Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily is a captivating island that boasts a rich history, culture, and natural beauty. Known for its stunning landscapes, ancient ruins, and mouthwatering cuisine, this Italian gem has long been a destination that beckons travelers seeking an unforgettable experience.
Being the food lovers that we are, we decided to fly to Sicily and embark on a culinary adventure in the picturesque countryside. In this article, you can read all about our Sicilian cooking class that unlocked the secrets of this vibrant cuisine, where age-old recipes and fresh, local ingredients come together in perfect harmony. From homemade risotto to mouthwatering cannoli, we indulged in Sicily's authentic tastes while surrounded by the rolling hills, olive groves, and vineyards that define the scenic countryside. Let us dive right into it!
In searching for an extraordinary and genuine experience, we stumbled upon Elvio and Arianna's beautiful Airbnb on the outskirts of the small village of Gagliano Castelferrato in Sicily's Enna province. Located in the picturesque countryside, this Airbnb is approximately a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital city of Cefalu.
As we arrived, Arianna and Elvio, our hosts, warmly welcomed us. They guided us through the lovely Airbnb accommodation, with a private bathroom, and set the stage for the culinary adventure.
The Cooking Class Experience
Upon entering the kitchen, we were warmly introduced to an additional guest from the Netherlands who had joined the cooking class. Swiftly, our introductions were made, and the day's menu was revealed before us.
The menu of the day was:
Green Asparagus Risotto
Sicilian Pork Rolls
Also Included was:
Aperitivo - ham, cheese, salami, homemade olives, ricotta, bread and Sicilian-made Prosecco.
Preparations - Cannoli
We began by preparing the ricotta cheese for the cannolis. We drained the excess water from the cheese, mixed it with a lot of sugar, and placed it in the fridge to chill for a while.
Afterward, Jake chopped unsalted Almonds from the garden that we used later for decoration. By the way, Jake is using a generational-old chopping tool.
Second - Asparagus Risotto
The first step in preparing the asparagus risotto was washing and cutting off the stems. We separated the tip ends of the asparagus from the top part and placed them on the side for later. The asparagus ends were cooked separately in a pan with olive oil and later run through a tool to extract juice and flavors that we added later, towards the end of the risotto cooking time. We also cooked the asparagus tips separately, which we also added at the end of the risotto cooking time.
In between cooking the asparagus, we prepared a homemade vegetable broth of parsley, carrots, and white onions. While cooking the risotto in a little white wine, we cut bacon stripes and added these later as well. After the wine vaporized, we then added the veggie broth slowly. Elvio worked his magic by carefully blending all the ingredients together.
It's important to highlight that Elvio dedicated significant time to preparing and cooking everything, ensuring no rush was taken in any aspect of the process.
Aperitivo - Quick Break
As we waited for our vegetable broth to cook, Elvio and Arianna surprised us with a beautifully arranged aperitif table, which included an array of local Sicilian delicacies, homemade Prosecco hand-crafted by their son-in-law, and their own artisanal olive oil.
Among the snacks was the region's bacon, paired traditionally with honey and spices, an assortment of cheeses, salami, ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and crisped bread. This culinary heaven left Jake and me yearning for more.
Third - Sicilian Pork Rolls
Following the delightful aperitif, we started to prepare the Sicilian pork rolls. The most unique part about these rolls was undoubtedly their breadcrumb coating. This coating went beyond the ordinary, including a blend of eleven ingredients, which explained the incredible flavor.
Sicilian Pork Rolls Breadcrumb Coating ingredients:
two garlic cloves
two kinds of breadcrumbs (larger and smaller crumbs)
Pecorino and Parmigiana cheese (one large spoon each)
Parsley (fresh from the gardens)
unsalted almonds (from the garden)
olive oil, salt, pepper
After blending all the breadcrumb ingredients, we started to prepare the meat. First, we dipped the thinly sliced pork in olive oil and ensured that the entire piece of meat was coated in oil. Next, we covered the pork in the breadcrumb mixture and rolled them up to skewer them.
In between the cooking process, we went out into the garden to collect fresh lemon leaves from the lemon tree that we needed for the cooking process. After skewering the meat on a stick, we placed one lemon leaf underneath each pork stick. When we fried the skewers, we ensured one lemon leaf stayed underneath each skewer to ensure extra flavor during the cooking/frying process.
Final Thoughts: The Secret for a Good Sicilian Cuisine!
Arianna and Elvio's garden was an absolute dream.
What became evident to Jake and me was the key to creating an authentic and remarkable Sicilian dish. Having spent several hours immersed in the culinary world with Elvio and Arianna, we think we unraveled the secret to their delicious cuisine - fresh ingredients!
We concluded that the foundation of an exceptional Sicilian dish is based on a few fundamental principles. First, the use of fresh, organic ingredients sourced from the garden. Secondly, dedicating time and effort to preparing and cooking multiple ingredients individually became an essential practice. This method ensured no overcooking ingredients while preserving their authentic flavors. Patience has proven to be equally important in the cooking process. The approach to cooking an outstanding dish demanded a substantial time investment rather than rushing the process.
In summary, one of the most special secrets resides in cultivating a genuine love for cooking. When one embraces the process with passion, it's like orchestrating a kitchen masterpiece. This passion and love ultimately transfer onto the plate, transforming ingredients into a symphony of flavors that can only be described as a tasty piece of art.
Have you ever taken a cooking class in a foreign country? Let us know your experience in the comments below!