I  first published this post on 7/12/2011


This morning I had the fantastic opportunity of being interviewed by Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program.

Fran asked me about how Sicilians traditionally celebrate Christmas and to suggest different menus featuring seafood and accompaniments that Australians could prepare as alternatives to the traditional turkey, chicken and ham, which are being replaced on our Christmas dinner plates.


When I am planning a Christmas lunch I consider:

Who am I feeding will they like this dish?  How many? How much time do I want to spend cooking/ Hot day or cooler? What can I prepare before hand? What fish looks good at the market? Which is my focus ‘wow factor’/emphasis? (is it to be (antipasto) entrée,  pasta (first course) or (second course) main?

Or would I prefer to present a selection of small courses?


In Sicilian Seafood Cooking there are many recipes that in Sicily are intended for swordfish and tuna. Although I have retained the name of the recipe I have also selected fish that are sustainable as preferable choices to endangered species.

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Sicilians have simple starters – a plate of olives, some nuts and this is because they like to save their appetites for what is coming and therefore I have selected a light fish starter. They also enjoy eating pasta and this is why I have given several alternatives for the first course. For the first course there is also a rice alternative. By the time you get to the second course you may need a big rest, but I have provided two recipes.

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Vegetables have not been included in this menu but they are and as well as important in Sicilian cuisine and there are very many interesting recipes in Sicilian Seafood Cooking and of course beautiful photos, not only of the recipes but as Fran said, also of Sicily.


Starter / antipasto: TONNO CUNZATO 

Raw Marinated Tuna

The fish needs to be fresh and of excellent quality and sliced thinly. Keep it in the fridge while it is in the marinade. The recipes for marinating tuna suggest using a mixture of 7 parts vinegar to 3 parts lemon juice. I prefer to use just lemon juice or 9 parts lemon juice to 1 part vinegar. You may wish to experiment.

This dish is usually served as an antipasto.

Suitable fish:

The recipe is intended for bluefin tuna which is not sustainable. Any skinless fillet cut thinly can be marinated the same way.

500g tuna or other thinly cut, skinless fish
Juice of 4 lemons
¼ – ½ cup white wine vinegar
Dried oregano to taste
2 spring onions (scallions) finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery (pale green stalks and leaves from heart) finely chopped
½ cup capers
¼ cup finely cut parsley
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Marinate the fish in the lemon juice and vinegar, making sure that the fish is covered with the marinade. Add oregano and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
For the dressing, mix together the spring onions, celery, capers, parsley, olive oil and seasoning. When ready to serve, remove the fish from the marinade and pour the dressing on top.


Ricotta Ravioli With Black Ink Sauce

2 ½ cups of ricotta
Salt to taste
Extras: sugar, citrus peel or finely cut marjoram
1 quantity pasta (recipe p45)
 pasta with black inkJPG
Black ink sauce:
600g squid or cuttlefish plus 2-3 ink sacs
1 medium onion &/or 2 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
100g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large tblsp tomato paste
1 cup finely cut parsley
1 cup white wine
Chilli flakes or freshly ground pepper
Clean the squid or cuttlefish carefully and extract the ink sac. Cut into 1cm rings and set aside. The tentacles can also be used.
For the sauce, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil, add the tomatoes and tomato paste, parsley, white wine and sale. Bring to the boil and reduce until the salsa is thick.
Cook the pasta.
Add the ink and chilli flakes to the sauce and mix well. Add the squid rings and cook over a medium-high heat until the squid is cooked to your liking.
Drain the ricotta
Place it in the colander lined with cheesecloth and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Mix the ricotta with a little salt and any of the extra flavourings.
Make the ravioli
The most authentic and quickest way to cut the ravioli is by hand. There is no prescribed size- can be round or square or half-moon shaped.
To make individual ravioli, cut pasta into circles or squares. Place heaped teaspoons of stuffing in the centre of each, continuing until all the stuffing is used. For half-moon shapes fold the pasta over the filling. For others lay another circle or square over the top then moisten edges with a little water and press together carefully to seal properly.
Set the finished ravioli on a lightly floured cloth. They can rest in a cool place for up to two hours.
Cook the ravioli as you would any pasta. Lower them into water a few at a time and scoop each out when it floats to the surface.
Dress them carefully with the black ink sauce so as not to break them. Serve as is or with a scoop of ricotta or some grate pecorino.


