Savory Sicily: a cooking class

Villa Britannia is a lovely bed and breakfast outside the Porta Messina in Taormina. The home is inviting and filled with aromas that draw you immediately to the kitchen. Host Louisa greets everyone with a brief history of the home, introduces her husband Marco and her father-in-law, who are also hands-on in the multi-course meal process, and explains the simple, pure and fresh ingredients of the Sicilian diet. We began by chopping vegetables for a caponata (a cold Sicilian roasted eggplant and vegetable salad), tomato sauce, and a second kind of eggplant salad. After we got the sautés going on the stove, we headed to the outside garden to make our pasta. Sicilian custom is to use durum wheat semolina and water. The durum wheat semolina is a product that is less refined compared to the re-milled semolina; yellow color, a little more coarse in texture. First roll and knead the dough, then roll out fat cords. Next, cut off equal size nuggets and finally a pinch and roll around a skewer…voila, pasta!All that hard work meant it was time for a treat. Several delicious cheeses including a baked sheep ricotta and a saffron pecorino paired with Spumante. We learned that the same grapes that create cava in Spain, champagne in France and prosecco in northern Italy when grown in Sicily make Spumante; by any name it is delicious. Back to the kitchen to check on the sauce, and begin preparing the swordfish involtini. With a mixture of dry and fresh herbs and bread crumbs, we coated each filet, rolled it tightly and skewered four per stick. They were flash fried and finished in the oven. We were ushered to the table as the pasta was draining and we were served a delicious meal that we will attempt to recreate in our own kitchen. Homemade blood orange and pistachio gelato with fresh fruit and espresso were the dessert offerings as we relaxed on the terrace of Villa Britannia, reflecting on yet another sensational meal in a spectacular location.

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