The Province of
Fifty miles south of Catania, the ancient city of Syracuse is
located on the small island of Ortygia. Because the area was covered by swamps, the Greeks called the city
Sirako which means marsh. Syracuse had a brilliant historic period, under the jurisdiction of
the Athenians, when it was the capital of Megale’
Hellas, meaning Great Greece. In 663 AD, it had a brief period of splendor when it became the
capital of the Byzantine Empire.
Syracuse has approximately 135,000 inhabitants. The province is
rich with water, a benefit to agriculture, in particular to the cultivation of the Pachino tomatoes, the small, sweet tomatoes that are very popular
all over Italy and the world.
The renowned cuisine of Syracuse is distinguished for the
simplicity of presentation and the limited number of ingredients used in the recipes. This provides the opportunity
to single out and appreciate the different flavors of the ingredients used.
Siracusana is baked bread dough stuffed with bitter broccoli rabe, sweet sausages, onions and sharp
Caciocavallo cheese:a unique combination of bitter-sweet-salty.
The Spartan eggplant salad, caponatina, is
different from the very same dish made in other parts of Sicily. Here it is made with fried eggplant, sautéed
celery, not too many capers, a few olives, sweetened vinegar and grated chocolate. Eat it cold as an unusual
Fried bread is a snack served while waiting for dinner to start.
Fusilli alla Siracusana is pasta with a sauce made of eggplants, peppers, olives, capers, and anchovies
instead of salt. Pasta col nero dei todari, the
strange-looking but delectable homemade linguine, taghiarini, with cuttlefish is served with black sauce made from
the cuttlefish’s sack containing a black liquid.Ravioli di
Ricotta are served with a light tomato sauce and stuffed with the local ricotta and
Caciocavallo Ebleo cheese made in the province of
Rabbits, which are abundant in the region, are sautéed with
onions and potatoes and then baked with wine or vinegar and sugar and called coniglio alla stemperata. Sautéed rabbits are also slowly cooked in
tomato and the sauce served over homemade taghiarini, ribbon-shaped pasta.
The Ionian Sea, touching the shores of this province, is a fish
haven and rich with a variety of fish.
Fishing is actively undertaken and beneficial to the local economy. Oyster farming is also an enterprise well
In season, tuna fish is plentiful. It is preserved by housewives and commercially processed and packed by the local
factories. Tuna is grilled, covered with a sauce called salmoriglio made
with local lemon, fresh oregano, parsley and olive oil. Another popular dish is tonno alla ghiotta, tuna cooked in light tomato sauce, potatoes, herbs and
spices. Grilled eels, which are copious in the marshes surrounding Syracuse, are another local specialty.
Zuppa di pesce, soup of fish made in Syracuse is
unique in taste and in the cooking technique used. Tender and lemony octopus salad can be served as a main dish or
appetizer. A very uncomplicated pasta with local creamy ricotta cheese and no other ingredients iis another much
sought-after Syracuse dish.
Many vegetables are offered as side dishes; chickpeas and fava
are preferred. The popular ceci all’insalata, are boiled chickpeas
served with oil and vinegar. The plentiful fava, broad beans, either fresh or dry, are sautéed with onions or
boiled with whole garlic cloves and dressed with vinegar, oil and oregano or just salt and pepper for a snack.
In Syracuse, artichokes are stuffed with a combination of local cheese, parsley, garlic, and onion. A few drops of
oil are drizzled on top and they are steamed. Very simple, very delicious!
The variety of Syracuse cheeses are famous all over the world—to
name a few: the semi-fresh pecorino pepato with whole fresh pepper
berries is a zesty table cheese and the Caciocavallo Siracusano, which can be mild and smooth when young and aged
to 4 months or sharp-tasting and salty when aged over 6 months.
Let us not forget that one of the best wines in the world is the
well-known Nero di Avola, made in the province of
Pastries with dry figs are made in the region, as well as a
variety of other mouthwatering desserts. These include: the gatto’, a
sponge cake that combines ricotta with cinnamon, sugar and candied fruits; cassatedda, a baked or fried ricotta cream turnover similar to those made in
Trapani; affuca parrini, plain cookies to dunk in
wine; and the S-shaped biscuits called grandma cookies. Many other desserts are on hand at the conclusion of a meal
or for a treat to enjoy with a cappuccino.
The cuccia of Saint Lucy, the city’s patron, is made with cooked grain,
milk and chocolate and is sampled often, but on December 13, Saint Lucy’s Day, it is a must on every