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, I blame my school. For some reason it was compulsory to study German geography if you studied German. 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, lets 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 £15 I ever spent, although my combat trousers from Tammy Girl I bought in the 90’s came a close second.
Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta
Serves 4 / Takes 25 minutes
Make it vegan: Don’t sprinkle with cheese
(you’ll need some kind of food processor)
70g of pasta per person
15-20 sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbs capers
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
16 large almonds (or 30 small)
Pinch of fennel seeds
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Pecorino cheese to serve (optional)
You can use parmesan if you like but don’t use too much as the capers make the pesto very salty
1. Soak the sun-dried tomatoes for a minute in a bowl of boiling water. Fish them out and pop them straight into the food processor (keep the water). Add the almonds, capers, fennel seeds, garlic and the extra virgin olive oil. Don’t season with salt, the capers are so salty that you don’t need to add any extra seasoning.
2. Add 6 – 8 tablespoons of the tomato water and blitz until you get a thick pesto. Meanwhile start to cook your pasta and follow the cooking instructions on the packet, 8 minutes should do it though.
3. Finally drain your pasta and pop back in the pan off the heat. Stir in the pesto and serve immediately topped with grated pecorino and a good drizzle of olive oil.
If you’ve had a go at making my Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta or any of my other recipes I’d love to hear about it. @corrieheale firstname.lastname@example.org