The time around Christmas is the busiest time of the year, as one of the most important day (or couple of days) is coming along very quickly.
For us, people from Sicily and from the Ragusa Shire, Christmas is not celebrated on the 25th only, but also on the 24th, on the 25th, on the 26th and on, and on, and on…until you have had enough of eating, playing cards or bingo and repeat!
We used to have the whole house buzzing around to study the menu to make those days unforgettable for the whole family. Christmas has always been about family, love and of course food. This is why we thought that it could be interesting for you to get to know our most traditional Christmas dishes, the sweet and salty ones.
We start from the salty traditional food, giving a favorite Xmas food for the meat-lovers, the fish-lovers and the vegetarians or vegans. One of the most common and tasty appetizer is the pork jelly (called “gelatina“), made with low-grade cuts of pig meat; secondly the delicious fried salted codfish (called “baccalá fritto“) and last but not leas the “sanapo“, a vegetable very similar to spinach, just a little bit sweeter.
If you are wondering whether the scacce ragusane are also part of the menu, well…yes, they are! Every kind of celebration is a good excuse to prepare them (and if you want to know more about the rest of the salty traditions we have, you should not miss the article about them and the recipe of the scacce with aubergine by Mastercheffa).
Finally, heading to the sweet traditional food, there are two main dishes we love to prepare and eat for Christmas: the torrone sweet (called “u turruni“) and the “mpagnuccata siciliana“. The former is a crunchy sweet made of toasted almond, which is good through the whole year, while the real main character of this season is surely considered the “mpagnuccata“. The latter is a traditional sweet with arabic origins (probably) with a mix of poor ingredients: eggs, flour, oil and honey.
We asked our nonna to give us her recipe of the mpagnuccata only for you guys, so please be aware of the fact that she might have been imprecise, as she is 88 years old (God bless nonna, always).
Create the dough mixing the 4 eggs and some flavor together. In the meantime, put 1 kg of honey in a pot and warm it up until it is boiling. Stretch out the dot, with help of a bit of oil not, in order to make it a bit softer, and cut it into different breadsticks. Cut each breadsticks in small pieces (around 2 cm each) and create the small balls. Put all the pieces inside the pot with the honey and mix it up until the dough takes the color of the honey and each of the pieces is well-done (especially inside). When it is ready, take it out of the pot and put the pieces on a flat humid container, in a way that every piece can cool down slowly. When you see that they are ready, serve a couple of them for a portion on a lemon/bay tree leaf (see the gallery pictures). Now you can enjoy the mpagnuccata as a real Sicilian, thinking about our nonna!
Picture courtesy of Laura Dimartino, the Chef Luigi Geraci and the San Maurizio 1619 Truffle Bistrot of Ragusa.