Wish Upon A Dish: Pasta alla Siciliana

May 5, 2012

Pasta alla Siciliana

What exactly is Pasta alla Siciliana?

It's a dish cooked in the style of Sicily. Still confused? I understand. You will never see "alla Anything" in Italy, it is strictly an Italian American term. Allow me to explain.

Regional cooking in Italy is lots like regional cooking here, in the USA.

When the immigrants invaded America they cooked with ingredients that they found familiar to them and when they could not find a vegetable or cheese they knew they started substituting similar American ingredients they could find.
Restaurant chefs named these dishes after where they came from......so alla Siciliana would be a dish created by a Sicilian cook.

Sicily is the southernmost area of Italy, invaded by many conquering countries and like our southern states, has a very temperate climate. Their food reflects these influences. Plenty of pickled and dried fruits and vegetables, spicy peppers and olive oil dominate, and sheep and goats provide cheese and milk.

My last meal before vacation was literally a combination of what I had left in my fridge and as I chopped and sauteed my ingredients, I dropped the last remnants into the garbage. Very efficient.

This was a very light but tasty pasta dish, perfect for hot weather, buffets and people looking to eat healthy.
Also a good dish to use extra zucchini you might have.

Pasta alla Siciliana
makes 4 servings
 * 1/2 pound medium-sized pasta
* Olive oil
* 1 small zucchini or half a large one, cut into 1/4" half moons
* 1/2 sweet onion, 1" slices
* 3 cloves garlic, sliced
* Lemon zest from a 1/4 lemon
* 12 black pitted olives, Kalamata or Gaeta, sliced in half lengthwise
* 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
* 1/3 cup dry vermouth
* 1 cup diced canned tomatoes
* salt & pepper to taste
* A healthy pinch of red pepper flakes
* 1/2 cup diced fresh mozzarella

1. In a large saute pan, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions, zucchini moons and garlic. Saute on high heat until the zucchini starts to take on some color. Remove and reserve.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions.
3.Add vermouth to saute pan to deglaze the bottom and then add the tomatoes, olives, capers, lemon zest and pepper flakes. Simmer while the pasta cooks.
4. Once the pasta is al dente, add that and the zucchini mixture into the sauce and stir to combine. Shut off the heat and pour pasta into a large bowl. Top with the mozzarella. It will melt with the residual heat.

Don't be afraid of the olives, capers and lemon zest. Used in the correct amounts, they added an overall complex but not over powering flavor. Even The Nudge who does not like olives, cleaned his plate and admitted the olives were a nice touch. This is definitely a good dish to introduce your kids to olives.

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