, most diverse or most adventurous food in the world, but the freshness and quality of the ingredients combined with the respectful way of preparing them, makes every dish a delightful experience.

We won’t go through all the wonderful dishes we’ve tried, but since we know that some of our friends, like us, are foodies, we want to present a few of our favourite ingredients and dishes.

First on the list is ricotta; a sweet fresh cheese made from the whey of cow’s or sheep’s milk. In Sicily, it’s the main ingredient for several pasta dishes as well as the famous cannoli, crusty pastry tubes filled with sweetened ricotta and dried fruits.

Ricotta actually means re-cooked, and it’s the first "cheese stage" when using cooked milk and whey, before it turns into something like mozzarella, then a saltier version of primo sale and then the ricotta salata, or the salted ricotta, a harder cheese used for grating.

Just up the road from our house lives an old sheep farmer, who we’ve been fortunate enough to get fresh deliveries of ricotta and ricotta salata from on a weekly basis. The cheese is still steaming when it arrives and has a mildness and smoothness that is incomparable to the one from the stores.

We have been experimenting with it a lot, making a number of different dishes, including Romanian papanasi. However, one of our favourites, that our friends at the pasticceria taught us, is the ricotta omelette. Just whip up three or four eggs, add about 200 grams of fresh ricotta and mash everything up with a fork.

Pour the mixture into a non-stick frying pan and add some grated parmesan if you like. The result should be a beautiful, golden brown, fluffy omelette that goes perfectly with crusty bread, some salad and a chilled rosé – a perfect summer lunch.

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