Rice with angels

400g cockles
400g mussels
3 cups arborio, carnaroli or vialone rice
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup finely cut parsley
¾–1 cup extra virgin olive oil
200g (7oz) prawns, shelled
and de-veined, cut into pieces; some left whole
200g (7oz) squid (small with tentacles), cut into slices
100g (3½oz) of one or a
mixture of: crabs, lobster, Moreton bay bugs, scallops (optional)
grated pecorino
salt and red chilli flakes to taste
Clean the cockles and mussels (see pages 84 and 87). Steam in a covered frying pan coated with a little oil. Once opened, shell them, but reserve some mussels in their shells. Cut up the flesh and save the juice.
While you are preparing the seafood, cook the rice (add the rice to plenty of rapidly boiling, salted water). Drain and place in serving bowl.
In a wide pan, sauté the garlic and parsley in extra virgin olive oil. Add prawns, squid (and any other seafood) and season. Stir for a few minutes, then add the clam juice. Toss for a few minutes without reducing the liquid.
Add mussels and cockles (shelled and unshelled) and heat through.
Mix the seafood with the rice. Arrange some mussels in their shells on top to look like angels with open wings. Serve with grated cheese.
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Spaghetti with crayfish

The terms lobster and crayfish are often used interchangeably, but the marine species are lobsters and the freshwater species are crayfish. There are many types of lobsters known by a variety of local names.

Lobsters (aragoste) are popular around Trapani, although they are expensive. When making pasta with aragosta, I often buy spiders (the legs) – they can be quite meaty and very suitable for a pasta dish that requires cooked lobster. When buying lobster, select a heavy specimen with a good strong shell. They molt several times in their life cycle and, if they are pale with a thin shell, they are not likely to have much flesh. As for size, anything less than 1.5 kg (3lb 5oz) is not worth buying – a lobster under that size doesn’t have enough meat, especially from the spiders.

There is no comparison between the taste of a freshly cooked lobster and one purchased already cooked.Although this recipe is especially suited for lobsters, other crustaceans can be used.
This dish requires cooked lobster and it is added last. The other ingredient sare raw and pounded in a mortar and pestle (or pulsed in a food processor). The raw ingredients can also be finely chopped and mixed together. Use fresh ripe tomatoes.

This pasta dish is fantastic for the hot weather and it could be part of a celebratory lunch (such as Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere).

Lobster, no less than 50g (1¾oz) of meat per person
Juice of 3 lemons, plus grated zest of 1 lemon
about ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
600g (1lb 5oz) ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and drained, chopped
1 small bunch of basil
½ cup finely cut parsley
½ cup capers; if salted soaked and thoroughly rinsed
500g (17½oz) spaghetti or spaghettini
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Remove the flesh from the lobster, tear or cut into small portions and place it in a bowl with the juice of 1 lemon and some of the oil.
Use a mortar and pestle to combine the rest of the ingredients. Begin with
the garlic, then add the tomatoes, seasoning, and some more oil. Then stir in
the basil, parsley capers and, lastly, the zest of 1 lemon – stir these into the
pesto. Add some of the lemon juice, taste the pesto and add more if necessary
(you may not need all of the lemon juice).
Cook and drain the spaghetti. Arrange in a serving bowl, add the pesto
and lobster and mix it gently. I like to add more grated lemon zest on top.
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Stuffed calamari with fresh cheese, almonds and nutmeg braised in marsala

6 medium squid (or 12 small squid)
1 cup breadcrumbs, made from good-quality day-old bread, toasted in a little oil
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely cut
¼–½ teaspoon nutmeg
150g (5oz) fresh cheese (tuma, pecorino fresco, mozzarella, fior di latte or bocconcini), cut into small cubes
1 cup dry marsala
½ cup almonds, blanched and chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Clean the squid: pull off the head and the inside of the squid and discard. Cut
off tentacles and save them for another time.
Mix the remaining ingredients except the oil together; check the seasoning.
Stuff the squid and secure each end with a toothpick.
Sauté each squid in olive oil – when the juice escapes it caramelises – turning once only during cooking. Alternatively, cover with foil and bake in a 200°C (400°F) oven for about 10 minutes. The squid will produce its own juice. To caramelise, remove foil and bake the squid for an extra 10 minutes.
Add chopped pistachio rather than almonds.


