Okay, so this is pretty embarrassing and very shameful to admit, but I didn’t know Sicily was a country until Jamie told me yesterday. I’d always assumed it was just another Italian city like Rome or Venice. Although I don’t blame myself entirely for this lack of knowledge. For some reason, it was compulsory to study German geography if you studied German at my school. To this day, I still don’t know if we were studying the geography of Germany taught in German or simply geography taught in German. Either way, I couldn’t and still can’t, speak German so it made no difference. Thanks for nothing Edwin Gruber.
Anyway enough about Germany, let’s talk about Sicily. By chance I wondered into a small Sicilian deli on my lunch hour last week called Casanova & Daughters. It was marvellous. A beautiful shop with shelves laden with imported pasta, jars of sun-dried tomatoes, handsome bottles of olive oil and neat rows of dried basil flowers wrapped in brown paper. I didn’t even know basil plants had flowers. Anyhoo, if you ever find yourself in Covent Garden I urge you to pop in, if only to say hello to the nicest man in London.
Feeling a little tired and uninspired of late, I asked the smiley shop owner to recommend a vegetarian Sicilian dish to make this weekend. He practically jumped out from behind the counter and started sweeping the shop for ingredients. He returned with a bag of capers, sun-dried tomatoes, white fennel seeds, capers and almonds in their actual shells! I’ve only ever seen almonds de-shelled so was shocked when the deli owner crushed one on the counter with his palm and revealed the biggest almond I had ever seen. Why were the almonds in Sainsbury’s so small?
Getting increasingly carried away, I bought everything he put in front of me, including some beautiful pecorino cheese and some pasta called Busiate that look like big dried up mealworms. They tasted delicious. Best fifteen pounds I ever spent – although my combat trousers I bought from Tammy Girl in the 90’s come a close second.
Sicilian sun-dried tomato & caper pasta
Serves 4 / Hands on time 25 mins / Total time 25 mins / V Vn* ❄
You’ll need: Food processor
300g dried pasta
15-20 sun-dried tomatoes (if you can’t find the dry ones, substitute for jarred ones in oil)
1 tbs capers
1 large or 2 regular garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
Pinch fennel seeds
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Italian hard cheese or Pecorino* to serve (optional)
*Make it vegan: Forgo the cheese in the recipe altogether.
1. If using dried sun-dried tomatoes, soak them for 1 minute in a bowl of boiling water. Keep the boiled water but fish out the tomatoes and put straight into a food processor. If using jarred oiled ones, simply give then simply squeeze off some of the excess oil and add to food processor. Add the almonds, capers, fennel seeds, garlic and the extra virgin olive oil – forgo the oil if using the jarred variety in oil.
2. Add 6-8 tablespoons of the tomato water and blitz until you have a thick pesto. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
3. Drain the pasta and return to the pan but take off the heat. Stir in the pesto and serve immediately topped with your choice cheese and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.
V – Vegetarian. Vn – Make it vegan and leave out the cheese
❄ – The pesto is suitable for home freezing in an airtight container. Consume within 3 months.
*Pecorino must be made with lamb rennet from animals raised in the same production area, and is consequently not suitable for vegetarians.