I have just come back from a glorious 4 week holiday in Europe that included a week in south eastern Sicily. What an amazing place! We stayed in Ortigia (part of Siracusa) and travelled to the beautiful baroque towns of Ragusa, Noto and Modica. That part of Sicily was severely damaged in an earthquake in the late 1600s, so when the towns were rebuilt, they used the popular style of the day, which happened to be Baroque. Thus these towns are delightfully gaudy.
We had lunch in Modica at L’Osteria dei sapori perduti, an award winning restaurant in the historical centre of town that is all about ancient lost tastes (hence the name). The menu is in Sicilian with an accompanying Italian translation (as well as in other popular tourist languages) and photos of what the dish looks like (which in Australia would be regarded with suspicion but in Italy seems to be quite common, even in better restaurants). We arrived close to 2pm, but the restaurant was still buzzing even though it was a Tuesday. We started with some house wine that arrived in cute little bottles.
I loved that the menu was in Sicilian. Mark ate ravioli ri ricotta cco sucu ri maiali (ricotta ravioli with a pork sugo) and I had cavatieddi cca ricotta e a pisella (cavatelli with ricotta and peas) – photo below. Both were simply delicious. The ricotta on mine was so fresh, creamy and tasty. I knew I had to try to recreate this dish back in Melbourne, which is exactly what I have done. It seemed to be such a simple combination but the flavors were so rich and satisfying. The secret of the dish was in the freshness of the ricotta – I am sure they made it out the back of the restaurant themselves!
The pasta was cavatelli , which is made with durum wheat semolina and water and shaped like tiny discs that are then folded in. I had trouble finding cavatelli (no shops in Carlton stocked this shape) but I managed to find some at the pasta shop at the Victoria Market in Melbourne. You could however substitute cavatelli for any other type of pasta, preferably one made with semolina and water (such as orechiette). To make the sauce, I mixed the fresh ricotta with the cooked pasta and half of the peas, which I had cooked with garlic and parsley. I then sprinkled on lots of grated parmigiano. I bought the ricotta from La Latteria,where they make if fresh daily. If you cannot find super fresh ricotta, you will need to add more water to make it creamy (see recipe below).
I ate the pasta accompanied by a glass of the wine I drank whilst in Siciliy – Malvasia. The recipe is probably not exactly like from what I ate in Modica but it is very close. And it brought back wonderful memories of my stay in Sicily. Delizioso!
Cavatelli with peas and ricotta
150g durum wheat pasta
150g very fresh ricotta
100g frozen baby peas
1/2 clove garlic, thickly sliced
Handful fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
Handful freshly grated parmigiano cheese
Olive oil for cooking (1-2 teaspoons)
Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Whilst the pasta is cooking, blanch the peas for 2 to 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. Heat the olive oil in a small frypan, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove the garlic and add the peas, cooking for a couple of minutes. Remove the peas from the heat and add half the parsley, stirring it through. Drain the cooked pasta (taste it and make sure it is al dente), reserving a bit of the cooking water. Place the pasta and ricotta in a medium sized bowl and stir through. If the ricotta is still in chunks and not creamy, add a bit of the reserved cooking water (you will need to add more if your ricotta is not super fresh). Stir again until the ricotta is creamy and evenly mixed in with the pasta. Stir in half the peas. Place on warmed dishes, dividing the remaining peas and parsley between the plates and scattering the parmigiano on top.