What is a Vastedda?  

  

  

The “vastedda”, “guastedda” or “guastella” can be the popular sandwich made exclusively in Palermo , a soft, fresh cheese, plain round bread, or a lard bread stuffed with cheese, salami and “ sambuco”, the elderberry flowers.

  

  

What Is In A Word... 

  

The word “guastedda ” 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 amuffoletta   to hold food. Another assumption, with arguments open to discussions, it is alleged that in Hamitic, a language spoken by the Berbers, the word sounding  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 Sea.
The
  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 Africa populations, where the Semite-Hamitic language is spoken.
The Pastil is a pie made with few layers of paper thin dough similar to a strudel or the phyllo dough and stuffed with an elaborate creamy and boneless chicken filling, originally made with squabs and enriched with raisins, pine nuts, cinnamon and honey. 
 
These pies, similar to the
  empanadas, impanate, schiacciate or other baked specialties were cooked for religious celebrations, festivals and on special occasions long before the Romans dominated the Mediterranean Sea.
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.
At the present time the
  pastelis is still cooked in Syria and it is a popular pie and a local specialty. 
The Jewish population living in the area known as
Israel also prepared this dish that could be cooked in advance and eaten for the Shabbats.
Between 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 local available provisions.
The name morphed with time and
  Bastil, or Pastille was Latinized into  Pastellus, Gastellus, and Wastellus and in later days into  Guastelle or Vasteddi.
This specialty eaten from prehistoric to modern times reached all over the world.
The
  pastille was served to Richard, the Lion Hearted, and today, the meat pie, a distant cousin of the  pastille, became an English delicacy.
The French and the Canadian stuff it with pork, beef and potatoes and changed the name to tourtiere or tortiere. 

  

  

The “Vastedde” In Palermo 

  

In Palermo the “vastedda ” or “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. 
The bread used for the vastedda is a small
  muffoletta, a round three and 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 ” derives from Latin “muffula ” meaning glove or small sack.
In 1906, a Sicilian, Salvatore Lupo at the Central Grocery in
New Orleans, Louisiana , introduced and offered for sale the “muffoletta ” stuffed with cold cuts, cheeses and giardiniera in olive oil and his signature sandwich became a New Orleans tradition.

The “vastedda” “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, the “sfincione ”, in fancy settings restaurant style.
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 “Gefilteh Miltz” 

  

The originality 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 when they were driven out of Judea by the Babylonians.
The “
gefilteh miltz”, a traditional dish made with spleen stuffed with bread, onions, eggs, and cooked in “schmaltz ”, which is rendered chicken fat, it is somewhat similar to the “vastedda ”.
In fact the “
guastedda ” is boiled spleen cooked in lard instead of “schmaltz ”, it is stuffed in bread and covered with cheese and ricotta.
There are some similarities between “
gefilteh miltz” and “guastedda”  so this interpretation could be acceptable. 
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 the   haggis are intestines stuffed with spleen, liver, lungs, heart, oatmeal and suet, the Greeks add to this stuffing the kidneys when making the  kokoretsi. The Romans cooked these varieties of meat and served them in their lavish Lucullan banquets.
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 dish.  The interiors of fish like the  haggamuggie is a specialty made in the Shetland Islands that consist of the stomach of a large fish stuffed with fish liver. The caviar, fish roe, is the choice hors d'oeuvre served with champagne in lavish feasts. Similar and other specialties are made in every cooking style in the world. 

  

  

The “Vastedde” In The Provinces Of Palermo Trapani And Agrigento 

  

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 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 Belice is this whole sheep’s milk cheese produced, hence it is called “vastedda della Valle di Belice”. 
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 quantities.


The “
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.  

  

  

The Other "Vastedde” 

  

Bread called “vastedde”, “vastidduni” or “guastella” is baked in every Sicilian province and from town to town it has a different flavor and texture.
In the
province of Agrigento round breads made with whole-wheat flour and weighing about two pounds is called “vastidduni” or “guastidduni”, a big “vastedda ”.   

 
In the
province of Enna the   vastedde is also made with whole-wheat flour but the different altitude, type of grain and baking technique makes the Ennese “vastidduni ” hearty bread that won’t become stale for at least a week. In Troina, a small town in the province of Enna , the “vastedda ” with “sammucu ”, the elderberry flowers, is made with dough containing flour, lard, and eggs, stuffed with fresh cheese, pork and “affettati” –cold cuts.
In
Syracuse 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 complete meal.
In
Trapani a large variety of breads are produced using the wheat called  Timilia, which grows in this region. The “vastidduni ” is round bread with a hard dark brown crust and a golden inside, the “muddica ”. In Castelvetrano, a large town in the province of Trapani , the “vastidduni ” is also called “u pani niuru”.