Baked fish with potatoes, vinegar and anchovies

1–1.5kg (2lb 4oz–3lb 5oz) whole fish, or large pieces
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 onions, finely chopped a small bunch parsley, finely chopped
250g (9oz) potatoes, thinly sliced
3–6 anchovies, finely chopped (see above)
juice of 2 lemons, plus grated zest of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Suitable fish
Any whole fish or large fillets of medium to firm fish, preferably with the skin
on. The fish is cooked whole and carved like meat at the table.
If using whole fish or fillets with skin, make a series of slashes in the skin. Mix
the oil with the vinegar, onions and parsley. Add seasoning and marinate the
fish for about an hour, turning frequently.
Place the fish in an ovenproof dish, spoon half of the marinade over it and bake for 10 minutes in a 200°C (400°F) oven. Arrange the sliced potatoes around the fish. Sprinkle the potatoes and the fish with more marinade, the anchovies, lemon juice and grated zest. Bake for another 20–35 minutes, depending on the type of fish. Serve hot.
 Place rosemary and bay leaves underneath the fish in the baking pan.


ALL THINGS SICILIAN AND MORE is one of the best blogs on food and travel in Sicily

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Sicily tourism – trip around the island with the best Sicily travel blogs

All Things Sicilian and More can be considered one of the best food blogs about Sicily (if not one of the best Italian food blog in general) with appetizing pictures and recipes of the region’s delicacies. The author, Marisa, is an Australian of Italian origin.”

When I received this acknowledgement yesterday from Ville in Italia (Villas in Italy), I felt like I’d been kissed on both cheeks and hugged to the bosom of Sicily. I’m still smiling.

Ville in Italia is an Italian tourist operator based in Florence and it successfully operates in the short term tourist rental sector offering prestigious villas and apartments located all over Italy. It currently has over 500 properties on its books located by the sea, in the country, on the lakes and in the cities of art.

Here is the rest of the message from Ville in Italia:

Dear Marisa,
I am pleased to inform you that All Things Sicilian & More has been included in the personal selection of the most influential and interesting Internet resources regarding Sicilian lifestyle by Ville in Italia.
Ville in Italia has been a company specialized (and leader) in the selection of luxury villas for vacations in Italy for more than 20 years, and, therefore, primarily addresses an international audience, who loves the beauties and the culture of Italy.
This is the motivation that led us to include your blog in the list:
This can be considered one of the best food blogs about Sicily (if not one of the best Italian food blog in general) with appetizing pictures and recipes of the region’s delicacies. The author, Marisa, is an Australian of Italian origin.”
We really hope that this news may please you and your readers!
Thank you and congratulations,
[Press Office Collaborator]

At the following link, you can find the full selection of the article (all ex aequo results):
Sicily tourism – trip around the island with the best Sicily travel blogs | Ville in Italia Blog


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Review of Sicilian Seafood Cooking from PSnews by Christine Salins:

A Sicilian-born Australian cook creates a deliciously hearty winter soup, writes Christine Salins

Seafood feast by Christine Salins

I’ve only just discovered Marisa Raniolo Wilkins’ blog, All Things Sicilian and More, but I’ve had great fun reading about her passion for food, especially the cuisine of Sicily, the island of her birth.
Marisa spent her early childhood in Trieste before moving to Australia with her Sicilian parents, but clearly the childhood memories have never left her.
She is, by all accounts, a generous home cook who is passionate not only about using fresh produce but also about sharing her knowledge of food and its traditions.

Food photography Graeme Gillies, stylist Fiona Rigg


Sicilian Seafood Cooking by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins.

