Arancino, Marsala and Granita: what are the origins of these three Sicilian products?
Everyone who visits Sicily soon realizes that, in addition to the breathtaking landscapes and historic sites, the region also offers an incomparable experience for your taste buds, which highlights the pleasures of the table, in a way that very few other places in the world can.
Sicilian cuisine is among the best in Italy and manages to amaze us by its ability to offer simple or very elaborate dishes, both in the method of preparation and the ingredients.
Forget light salads! In Sicily, dishes have a rich taste and with each bite (or sorso), you taste a piece of the history of this land.
Speaking of history… let’s go discover the one behind three of the most famous Sicilian products in the world: the arancino, marsala and granita!
If you wander the streets of a Sicilian village and you suddenly have the munchies, there is nothing better than trying a typical fingerfood. Try the popular “arancino“, the most characteristic product from the region, which several Sicilian cities lay claim as their own.
In Catania for example, where we find the volcano, it is believed that the conical shape of the arrancino is reminiscent of the Etna: by cutting the tip of the arancino, the escaping steam is the smoke from the volcano, while the sauce is the lava.
However, its true origins are still uncertain. So much so, that in the absence of specific sources, we have to analyze the ingredients. Thus, the presence of Saffron suggests Muslim origins.
The breading however, is more reminiscent of Federico II di Svevia’s Court, where carrying one’s own food during trips and hunting expeditions was fashionable. The breading preserved the rice and seasoning, and provided better transportion.
Marsala is a DOC wine (controlled designation of origin), produced in the province of Trapani. It took a real-life storm to create the necessary conditions behind the origin of Marsala wine.
During a particularily difficult storm which made sailing impossible, John Woodhouse, a wealthy merchant from Liverpool, moored his ship in the Port of Marsala, a Sicilian resort.
To celebrate his close escape from the storm, Woodhouse stopped at an Inn near the port, where he had the opportunity to taste a Sicilian wine. He loved it so much that he bought in a considerable stock to resell in England. To ensure the conservation of the wine during the trip, and to increase its percentage, he added a certain amount of alcohol.
This new wine was an instant success and Woodhouse decided to devote himself entirely to this new venture. Many other British businessmen were also interested in this Sicilian wine, but it is not until 1832 that we find an Italian name among the producers of Marsala: that of Vincenzo Florio.
Sicilian temperatures are generally warm, ideal for a walk by the sea, outdoor excursions or visits to the main tourist attractions. Therefore, to refresh yourself, there is nothing better that the most famous dessert of Sicily: granita.
Considered the ancestor of ice cream, granita is a mixture of crushed ice, with water, sugar and a “splash” of fruit juice, cocoa, coffee, pistachio or almond milk (these are the most common flavors).
Usually served in a transparent container, in glass or plastic, granita represents, along with the famous Sicilian brioche, the typical snack of some coastal cities of this region.
In the past, snow was collected from Mount Etna and other mountains to make the granita. The snow was preserved in stone constructions by “nivaroli”, whose job it was to monitor the snow throughout the year and to ensure there was enough snow to make granita in the summer.