Pantelleria is a beautiful island in Sicily, in the province of Trapani. It is the largest of the Circumsican islands and is located right in the middle of the Sicilian Channel, being just over 30 nautical miles from Tunisia and about 60 from Trinacria.
Pantelleria is a delight worth visiting and offers a natural and unique landscape. On this island, nature and man-made constructions have coexisted since immemorial times, giving visitors a stunning and impressive panorama. In addition to the local beauty, Pantelleria also presents a bona fide culinary tradition with many delicious dishes that must be tasted at least once in a lifetime! Following is a list of dishes you must try if you find yourself on this incredible island!
Pasta with Pantelleria pesto
We begin this tasting of typical Pantelleria dishes with a first course: spaghetti with Pantelleria pesto. Pantelleria pesto is an excellent condiment not only for pasta, but also for bruschette, to serve and enjoy during an aperitif, for example.
Pesto is made from tomatoes, garlic and parsley. Pantelleria capers and some almonds can also be added for an even stronger flavor. The tomatoes are scored, boiled and finally peeled. Parsley, capers, garlic, a few almonds and basil are then pounded inside a mortar until they reach a creamy and homogeneous consistency. Extra-virgin olive oil is also added in a drizzle, to blend everything in the best possible way. At this stage, add the tomatoes as well. The result should be an enveloping, flavorful pesto, ideal for dressing a nice plate of spaghetti. Some grated caciocavallo or seasoned ricotta cheese can also be added to the pesto pasta as desired.
Pantelleria cous cous
Cous cous is a dish of Arab origin, highly versatile and has the potential to be served as a starter but also as a main course. This is a dish widely served in Sicily, accompanied with different seasonings. In Pantelleria you can enjoy Pantelleria cous cous, made with fresh fish and fried vegetables.
This dish is still prepared using the traditional method, which requires several hours of preparation and a lot of patience! Once the semolina is ready, you prepare the fish, of course fresh and local. Next comes the frying of the vegetables, such as peppers, eggplant, zucchini and potatoes. When it is all ready, the cous cous is combined with the fish and fried vegetables and then moistened with the delicious and slightly spicy fish broth. Before serving, it is left to sit and soak in flavor for about an hour.
Don’t let the name fool you! These ravioli are not bitter at all, in fact they are delicious and quite tasty. They simply must be distinguished from sweet ravioli, a dessert typical of Pantelleria’s culinary tradition.
Bitter ravioli are a first course, made of fresh handmade pasta, stuffed with tumma, a typical cheese of the area, and mint. Once cooked, the ravioli can be topped with melted butter and sage, as well as with a simple sauce of fresh tomato and basil or even a meat ragù. A generous grating of salted ricotta, some caciocavallo or parmesan cheese and the bitter ravioli are ready to be enjoyed!
Tumma is a typical dairy product from the island of Pantelleria. It is a soft cheese made from raw, freshly milked cow’s milk, with no salt and a low fat content. Its flavor is delicate and fresh. Since it goes very well with various more savory and richer ingredients, it is used in many traditional Pantelleria dishes.
If you want a refreshing and tasty dish after a hot summer morning around Pantelleria, then the Pantelleria salad is the best solution. This salad consists of raw onion, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, Pantelleria capers and, if you want, also some dried fish or tumma. Capers are a typical product of the island and can be found in many dishes. Pantelleria capers, because of their unique and intense taste, have earned the IGP label from Europe.
From savory dishes we move on to desserts, starting with Pantelleria kisses. These desserts, with such a romantic name, are large flower-shaped pancakes filled with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips. Pantelleria kisses can be found everywhere, both in bakeries and pastry shops, and can be enjoyed at any time of the day, for breakfast or as a snack. You can also order a kiss as a dessert after a restaurant meal.
At the base of this dessert, there are two large, flower-shaped pancakes made from a batter of milk, eggs and flour. The pancakes are then filled with a sweet cream made from ricotta cheese, processed with cinnamon, sugar and dark chocolate chips. Fried and stuffed, the Pantelleria kisses are then sprinkled with powdered sugar and are ready to be enjoyed!
Pantelleria mustazzoli are a traditional Christmas dessert. Definitely more scenic in appearance than the classic mostaccioli, these treats have a mouthwatering filling of honey, almonds and many other flavorings, such as cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and vanilla. Despite being a typical Christmas dessert, you can find and enjoy these treats at any time of the year.
Passito di Pantelleria
Lastly, for the wine enthusiasts on the island, you must indulge in a nice glass of Passito di Pantelleria. Perfect to pair with desserts and cheeses, this wine is an Italian Passito, with DOC (Controlled Denomination of Origin) status since 1971. For this very reason, it can only be produced on the Island of Pantelleria and in the Zibibbo grape vines, having bulky, oblong clusters, while the berries are large, ovoid and thick-skinned, with a green color tending to yellow. Passito di Pantelleria has a warm golden yellow color, tending to amber; the aroma is fragrant, typical of a Muscat, while the flavor is sweet and aromatic.
And now… buon appetito!