The Province of Syracuse

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.


The ‘mpanata 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 appetizer!
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 Syracuse.

Pasta with ink of cuttle fish  

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 expanded.
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 Syracuse! 

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 table. 


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