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Sicilian Cassata

The Arabic Culture In Italian Food

Italy suffered many raids from the Arab people since the 7th century. They conquered Sicily and settle here for about 200 years until the arrival of Normans. During this time, Arab bring some changes to the Italian food culture. We find these changes above all in many Sicilian dishes but also in many dishes of the Southern Italy.

The Church of San Cataldo in Palermo, Sicily
The Church of San Cataldo in Palermo, Sicily

Arab bring to Italy the use of sweet and sour flavors that we find in one of the oldest recipe of the Neapolitan tradition: the meatballs with pine nuts and raisins. Same things we find in the famous Caponata. In this recipe, in fact, onions, pepper and potatoes meet sugar, pine nuts and raisins.

The use of sugar and vinegar for the marinade of some food is Arab too. The marinade preserved food and replaced the use of the fridge. Thanks to that, Italians invented Scapece or Scapace. This is a particular vinegar sauce from the Arab tradition even in the name Sakbāj.

There is other traditional Italian food with Arab origin in the name. One of this is the Sorbetto (Sherbet in Arab). The Arab in fact, add cane sugar to this famous dessert made with crushed ice and citrus.

In addition, the Arab, between the 9th and the 10th century, introduced hard wheat in Sicily. This important event changes times a lot. From this moment Italians were able to keep better wheat derivates such as pasta or cous cous. The typical of the Middle Ages famines decreased.

The fusion between the Roman culture and the Arab culture is well represented by the Sicilian Cassata. In this cake the ricotta from the Romans meets the candied fruit and almonds from the Arab.

Sicilian Cassata
Sicilian Cassata

This is a very sweet and tasty cake, an explosion of colors. This is also the witness of the ability of the Italians to absorb the culture of its conquering or invading peoples.

One Comment

  • Marcella

    Love it!!

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