Her mother’s surname was Leone, or lion, and there’s a Sicilian proverb that, loosely translated, says “every dog feels like a lion in his own house”.
Marisa describes herself as a lion in control of her own kitchen and she is certainly a fierce advocate of Sicilian cuisine and culture.
So much so that she has now produced a beautiful book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking (New Holland, $45) celebrating the great diversity of Sicilian food and the role that seafood plays in both Sicilian cooking and its economy.
Not only does she draw on her own personal recollections and family traditions, she also takes readers on an historical journey, showing how the cuisine has been shaped by Greek, French, Arab and Spanish influences.
She canvases some of the issues around the sustainability of seafood, and there are some wonderfully evocative illustrations of dishes and Sicilian scenes.
But it’s the recipes, along with the huge number of immensely knowledgeable tips and suggestions, that are the real star, and if you love seafood, you’ll be delighted as I am to join in her culinary journey.
The following recipe reproduced from her book is a deliciously hearty soup for winter. Zuppa di pesce from Syracuse is reputed to be the best in Sicily. Here it is
baked, leaving the fish undisturbed so it does not break up.
You need large chunks of boneless fish – either buy a whole fish, fillet it
yourself and use the heads and bones for the stock, or make the stock from fish carcasses.

Rich Fish Soup from Syracuse Cooked in the Oven

  2kg mixed seafood
 1 cup dry white wine
 2 cups fish stock
 500g tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
 ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
 2–3 celery hearts (pale green stalks and leaves), chopped
 3–4 bay leaves
 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
 2 tablespoons finely cut flat-leaf parsley
 Fronds for fennel, finely cut
 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
 Zest of 1 orange, peeled thinly and cut into large pieces
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cut the boneless fish into chunks.
Clean shellfish, molluscs and squid and cut the squid into mouth-sized pieces.
Arrange the fish in an ovenproof pan that will fit all the ingredients.
Add the wine and cover the fish with the strained stock. Add all the other
ingredients. Cover the pan (use foil if you do not have a lid) and place in a
200°C oven for 30 minutes.
Serve with oven-toasted bread.

To find out more about Christine Salins click here.




Media coverage

Radio: Sicilian Seafood Cooking, 20011

Prime Radio Network w Laurie Atlas Nov 2
Radio 3AW/1593am w Tony Tardio Nov 4
Rete Italia Radio w Pino and Lina (Ivano Ercole) Nov 4
Joy FM ‘Cravings’ with Pete Dillon Nov 5
Radio MTR 1377 w Steve Vizard Major MetroNov 7
Radio Adelaide 101.5 w Bruce Guerin “Gastronaut’ Nov 23
ABC Adelaide w Carole Whitelock Major metro Nov 25
5AA Adelaide with Michael Keelan, Nov 27
ABC South East with Alan Richardson Nov 29
GB Sydney with Warren Moore Jan 2,
5MU Power Fm Adelaide Jan 30,
 Marisa & Richard

Printed media

Italianicious – January 2012 Fuelled by Passion
Italianicious – November- December 2010, For the Love of Sicily
Seafood News launch of Sicilian Seafood Cooking
Canberra Times, Sunday 13/11/2011
Leader newspapers: Wyndham Weekly, Northern Weekly, Banyule and Nillumbic Weekly, Northern Weekly, North Side
West Australian: Broadbrush 22/12/11
Adelaide Review, February 2012
Fishing Lines, Magazine of Victoria’s Peak Recreational Fishing Body
Autumn 2012 Catching Squid and stuffing it
Winter 2012 Fish balls in sauce
Border Mail (Albury Wodonga)
ISSUU magazine Feb 2, 2012
Readers Feast, Book guide, Summer 2011 (Helen’s choice)

Epicure,The Age, July 2012

Richard launches book adj


wine, food, hotel Sicilian Seafood Cooking review
PS News Seafood Feast
Epicure, The Age


All Things Sicilian and More, Local expert blog award
Various recipes and articles published in  – TSSA’s newsletter (The Sicilian Association of Australia)
ABC Food Sardines a Beccafico, stuffed with currants and pinenuts , Video/ Recipe cooked by Sean Connelly: http://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/11731011790/Sardines-a-beccaficoSBS Food Eggplant or Zucchini Parmigiana
Richard, Fiona & Marisa at launch
 Richard Cornish launched the book and Fiona Rigg (in the centre) was the food stylist for Sicilian Seafood Cooking.