Pasta alla Paolina, the typical recipe from Palermo
Let’s embark on a delicious journey to discover Paolina pasta, a traditional Sicilian recipe prepared in two different variations.
‘The Pasta Palìna, later Italianized as pasta alla paolina, is a tasty first course typical of Palermo cuisine. Going back to the original recipe was really difficult and we’re not even sure if we succeeded. What is known about this typical product is that was born in a monastery but what were the ingredients used in the beginning is not clear. Of course there’s no shortage of garlic, onion and tomato but as far as sardines, cauliflower, anchovies and fennel are concerned, the matter gets more complicated and let’s see why.
Bucatini alla Paolina: history of the dish
Pasta alla Paolina was prepared for the first time by a cooking friar of the convent of San Francesco di Paola in Palermo. The monastery followed the rule of the Paulines and, as “minimum friars” they had the absolute prohibition of consuming meat, fish and substitutes. So it wasn’t easy to bring a new dish to the table every day that somehow existed satisfying to the palate and so they did their best to exploit the ingredients available in the garden.
In its basic version, this dish from the monasteries included a tomato sauce flavored with garlic and onion and enriched with different spices including cinnamon and cloves. Following the “rule” of the monastery therefore all the versions with sardines should be banned while those with the addition of the cauliflower. In short, when it comes to this recipe it is really difficult to come to a certain conclusion.
How to prepare the recipe for bucatini alla Paolina
- First, heat a drizzle of oil in a pan with the whole garlic clove and the finely chopped onion. Then add the anchovies (for a veg version you can omit them) e let them melt over low heat before adding the tomato pulp. Season with the chopped cloves and the ground cinnamon, season with salt and leave cook for 15 minutes.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water for the time indicated on the package.
- Meanwhile, in a pan, heat a drizzle of oil and toast the breadcrumbs.
- Once the pasta is ready, drain it and toss it in the hot sauce, adding the freshly chopped basil. Distributed on plates and completed with a sprinkling of toasted bread.
Paolina pasta with cauliflower
This is most likely the most accredited variant and similar to the original. Preparing it is equally simple and, as indicated in the main recipe, it will be sufficient to omit the anchovies to obtain a vegan first course.
To prepare the cauliflower pasta (one of medium size), wash it well under running water, cut it into florets and blanch them in salted water for 10 minutes (you will then use the same water to cook the pasta). Retrieve the vegetables with a slotted spoon and chop them coarsely with a knife then transfer them to the pan together with the oil and the now melted anchovy. Continue as per the recipe, adding the tomato pulp and you’re done.
However, we advise you to also try the delicious pasta with sardines, another classic of Sicilian cuisine.
Pasta alla Paolina can be kept in refrigerator for a couple of days. You can heat it both in a pan and in the microwave before consuming it.
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