Tomato Ricotta Pasta from a Sicilian Kitchen

February 19th, 2010 / Comments 5

This  post is out of order – I blame it on jet lag. After a long night of travel, we finally arrived in Siracusa. sir courtyard 01  Tomato Ricotta Pasta from a Sicilian KitchenWe took a nap only to wake up and sleep for ten hours. The following morning, we crawled out of bed into the welcoming sunshine. Charles unpacked suitcases while I checked out my Sicilian kitchen. I found a small refrigerator, a cook-top with three burners, a tiny sink and a window with a view of the blue-green Mediterranean.

There was plenty of space in the nearly empty drawers for my arsenal of can’t-cook-without-it tools I had packed. My knives, the immersion blender that also functions as a mini food processor, the coarse and fine micro planes, a scale, measuring spoons and cups, and an instant read digital thermometer made my Sicilian kitchen seem a bit more like the one I left behind in Vermont. Even with these additions, the kitchen was not as well equipped as I had hoped so we had to set out in search of other kitchen essentials including a small toaster oven.

Life in Sicily is full of serendipity and detours. Our first detour was a stop at the Caffe Minerva for a macchiato and a ricotta filled pastry. Delizioso! Our second detour involved the open-air market. It was already noon, we had slept until ten, and the vendors would be gone long before we got back from our search for the super mercato. We needed food and since all of the fresh food we eat will be from local vendors, I had to shop for food before I shopped for the tools that I would need. The vendors’ stalls line both sides of the street for two blocks along Via Benedictine. My stomach was still on Vermont time, 5 am, so I was drawn to the fruit rather than to the squid and cuttlefish.

madarine 01 Tomato Ricotta Pasta from a Sicilian Kitchen

I filled a canvas shopping bag with blood oranges,  green skinned mandarines, one very large, lumpy skinned lemon, a pair of tomatoes shaped like deeply fluted pumpkins, garlic, a head of fennel and a container of olives. At the last stall, I bought a roasted red pepper from a vendor who had a small charcoal grill. He wrapped the still warm pepper in a bit of foil, and after I had paid him thirty Euro cents for it, he took the last onion from his grill, wrapped it and tucked it into my bag with a smile. After sampling the fresh mozzarella and buying a liter of fresh ricotta we were ready to go in search of the super mercato.

The third detour of the day occurred when Charles reminded me that since we didn’t have a car and we had to carrying everything we bought, we should take the food to our apartment before we tried to find the super mercato.

Our shopping bags emptied, we boarded the free public bus and confidently set off. An hour later, with a few missteps along the way and the help of three girls riding on the bus we arrived at the SUPER super mercato. It was farther than we expected and many times larger than I had imagined. It had everything I needed – staples including dried pasta, salt and pepper, olive oil, tomato paste, butter, honey and even a toaster oven!
Olive Nere Tomato Ricotta Pasta from a Sicilian KitchenIt was raining and we were tired when we got back to our apartment. When I turned on the kitchen light and saw the olives and tomatoes on the counter, I knew that I had everything I needed to make crostini and pasta for our first meal from my Sicilian kitchen. Here’s how I did it:

Crostini with Olive Tapenade

I minced three ripe olives, two green olives and a small piece of hot chili and then combined the olives with half a teaspoon of lemon zest, half a teaspoon of lemon juice and three tablespoons of olive oil. I put the tapenade in the center of a flat bowl and surrounded it with toasted olive bread. We ate pieces of the roasted pepper and onion with the tapenade topped bread.

Tomato Ricotta Pasta

By the time we had finished our first course, the pasta water was boiling. I salted the water and stirred two servings of pasta into it. I heated my new sauté pan on a second burner and added two tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon of butter and one clove of garlic that I had grated with my coarse micro plane. I turned the heat to low, diced three olives and one tomato and added it all to the garlic oil along with one tablespoon of tomato paste and three tablespoons of ricotta.

When the pasta was al dente, I drained it and added it to the tomato cheese mixture. I cooked the pasta in the sauce for another minute before serving it topped with a generous tablespoon of freshly grated pecorino cheese.

Missions accomplished, dinner served. Fourth detour, we were too tired to wash up, so the dishes had to wait until morning in the small sink.  We crawled into bed and the Mediterranean sang us to sleep.

With minor adjustments, this meal can be created wherever your kitchen is. Cottage cheese can be substituted for ricotta, use a canned tomato if you haven’t a fresh one, any pasta will do. If you don’t have olive oil or olives you need to find a mercato. Ciao![

Crostini List

  • ripe olives
  • green olives
  • chili
  • lemon zest
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • bread

Pasta List

  • olive oil
  • butter
  • garlic
  • olives
  • tomato
  • tomato paste
  • ricotta
  • pecorino cheese

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• 5 Responses to “Tomato Ricotta Pasta from a Sicilian Kitchen”

  • Eva says:

    Hi there

    I’m so jealous of your stay. I lived in Ortigia for 4 months as a student in 2008 and loved every minute of it especially the outdoor market. On a non-food related note, if you ever have any leather needs (i.e. purses, shoes, belts) you have to visit Salvatore on Via Roma (near the Mediterranean school for arts and sciences, my alma mater!) Its a tiny, unmarked shop with 2 windows in the doors. He’s the nicest man ever and will even get you involved in the process! Looking forward to hearing about your experience 🙂

    • Carol says:

      We are living just a block from via Roma at the Residence Baroni overlooking the sea. I think Ortigia is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I love the Plaza Doumo and the people are fantastic. I had pasta Norma for dinner last night.

      What did you study here?

      thanks for the tip about Salvatore.


  • Choclette says:

    Sounds like your in for a good stayl. I love the photo of the green Mandarins – what do they taste like?

  • Oh Carol – thank you for taking on this trip with you – two whole months- I’m so lucky I know you! AND I needed a vacation 😉
    I can’t believe you packed all that kitchen equipment!

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