Andrea Calogero Camilleri, a Sicilian director and author, born 6 September 1925; died 17 July 2019.

The entire nation is in mourning: RAI 1 news, the state broadcaster, dedicated 80 per cent of its time slot to this news; writers, intellectuals and the highest representatives of the Italian state have expressed their condolences. Even his arch-enemy, Matteo Salvini, minister of the interior and leader of the xenophobic Northern League party — with whom Camilleri had several heated exchanges over the years — has paid tribute to the popular Sicilian writer.

The paragraph above is from an article published in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on July 20.  It is written by Barbara Pezzotti, a lecturer in Italian Studies at Monash University. She is the author of three monographs dedicated to Italian crime fiction and has extensively published on Andrea Camilleri. 


Camilleri  perhaps is best known for his Montalbano novels and has become one of the most-loved crime fiction writers in the world. Camilleri’s books have been published worldwide and translated into 32 languages, including Catalan and Gaelic. The highly successful TV series, inspired by Montalbano’s books became an international success and was broadcast in Australia by SBS. I am sure that the scenes of beautiful Sicily in the series have encouraged many travellers.


There have been many items from around the world in praise of Camilleri and the character Inspector Montalbano, who not only fight the Mafia and solves  crimes is also a lover of good food and when Andrea Camilleri died last week, one of my relatives in Ragusa, Sicily sent me an article from Ragusa News, an on-line publication that covers news and interest stories from the Ragusa Province and nearby towns – Vittoria, Modica, Comiso, Scicli, Pozzallo and Ispica.


The article is called Domenica a pranzo onoriamo Camilleri con la pasta ‘Ncasciata (On Sunday for lunch let us honour Camilleri with pasta Ncasciata).

Montalbano's beach house_0168

Sunday lunch is still an important family occasion in Sicily and pasta ‘Ncasciata is an Sicilian, oven baked pasta dish and one of Montalbano’s favorite things to eat. It is prepared for him by his housekeeper, Adelina. (Place above is where Montalbano lives in the TV series.


Camilleri in his Montalbano series of books describes almost every dish Montalbano eats. And every dish is traditionally Sicilian.


There are many versions of pasta ‘Ncasciata in Sicily, with different combinations of ingredients but the most noteworthy one is from Messina and the recipe in this article appears to be the Messinese version and is made with commercial, short shaped pasta in layers dressed with tomato meat sauce, mortadella or salami, fried eggplant, caciocavallo cheese, salami and hardboiled eggs. Although I have eaten pasta ‘Ncasciata, I have never liked the sound of this dish and have never made it.


Apart from Pasta ‘Ncasciata, Montalbano has other favourites and obviously I like them too as I have written them in my blog and my first book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

Spaghetti con ricci di mare:

SEA URCHINS – how to clean and eat them (RICCI DI MARE)

RICCI DI MARE – Sea Urchins



Rice or Pasta with Black Ink sauce:



Pasta con le sarde:

PASTA CON LE SARDE, Iconic Sicilian made easy

PASTA CON LE SARDE, an iconic Sicilian recipe from Palermo. Cooked at Slow Food Festival Melbourne



GREAT BRITISH CHEFS, GREAT ITALIAN CHEFS, Feature articles by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins

ARANCINI (where else… but in Hong Kong!)

ARANCINI, Rice Balls at Caffé di Lido



CAPONATA Catanese (from Catania) made easy with photos

CAPONATA FROM PALERMO (made with eggplants)

A MOUNTAIN OF CAPONATA – two days before Christmas


Sarde a beccafico:

SARDE A BECCAFICO (Sardines stuffed with currants, pine nuts, sugar and nutmeg)



SICILIAN CASSATA and some background (perfect for an Australian Christmas)

SICILIAN CASSATA and MARZIPAN AT EASTER (Food and Culture in Sicily, La Trobe University)

CASSATA DECONSTRUCTED – a postmodernist take on Sicilian Cassata

CASSATA (It is perfect for an Australian Christmas)

CASSATA ( Post no. 2) Calls for a celebration!!!





ARANCINI (where else… but in Hong Kong!)

The Trinacria (a three-legged figure) is the emblem of Sicily and I spotted it on a restaurant’s window in all places, in SOHO, Hong Kong. The bar and restaurant is called Posto Pubblico. Before spotting the Trinacria, I had no intention of going to an Italian (or Sicilian) restaurant in Hong Kong!

