Catania, Pasta Norma, Mount Etna, and my first swordfish auction

Friday 6 July 2012

Catania, at the base of Mount Etna, is a vibrant city bursting with life. The Catanian motto is apparently Carpe Diem (seize the day), very apt if you are living at the base of one of the world's most active volcanoes.

From the cafes surrounding Piazza Del Duomo (a UNESCO world heritage site), which serve incredible lemon-scented cornetti, wild strawberries and ricotta-filled canolli, to the bustling La Pescheria (the daily fish market), Catania's warmth, friendliness and spirit is intoxicating.

La Pescheria is something that cannot be missed. The catch of the morning is paraded by the local fishermen in front of the locals and restaurateurs. Whole swordfish are gutted and filleted in the square and auctioned off by weight. Clams, mussels, oysters, eels, prawns, squid and the largest selection of fish I have ever seen is on offer.

As well as the sights and sounds of the fish market, we were told not to leave Catania without tasting a traditional Pasta Norma - a dish that is meant to symbolise Mount Etna; tomatoes resemble the molten lava flowing down the sides, the dark skins of the aubergine are said to be the solid pumice, the snowy peaks are represented by crumbled, salted ricotta and the basil on top is the grassy slopes.

We ate Pasta Norma at Trattoria di De Fiore. A family run restaurant that served the most incredible homemade pasta I have ever eaten. A must if you are visiting the city. No photos of this I'm afraid. It was devoured too quickly.

Next post... discovering Taormina and my arrancini obsession

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