As many of you know, I took a few days off in May and had Hugh run the show. By all accounts it was a success. Hugh was great, the shop remained intact and I had an honest to goodness holiday. The focus of this holiday was not to be cheese. This meant I didn’t actively seek out cheese; however, if it happened to suddenly appear before us, I took a look. There were a lot of salumerias (what we would call delis) but I didn’t come across anything we would refer to as a specialty cheese shop. I only saw a couple of cheeses from France and Germany. I found that Sicily mainly focused on a few cheeses: ricotta, provolone, pepato. They came in various forms and at various ages. That said, I was only there for a week and not specifically for cheese.
I tried several Sicilian dishes that were from either the city of Catania or the southeastern part of the island. Many of them contained ricotta in some form. A pasta dish called Pasta alla Norma is famous in Catania. It is made with rigatoni and has fried eggplant in a tomato sauce topped with a generous amount of ricotta salata. The eggplant represents the land on Mt. Etna with the tomato sauce representing lava and the ricotta salata snow. It is named after the opera, La Norma, composed by Bellini who was from there. Another local specialty I tried was ravioli di ricotta. It is a pastry that can be either baked or fried. I opted for the fried one. Basically, it is a donut filled with ricotta and rolled in sugar.- pretty tasty with a latte in the morning.
The picture above is of me at a wonderful market in Catania holding a piece of ricotta infornata. This is ricotta that has been baked in the oven until the outside is charred like a roasted marshmallow. It is not to be confused with smoked ricotta. They are two separate things.