The tomato is fundamental in Sicilian cooking. Especially in the conserved version. Tomato sauce, tomato paste or dried tomatoes. Stocking up the supply used to be a yearly tradition. A family affair.
Each family has its own recipe, with its own taste. That is, of course the only way to make decent conserves. What others do is mere meddling around. At best, acceptable.
2. Bread crumbs
Breadcrumbs are fundamental in Sicilian cooking. Toasted breadcrumbs – muddica atturrata – goes on some emblematic dishes. Pasta c’anciova and broccoli arriminati .
Sicilians use breadcrumb in meat rolls and in polpette. It supplies substance and structure. Although available in stores, the home made crumbs still rule.
3. Fundamental: raisins and pine nuts
The importance of pine nuts and raisin in the Sicilian kitchen is hardly estimable. Some of the most iconic dishes contain them. Simply adding the duo makes a dish immediately Sicilian. Much like a signature does to a painting.
The raisins used in the Sicilian kitchen are no bigger than a grain of pepper. They balance between sweet and slightly acidic.
Pine nuts are expensive. Not because they are rare though. Removing the nuts from the cone first and shell later is time consuming.
You know, that jar you keep moving to the back of the pantry. There are two main varieties. The salted ones should be dusted. Never washed. While the brined ones are ready to use as they come. Nice in Puttansca and Eolian sauce. Wonderful with fennel and orange salad. Surprisingly good as pesto.
5. Fundamental olives
Black olives in particular conserve well. Use them on a pizza, a salad or in pasta. They recall abundance.
It is the oil though which rules. No Sicilian food without olive oil. If there is on fundamental, irrevocabile ingredient, it is oil. Invest in good oil, inform yourself. Don’t be stingy.