The strange thing was that this restaurant did not even know what or why they had a Trinacria on their window.

I enjoyed the food very much but most of all I enjoyed instructing the personable and affable waiter about Sicilian matters. The restaurant is classed as Italian and judging by the reviews on the net, no-one has made any association with Sicily, yet much of the food on the menu is Sicilian.

We ordered small plates from the menu… spuntini or tapas-style of Arancini, Rotolini- little roll ups of eggplants (also known as Involtini- see photo above), a marinated tuna dish and because the restaurant make their own mozzarella, a Caprese.

By the end of our meal the waiter knew quite a bit about Sicily and the food of Sicily, how Arancini are shaped and presented alone and not covered by ragù (which by the way was excellent), how it would be best not to flour or crumb the eggplant when making the eggplant involtini (in order to keep the flavours fresh and accentuate the delicate fresh-cheese taste in the stuffing) and most important of all what the emblem on their window represented. The waiter said that he would pass on the information about the trinacra to the staff and the culinary advice to their chef.

Is it arancini or arancine?  You will see this word spelled both ways.The Italian word for orange is arancia (feminine) and the word for orange tree is arancio (masculine). Arancina is a small orange and arancine is the plural. It therefore may make more sense to call them arancine as many Sicilians do, however over time arancini seems to have become the most popular name for these rice balls especially in other parts of Italy and the world.

Arancini covered with ragù (not as Sicilians would serve them). This is a photo of the arancini we ate in the restaurant.


I solved the problem of why a Trinacria was on their window: It turned out that there were two original owners, one was from from New York City and the other from New Jersey.


Both had grandparents who had migrated to NY from Southern Italy – one lot from Naples (and that would explain the mozzarella) and one from Licata, that of course is in SICILY.

So all in all….. a very good time was had by all.




Homer referred to Sicily as Thrinakie (or Thrinakrie), which means Isle with a triangle’s shape. The name then changed to Trinakria, a reference to the three promontories on the island: Capo Peloro (Messina) in the north-east, Capo Boéo or Lilibéo (Marsala) and Capo Passero (an island 75 kilometres from Siracusa) or Capo Spartivento in the south-east. The name later became Trinacria, which the poet Dante Alighieri used to refer to Sicily in his Divine Comedy. It is also the name of the three-legged figure that is now the symbol of Sicily.

Below, Arancini shape in Sicily. The ragu is on the inside of the arancino.


My thoughts on Sicilian arancini- variations to the recipe below:

Arancini as made in Sicily are made with boiled rice (in plain salted water) and the rice is not cooked in stock and nor are they made with left over risotto. The saffron is added after the rice is boiled for colour and taste.

Some Sicilians add eggs to bind the rice, others insist that by cooking the rice by the absorption method in the correct amount of liquid and cooled overnight, the rice will be sticky enough not to require eggs.

In Sicily traditionally they are always stuffed with ragù (the meat-based sauce) and peas. In Rome, rice balls are called Suppli and they are ball shaped, made with risotto and have a cheese and often ham stuffing in the centre.

I prefer my arancini shaped as they are in eastern Sicily – they have a more conical shape rather than a ball…. like a small hill. As they are shaped in the palm of the hand , it is easy to see why they can be conical in shape.


I also like the idea of dipping each arancino into a batter before frying – this helps keep them together and gives a crunchy coating, which I like: Beat together 1 egg, some flour and enough water to make a thick batter. Dip each arancino into the batter, then into breadcrumbs.

Although some ragù (the meat-based sauce) sometimes contains pancetta as made in Bologna (and not the bacon used for breakfast), most Sicilians tend not to add it. Also Thyme is not very common in Sicily….oregano or basil is more likely to be used. Tomato paste rather than Passata is also common and if celery and carrot are used it must be chopped very finely.


The following recipe for arancini was printed in the TSAA Newsletter, May 2012 Edition (The Sicilian Association of Australia).  Written by Sebastian Agricola.

Arancini, one of the signature foods of Sicily, are also a compact and delicious edible historical record of Sicily.

Few dishes can tell as much about the peoples who have contributed to Sicily over the centuries. The canestrato fresco (a fresh, mild, firm cheese that’s generally replaced with mozzarella off the Island) comes from the Greeks, the rice and saffron from the Arabs, the ragù from French, and the tomato sauce from the Spanish.(Pino Correnti; Il Libro d’Oro della Cucina e Dei Vini Della Sicilia).

