Imagine sitting facing the sun as it begins to set over the Tyrrhenian Sea, the sea relatively calm and a blue-green colour with dark patches where the small clouds lay their shadows. A large glass of Sicilian red wine rounds off the idyllic setting as you wait patiently for a pasta dinner to be served. On today’s menu is Busiate Trapanese.
Some would say that pasta is pasta and that only the sauce matters! Definitely NOT true in my humble opinion! While the various regions of Italy have their own pasta dishes the taste, shape and texture of the pasta tend to match the sauce that goes with it. Why else would there be so many tyes of pasta in Italy?
I have a tendency to read recipes to check how close they are to being of the authentic original style. This is not always easy for a number of reasons. Pasta used to be made at home by the matriarch of the family. They did not have a recipe book to read from but usually learned to make a dish by following and helping their mother or grandmother in the kitchen. Family recipes evolved to suit the taste of the family which, from experience, is not likely to hold back on comments – positive or negative. Restaurants tend to guard their recipes and have to bear in mind the commercial aspects of the ingredients.
The western Sicilian town of Trapani is famous for its busiate Trapanese. The pasta, made with tough durum wheat that provides the pasta a golden tint, is made without eggs – just flour and water. Its origins date back to the days when Sicily was under muslim governance. The shape of the pasta is essentially like that of a coiled telephone cable cut to 3 inch lengths. The coils are made by forming the pasta around a metal needle i.e. a knitting needle.
The Trapanese sauce is a rich tomato based pesto mixed with almonds, parmesan (or local) cheese, basil and olive oil. When served the pesto is mixed with the busiate so that all strands of the pasta are covered in the sauce.
Trapani also offers busiate marinara (see photo above) which is full of the richness one would expect from a fishing town facing the expanse of the Mediterranean.
There are plenty of restaurants in Trapani, Erice and nearby Marsala that offer busiate. Or pizza! Or other traditional foods of the region.
On the nutritional aspects it is worth noting that the pasta, being durum wheat based, is high in gluten. This is slower to digest and thus provides a long slow energy release. Always good to take a walk after eating pasta. Combined with the pesto Trapanese the food provides key vitamins and vitamins while the macro nutrients are essentially fat and carbs – go easy on the extra cheese!
I shall be returning to Sicily in a couple of months.