What is a Vastedda?
“vastedda”, “guastedda” or
“guastella” can all refer to the popular
sandwich made exclusively in Palermo, involving a soft, fresh
cheese, plain round bread or a lard bread stuffed with cheese, salami and sambuco
Is in a Word...
” could derive from the Greek and Latin “gastra
,” later changed to “guastada
” (meaning “carafe” in Italian), “guastadetta” and
guastidduzza” (a rounded vessel, pot or vase
to hold foods or beverages, much like a muffoletta
to hold food). Another
assumption, with much debate over it and open to discussion, is that it is derived from Hamitic, a language spoken
by the Berbers. The words “bastil” or
“pastil” referred to a food
preparation indigenous to the Mediterranean
Basin and prepared by some of the
populations living in the area surrounding the Black
pastil or bastil , also known
as pastille, bastilla or
bsteeya (those words are pronounced all
the same: pasti-a), is prepared by northern and
eastern African populations, where the
Semite-Hamitic language is spoken.
pastil is a pie made with a few
layers of paper thin dough similar to a strudel or phyllo dough and stuffed with an elaborate creamy and
boneless chicken filling, originally made with squabs and enriched with raisins, pine nuts, cinnamon and
These pies, similar to theempanadas, impanate, schiacciate or other baked specialties, were
cooked for religious celebrations, festivals and on special occasions long before the Romans dominated
When the Phoenicians from Canaan, the modern regions known as Syria,
Lebanon and Israel, colonized and founded Carthage around 800 BC, it is assumed that they introduced this pie in
all the lands that they inhabited.
present time, the
pastelis is still cooked
in Syria, and it is a popular pie
and a local specialty.
Jewish population living in the area known as Israel also prepared this dish that
could be cooked in advance and eaten for the Shabbats.
the VIII and VII century BC when the Jewish
Diaspora took place, this specialty was spread by the Jewish people all over the known world; each city, village
or land adapted it to their own taste and to the available local provisions.
The name morphed with time
and bastil, or pastille,
into pastellus, gastellus and Wastellus and, in later days,
into guastelle or vasteddi.
This specialty, eaten from prehistoric to modern times, reached all over
pastille was served to Richard I the
Lionheart, and today, the meat pie, a distant cousin of the pastille, has become an English
French and the Canadian stuff it with pork, beef and potatoes and changed the name to tourtiere or tortiere.
Vastedde in Palermo
pane ca mevusa is a sandwich stuffed with
boiled spleen, lungs and other organ meats. It is fried in lard and served either with a slice of lemon or with a
chunk of ricotta and/or flakes of Caciocavallo cheese.
used for the vastedda is a
small muffoletta, a round
three-and–a-half-inch roll kneaded with additional water to give a spongy and soft inside, easy to split in
half, making it very suitable for sandwiches. The word “muffoletta
” is derived from the Latin “muffula
,” meaning “glove or small
a Sicilian, Salvatore Lupo, at the Central Grocery in New
Orleans, Louisiana, introduced and
offered the “muffoletta
” for sale, stuffed with cold cuts, cheeses and giardiniera in olive oil. His signature sandwich became a New
, guastedda, or pane ca
mevusa, bread with spleen, is part of
the traditional street food sold in Palermo. Originally, those
sandwiches were sold from small kiosks, the size of a telephone booth, where the guastella
were made by
sautéing the lard and spleen on top of a primitive charcoal stove.
Today, modern eateries
called focaccerie” serve
the guastelle and other
specialties like chickpea fritters (panelle), potato croquettes, rice balls (arancine) and flat bread with
a savory sauce (sfincione) in fancy settings, restaurant
It may take a little daring to try
the guastedda, but once you eat this
delicacy, you will become enthusiastically addicted to this special sandwich.
The origin of the guastella has been
disputed by many scholars who give merit to the Jewish for making it popular in Sicily when some of them moved to
the island around the year 586 BC after being driven out of Judea by the Babylonians.
The gefilteh miltz, a traditional dish made
of spleen stuffed with bread, onions, eggs and cooked in schmaltz, which is rendered chicken fat, is somewhat
similar to the vastedda.
In fact, the guastedda is boiled spleen cooked in lard instead of
schmaltz, stuffed in bread and covered with cheese and ricotta.
There are some similarities between gefilteh miltz and guastedda, so this interpretation could be
A different theory is that the Greeks living in Sicily, who were avid consumers of those special
varieties of meats, popularized the guastedda.
Perhaps the most realistic theory is that it was eaten by the islanders because it
was an inexpensive food, rich with proteins and other nutrients.
Since ancient times, animal trimmings have been considered a delicacy, an aphrodisiac or nourishment with magic
powers. The innards, like tongue, sweetbreads, spleen, kidneys, tripe, liver, lungs, heart and other organs are
used even in present times, and several are sought-after specialties preferred by gourmets.
The intestines of pork are used as casing for sausages and were used in making hot
dogs until the end of the fifties.
In Scotland, haggis refers to intestines stuffed with spleen, liver, lungs, heart, oatmeal and
The Greeks add to this, stuffing the kidneys when making kokoretsi.
The Romans cooked these varieties of meat and served them in their lavish Lucullan
Liverwurst is a tasty liver sausage popular in Germany and in the U.S.A.
Chopped liver and even tongue sandwiches are
favorites in Jewish cuisine.
The French pate de foie gras is ground, seasoned spread of goose liver used as an
appetizer and famous all over the world.
Kidney pie is a very famous English
The interior of fish like the haggamuggie is a specialty
made in the Shetland Islands, consisting of the stomach of a large fish stuffed with fish liver.
Caviar, fish roe, is the choice hors d'oeuvre, served with champagne in lavish
feasts. Similar specialties are made in every cooking style in the world.
in the Provinces of Palermo, Trapani and
In the valley of Belice, a cheese is
exclusively produced and called vastedda
. In this valley
where the provinces of Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento border each other, the sheep produce flavorsome milk
because the region is abundant with field for them to pasture, the soil is rich with minerals and water is
plentiful. In fact, in this area, two rivers called Left Belice River and Right Belice River converge into one
to flow into the Mediterranean Sea near Selinunte. Only in the valley of Beliceis this whole sheep’s milk
cheese produced, hence it is called “vastedda della Valle
Because it is processed
differently and in the old tradition, it can be produced only in the few hottest months of the year and in small
vastedda della Valle di Belice
has to be consumed within a week. It is a fresh cheese, lightly acidulated with a delicate and refreshing taste,
and because it is produced in limited quantity, it is pursued by the gourmets.
“vastidduni” or “guastella” is baked in every Sicilian
province and, from town to town, it has a different flavor and texture.
round breads made with
whole-wheat flour and weighing about two pounds are called “vastidduni” or
“guastidduni,” a big
In the province
of Enna, the
vastedde is also made with whole-wheat
flour, but the different altitude, type of grain and baking technique make the
vastidduni a hearty bread that won’t become
stale for at least a week. In Troina, a small town in the province
, elderberry flowers, is made
with dough containing flour, lard and eggs, stuffed with fresh cheese, pork and affettati (cold
the combination of
whole-wheat flour and the local soft grain flour produces lighter bread that, when it comes out of the oven,
is drizzled—not doused—with the local fresh olive oil and accompanied by a glass of Avola wine. It can be a
a large variety of breads
are produced using the wheat called Timilia, which grows in this
region. The vastidduni
is a round bread with a
hard, dark brown crust and a golden inside, the muddica
Castelvetrano, a large town in the province
of Trapani, the
vastidduni is also
called u pani