Arancini originated in Sicily around the tenth century A.D (that about 1,000 years ago readers!) reportedly during the Kalbid rule, a Muslim dynasty that ruled Sicily from 948 to 1053. The Kalbids also introduced lemons, seville oranges, sugar cane, as well as cotton and mulberries.

The name is a variant of the Italian for orange (arancia) which describes both their shape and colour. There are various recipes for arancini in Sicily and every little paesetto (village) claims to produce the original recipe and the best arancini. The TSAA has its preferred recipe which was used in one of TSAA cooking classes and here it is:


1 Kilo Minced Veal
1 Kilo Minced Pork
2 Medium Onions, finely chopped
4 Celery Sticks, finely chopped
1 Litre Tomato Puree
2 Medium Carrots, finely chopped
1 Cup Dry White Wine
5 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced 1 Cup of Water
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 tsp.
Fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper

*200gms Pancetta, diced (see my note above)

  1. Cook the onions celery, carrots and garlic in oil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened; about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the pancetta, veal and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps until browned; about 6 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomato puree, white wine and the thyme and gently simmer covered, until sauce is thickened; 3/4 to 1 hour.
  4. Add salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Allow sauce to cool.


500 gms Arborio rice
Several ladles of sauce to make the filling
100gms grated pecorino cheese
2 Eggs, lightly whisked
  1. Add grated pecorino cheese to rice.
  2. Add enough sauce to rice to make it turn orange in colour.
  3. Add eggs to rice mixture and combine mixtur
  4. Cook the rice (absorption method.) Allow rice to cool.


1/2 Fiore di latte mozzarella, cubed into small pieces
250gms Frozen Peas
1/2 Onion, chopped
Fine Breadcrumbs for Crumbing
Salt and Pepper
  1. Sauté onion for 5 minutes, add peas and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste.
  2. Form Arancini by first filling the palm of your hand with rice mixture, then adding a teaspoon of peas and Bolognese sauce and a cube of mozzarella.
  3. Enclose filling with more rice by forming a ball with mixture contained inside. Roll balls in breadcrumbs and deep fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.


ARANCINI, Rice Balls at Caffé di Lido


I’d been told by that the best place to eat arancini in Melbourne is at Caffé di Lido. It sounds grand, but it is a beachside kiosk on Beaconsfield Parade in Port Melbourne. Sounded strange, but I went with Rita, my Sicilian friend whose tastes I trust, and she introduced me to Teresa and Diana, the proprietors of this distinctive establishment.

Teresa and Diana have a richly deserved reputation among connoisseurs. Against all advice and dire warnings about going broke, the two women took over the tiny beachside kiosk almost a year ago and have turned it into mini-landmark along that busy beachfront stretching from St Kilda to Port Melbourne.


True arancini are one of Sicily’s signature dishes, served especially as snacks; they are very popular at parties and social occasions. Sadly, arancini have been imitated and adulterated by people who don’t really appreciate just how rare and delicious they are when they are made properly. People often mistake suppli for arancinisuppli are Roman rice balls stuffed with cheese and ham.  Arancini are Sicilian and stuffed with a sugo (ragout) made with tomato, minced meat and peas, and cheese. In Sicily they usually use a provola cheese (stringy type), but Teresa who makes the arancini uses provolone. She was to send a recipe, but I think that she may be concerned that  other establishments (rather than home cooks) may use her recipe for profit.

Teresa and Diana have a richly deserved reputation among connoisseurs. Against all advice and dire warnings about going broke, the two women took over the tiny beachside kiosk almost a year ago and have turned it into mini-landmark along that busy beachfront stretching from St Kilda to Port Melbourne.

Not only do Teresa and Diana turn out brilliant arincini, Italian music, coffees and snacks – including Panini, lasagne, pasta and marinated olives – they seem to have created a charmed parking space along that busy parade. On one of my week-day visits to Café di Lido, right next to the kerbside tables, was parked a cute, canary yellow, Fiat Bambina. When the Bambina owner drove away (having lingered over a slow coffee and an arancino) a silver Masserati, whose owner had come from Catania a few years ago to be with his grandchildren, took the empty park. On my next visit there was another Bambina – this time a fiery, wannabe-Ferrari red. Before the driver left, he made sure that Teresa and Diana would reserve two arancini on the Saturday when he was returning with his wife – Teresa cannot make enough of them!

All of the drivers were regulars of the Caffé di Lido and it seemed like the charmed space was reserved for them. We should all be so lucky.