Cooking Meat Sicilian Style
Meat is referred to as the edible parts of an animal, usually alluding to cattle. This chapter
will present meat dishes, not exclusively beef, steers or veal but will include pork, lamb, goat, fowl, rabbits,
and some game.
All over the world beef is a preferred food because it tastes good, it has a good nutritional value and it is the
best fuel for our body. All meat is rich with protein, minerals and vitamins. Today’s cattle, pork, chickens and
other edible meats are raised following scientific procedures to obtain tender and quality food.
Years back in Sicily cows were used to work the field and were butchered when they were too old to plow the ground,
resulting in a tough and muscular meat that could be eaten boiled or chopped. This is the reason that Sicilian
Cuisine is loaded with meat loafs, meat balls and stews.
Pigs were grown and slaughtered in the winter, some sold fresh and some cured in order to preserve the meat for
Chickens were popular in the countryside where they could roam in search of fodder and supply the farmers with eggs
In the eastern part of Sicily, where the land has a lot of streams and marsh, rabbits were abundant and it was the
local preferred meat.
In the central zone, fowl and small edible animals were and still are the most favorite meat, because the
surroundings are ideal for hunting and it’s abundant with game.
Lamb and goat is a favored meat in the province of Palermo, but as in most cities or towns near the sea, fish are
the most important source of proteins.
Veal is mostly used for “scaloppine al Marsala”, for the celebrated “Falsumagru” and for the veal “bracioli”; when
the veal is scarce and also expensive, chopped meat is used instead. The stuffed thin slices of veal, the
“bracioli”, were made by my mother using chopped meat and they were preferred by me to the veal because the chopped
meat could be “condita”- dressed- with herbs, spices, bread, eggs, pinoli and raisins that my mother loved to add
to whenever she could whether the recipe asked for it or not.
In Sicily, the “bruciulone” or meatloaf made with chopped meat is popular all over and made in almost the same way,
except for the different spices and herbs used that are locally produced.
Today, the beef and veal consumed in Sicily is mostly imported from Eastern Europe. This meat is lean and it is the
quality preferred by most Sicilians, contrary to the one imported or raised in North Italy which is marbled with
fat and more tender and juicier.
When carving beef or any other meat, all sections are used and what is not used for human consumption in utilized
for feeding animals.
Some so called beef varieties, namely, the tripe from the stomach, the sweetbreads which are the thymus glands, the
spleen or miltz, the brains, the tongue and the liver are considered quality gourmet food; even the soft and
delicate “prairie oysters” or “calf fries” are considered a gluttony.
In Sicily the blood is cooked with chocolate, raisins and sugar into a pudding called “sanguinaccio” or spiced,
salted to become a blood sausage which it is sliced, breaded and fried to make a delicious specialty.
In the United States meat is abundant and consumed like in no other country in the world.
In the Mediterranean Basin meat is consumed occasionally, in fact the preferred source of protein is fish and in
limited quantity eggs.
Vegetables and pasta are the most important part of a meal.
The pasta is consumed midday for “pranzo” deliberately to give the body the opportunity to digest and consume some
of the calories ingested.
The vegetables and salads are consumed abundantly because they are reasonably priced and fulfill the
Thinking back to the forties, during and after World War II everybody was on a diet due to the scarcity of food.
You would rarely see overweight people and there were no problems of high cholesterol.
In the big cities, the chickens were hardly eaten because they were very expensive and consumed mostly by the very
wealthy. In Sicily, pig meat was delicious, and still is because of the variety of fodder, but when I lived there
pork was eaten only in the winter months, contrary to now which it is available all year around.
American beef is very tasty and the best in the world and a preferred course in any formal, informal, daily and
occasional dinner or for a backyard barbecue.
At the “Focacceria Palermitana” on Avenue “U” we cooked a lot of veal, some chicken and very little pork, except
The beef was used in making meat balls, meat loafs, also we cooked tripe and a lot of spleen that we prepared for
the “vasteddi or guastelle”, our specialty and signature sandwich which we sold in large quantities.