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A Sicilian Cookery Class on Mount Etna - Peperonata in Agrodolce

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Sicily's top food authority let me into her kitchen on Mount Etna while she was preparing sweet-and-sour peppers.

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After two years of studying Sicilian cookery, I finally visited the island last week and managed to arrange a cooking lesson with Eleonora Consoli, the top authority on Sicilian cuisine. Mrs Consoli received me in her huge Mediterranean kitchen in her home on the slopes of Mount Etna and together we cooked four dishes. It does not get more authentic than this.

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In this article you'll see how Sicilian mamas prepare sweet and sour peppers, a very typical course on the island, with a heavy Arabic influence.

Peperonata in agrodolce [paypayrawNAHtah in agrawDOLLshay]
4 bell peppers
1 large onion
1 small glass vinegar
1/4 cup pinenuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup capers
1 tbsp sugar
Mint leaves

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Wash, stem and seeds the peppers. Cut in 2.5cm/1'' squares. Peel the onion and slice thinly.

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Pour 2 tbsp olive oil in a deep frying pan and add the onion and peppers.

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Heat on a moderate-high flame.

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Prepare 1/4 cup pine nuts and 1/4 cup raisins. Most versions of this recipe also add capers under salt, but as I don't care for them too much Mrs Consoli instructed her assistant to leave them.

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Add the pine nuts and raisins to the peppers.

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Pour in a small glass vinegar, stir and cover. Add the sugar. Let it cook on a low flame until the peppers are soft, about 12 minutes.

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Mrs Consoli now shreds a few fresh mint leaves by hand and adds them to the cooked peperonata.

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Pour into the serving platter, cover and set aside until dinner is ready. This dish is usually served lukewarm.

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Mrs Consoli is a former food journalist and she teaches in Italian, French and English. Although we spoke Italian, I saw that her French and English are excellent. Most of her clients are wealthy Americans who come and explore Sicily. She is extremely knowledgeable in all things Sicilian and has an extensive literary background. Her cookbook La cucina del sole 'Sun's Kichen' is available in Italian and Japanese but not in English. It is definitely just as good as Il Diamante della cucina siciliana, my reference so far. Mrs Consoli is extremely well traveled and is really a pleasure to deal with. She tries to cook everything with as little fat as possible while retaining all the traditional ingredients. Since I know quite a lot more about Sicilian cooking than her average student, she was nice and flexible and the discussions moved on to more advanced topic without a glitch. A great course and warmly recommended. Make you sure you call ahead because Mrs Consoli has many engagements.

Eleonora Consoli
[haylayawNAWnawrah KONsawlee] www.cucinadelsole.it
Via Contemare 9
95029 - Viagrande Catania
Tel/Fax +39-095-7890116 or +39-095-7899091


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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!


  • #1
  • Comment by Nicole
Thanks for sharing this! Sicilian peperonata is always one of my favorites on the antipasti plate and although I had an idea of how to prepare it, this article makes it much easier to recreate it at home!  
I am interested in this recipe, but I cannot figure out how much is a "small glass" of vinegar.
  • #3
  • Answered by fx
Mamacita, Italian cuisine is very relaxed on proportions. For a small glass of vinegar you can try 1 deciliter up to half a cup if you use American units. Then just add some more if you feel it lacks acidity.
  • #4
  • Comment by Stephen Giannetti
Last Sunday, I saw a recipe for a baked eggplant that was a mound on top of pasta.  The eggplant had been layerd around the sides of a bowl and the bowl was filled with pasta.  The eggplant was also layered over the top of the bowl.  The bowl as baked, removed, inverted onto a plate.

It had been prepared by Eleonora Consoli.  I cannot find that recipe again.  Was it on your web site and if not, are you aware of a recipe like that?  Could you send it to me if you have it.

Thank you
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
Stephen, the recipe you saw is quite popular, its generic name is Timballo di maccheroni, it's done easily by frying the eggplant like a Sicilian mama (see my article), then covering a well-oiled baking pan with them and filling with the maccheroni in their sauce, then baking. You can also stuff a couple tiny meatballs and slices of mozzarella inside, then bake for half an hour. I will show other of these maccheroni cakes here but not this one. You should have no trouble to find a recipe for this on the Internet should this not be sufficient. Good luck!
I made this as a side dish a couple of weeks ago to accompany a large, salami and provolone timpano. Both turned out beautifully. The peperonata provided the perfect, sweet and sour balance to the rich, savory timpano. Your photos of Eleonora are beautiful, instructive, and absolutely precious. Thanks for the great posting!
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
Angela, I'm glad you liked it, I have a couple other recipes I made with Eleonora and have not published them yet. The light was very dim for fear of letting the sun's heat into the house and some are relatively soft-focused. But since you seem to like them I'll try to publish one more very soon!
  • #8
  • Comment by Lolah
I saw Ms. Consoli on Bizarre Foods: Sicily and fell in love with the cinnamon pudding (?) she prepared for dessert.  Do you happen to have that recipe?  And do you know if Ms. Consoli will have her books translated to English anytime soon?  
  • FX's answer→ Lolah, do you have a link for this show, I'm not sure what recipe you are referring to. I don't think that Mrs Consoli will have her books translated into English, but there is a good one, by Bugiali I believe.

