There is much more to Sicilian food culture than many people outside of Italy realize. Mastering the art of Sicilian cooking is not just a matter of learning recipes but it requires a whole approach to the preparation and eating of food. This approach can be understood, among other ways, through a series of unwritten “rules” that guide most Sicilians culinary habits.
Always eat what’s in season. Actually this rule should be valid anywhere, Sicilians still do follow it by and large. Asparagus are in the spring,zucchini, tomatoes and peppers in the summer, mushrooms for the fall, cabbage and hearty stews in the winter, and so on ,this rule is only my opinion. In the last few years in many supermarkets you will find out of season fruits and vegetables, imported from warmer climates, they are usually very expensive and of course not very tasty. Frozen vegetables are also another option, which also allows for out of season cooking but at the expense of freshness and taste.
In the Sicilian food culture there is no such thing as a “main course”, but rather a series of courses of varying number, depending on the occasion, usually a (primo)first course of pasta, soup,rice, etc. and a (secondo) second course of meat, fish, or vegetable, often served with a (contorno) side dish of vegetables. Fresh fruit usually is served as dessert. For a more formal occasions an (antipasto) appetizer comes before the primo, it is increasingly common, to have the piatto unico, (single dish), that serves as both primo and a secondo..
When cooking pasta you may ask what exactly ‘al dente’ means . Sicilians will consider ‘al dente’ a relatively firmer consistency, in no case should pasta be chalky to the bite, nor should it be mushy or soggy, the pasta should provide a little resistance when you bite into it. Please be aware that pasta will continue to cook for a while after it is drained, even more so if you mix it with its sauce over low heat, as some recipes call for. Do drain your pasta while it is still just slightly ‘underdone’ for your taste.
Equally important, in my mind, to cooking pasta al dente, is making sure that the pasta is cooked in plenty of well salted water. Usually the general ‘rule of thumb’ is one liter of salted water for each 100g of pasta, the normal portion of pasta for one person is between 75 to 100 grams. The water should actually taste salty, like a soup or your pasta will be insipid.