360 Degrees Of Etna

Live from Sicily! The villages of Etna hosted our curiosities today. We started the morning eating sheep’s milk ricotta warm out of the cauldron along with honey drizzled doughnuts. When we visited the town of Zafferano Etnea, we learned some local mythology and about what it’s like to live on Europe’s most active volcano. This…

Let’s Talk Cheese: Part 9

In the Valle del Belice in Trapani Province, Sicily, they produce a DOP (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta or Protected Designation of Origin) certified “pasta filata” (stretched/pulled) cheese called Vastedda della Valle del Belice. The name, vastedda, comes from the local Sicilian language–vasta means “gone bad.” In other words, the cheese is made from pecorino cheese that…

Ricotta is Right

This beautiful plate of “pasta alla Norma” was my dinner back at the beginning of June in Bagheria, Sicily my grandmother’s hometown. It is the classic Sicilian pasta dish, made with maccheroni (in this case rigatoni) with a light tomato sauce, sautéed (or fried) eggplant, grated salted ricotta, and if available, fresh basil. Please take…

Let’s Talk Cheese: Part 8

So, my tips when visiting the caseificio/cheese maker/dairy farm is to arrive early (8:30? You’ll have to ask their schedule.) to watch the process. But most importantly, to taste the tuma and ricotta right off of the draining table, when it’s still warm. Go hungry, and bring with you a few rolls of freshly baked,…

Baskets for Heaven 

Sheep herding and cheese making has been part of life in Sicily for centuries. The baskets pictured were used for making, molding, and aging sheep milk cheeses such as pecorino, primo sale, and ricotta before modern health codes required plastic imitations to be adopted.