  • #10
  • Comment by Alaina
I am looking for the recipe too the cinnamon pudding jello thing.  it was from Bizzare Foods on the travel channel, www.travelchannel.com.  Thanks!
  • #11
  • Comment by Paul Tempio Ferrante
My father was born in Mondello 103 years ago. We still prepare many of his 'traditional' dishes.  I only know these by the names my father gave them, but I'm not sure of the spellings. Can you help me with that?  Here's two of many.
1.atto?: a ground meat dish with pignoli and raisins layered between mashed potatoes or sapphron rice. Absolutely delicious.
2 agliasata: eye round stuffed with bacon; smothered in onions which become the sugo.  Cook down until total carmelized.  Absolutely delicious.
  • FX's answer→ Paul, these look like really amazing dishes, unfortunately I can't tell you what they are off the top of my head (or the tip of my tongue?). I'll have a look in my cookbooks though.

I to would like the cinnamon pudding recipe Ms. Consoli prepared for Mr. Zimmern.  The exact link to the show is above.
  • FX's answer→ Bryan, I will look for that recipe, but the link you sent doesn't mention much about the recipe. Is this on Youtube perhaps?

  • #15
  • Comment by Allen
Regarding the comments about the cinnamon pudding, I too would like to find a recipie similar to that one. It looked like a really good lactose free pudding, Andrew described the ingredients as water, cinnamon and wheat starch.
  • FX's answer→ Allen, I promise to look for the recipe ... soon!

  • #17
  • Comment by JeanSusan
Add me to the list of cinnamon pudding seekers. If it is in Italian, that is fine as I have a few cookbooks in italian and do fine with them.
  • FX's answer→ Now that cinammon pudding recipe is in the article comments section!

  • #19
  • Comment by Carolyn Caracausa
I have Eleonora's recipe for the Cinnamon Jelly, as she calls it. How do I sent it to you? We were just at her house and she gave us a small book in English and I found it there. Please advise.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot!

  • #21
  • Comment by Carolyn Caracausa
Mrs. Consoli's Cinnamon Jelly

10 grms. cinnamon
80 g. wheat starch (or corn starch)
250 g. sugar
lemon leaves (optional)

-  In a saucepan, mix the connamon with 1 l. water (when we made this together, she used stick cinnamon)
-  Place on the stove and bring it to a boil.
-  Cook, covered, for 5 minutes.
-  Leave to infuse for 10 hours; filter.
-  Mix the sugar with the starch and stir into cinnamon mix, being careful not to form lumps.
-  Place over moderate heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks for the recipe Carolyn!

  • #23
  • Comment by Carolyn Caracausa
Didn't get to finish Cinnamon Jelly recipe. As follows:

-  Place over moderate heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
-  Remove from heat and turn into a large or individual molds.
-  Cover with lemon leaves (optional) and chill until firm.
-  Unmold onto a serving dish and decorate as desired.

This is from Eleonora Consoli's Handbook I called "The Best Taste of Sicily." It is in English.
  • FX's answer→ Great!

  • #25
  • Comment by Rodney
From the same Bizarre Foods episode, Mrs. Consoli also made coniglio al cioccolato (chocolate rabbit).  I paused my DVR and wrote down the recipe.

Serves 4-6

1 rabbit, dressed for cooking and cut into pieces
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 celery branches, chopped
2 bay-leaves
35g pine-nuts
35g raisins
2 "pastinache" (kind of Sicilian carrots), peeled and chopped
3 cloves
20g fennel seeds
1 glass white wine vinegar
25g sugar
40g dark chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

Wash the rabbit and saute it in a large saucepan, with three tbsp of olive oil, until golden.  
In another saucepan, with the remaining oil, saute the celery, carrot and onion, over low fire; add the bay-leaves, pine-nuts, raisins, cloves, fennel seeds and saute until golden.  
Add the rabbit, salt, pepper, sugar and chocolate.
Stir, add the vinegar, cover and cook, over low heat (if necessary, add some water), until the sauce thickens.

The note about adding water is hand-written.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks for taking the time to give us that intriguing recipe, Rodney!

  • #27
  • Comment by Susanna
Thanx for the lovely peperonata recipe! May I ask details about the other dish (spinach?????) simmering on the stove???
would love a link to the recipe.... Thanx
  • #28
  • Comment by Todd E Karrick
Loved it and just discovered you from Andrew Zimmermans show.  I cant afford to fly over But would Love to know which of your books should I buy.  I love to cook and want to learn some of your Islands best.  I can only get one book, So. . . Which one for just someone who has no formal training but really enjoys cooking, esp. for my wife hows family is from Italy.  Thank you so much and if I can ever get to Sicily I will definetly visit and take your class.
  • FX's answer→ Todd, I assume you think I am a Sicilian mama, but I'm not Eleonora but FX.

Rich, this dish looks incredible.  I love using nuts in my pasta disehs.  The flavor combination you've come up with here is to die for.  I also like the tip about using the bacon ends.  At the end of the video I just want to dive into my computer screen and into your plate of pasta.  Oh and I almost forgot I just love your incredible pronunciation of the dish.  Keep cooking my friend.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks

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