If you were following along with my Insta stories at the beginning of November, you may know that I was lucky enough to be eating real food in Ragusa, Sicily. I organised the trip for my hubby’s 40th birthday because Italy is one of his favourite places, but it was also a perfect opportunity for a real food adventure.
This holiday was all about recovering from birthday celebrations or should I say, detoxifying following much too much indulgent food and wine! We wanted to use our time in Ragusa to recharge, reboot and eat some excellent real Italian food. I think we did a pretty good job but as we ate all our meals in restaurants eating 100% real food, was sometimes a challenge. Nevertheless, we tried our best!
And to my surprise, on my return, I had a good result on the scales. More on that later. First, let’s talk about food!
DAY 1: ARRIVED IN RAGUSA, SICILY AT 8.30 PM LOCAL TIME
Our Sicilian real food adventure began in Ragusa Superior, known as the modern part of town. It would be our base over the next six days. Because we arrived late in the evening, we asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation, and she told us about Tipico. We dumped our bags and went straight there.
What’s the first thing to do when eating out in Sicily? EAT PASTA!
RAVIOLI DI RICOTTA CON SUGO DI MAIALINO
My dish of choice was this beautiful Ravioli. Little pillows of pasta, stuffed with creamy, herby ricotta and submerged in a rich, tomato sauce. The sauce had been slow-cooked for hours, resulting in melt-in-your-mouth pork pieces. Heavenly.
BUSIATA CON BROCCOLI, CAPULIATO “POM ESSICCATO”, SALSICCIA E MOLLICA TOSTADA
Hubby had the Broccoli pasta. He devoured it, but unfortunately, I was not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, the flavour was good, but I found the dish as a whole much too dry for my taste.
DAY 2: MARINA DI RAGUSA
If you go to any beachside restaurant in the Marina, be aware that the main ingredient on the menu, and quite rightly, will be fresh fish. Pure and simple, unadulterated fresh fish. Alternative options for non-fish-eating peeps will likely be few and far between.
PIATTO MISTO DI PESCE
My mixed fish plate came with a seabass fillet, a swordfish steak and prawns (shrimps). The fish was pan-fried in olive oil and served with fresh lime. Uncomplicated and satisfying.
PIZZA SALSICCIA AL PEPE E FUNGHI
Hubby went for one of the only non-fish dishes on the menu. Typical!
After a day at the beach, we didn’t feel like hiking too far to get dinner and found ourselves back at Tipico, where we were in for a real treat.
FILETTO DI MAIALINO AL MARSALA CON FARCIA DI FORMAGGIO RAGUSANO E PERE CARAMELLATE
My pork fillet had a crispy outer crust with an intense masala flavour. Almost nutty. By contrast, inside was loaded with gooey, cheesy goodness.
The dish came with caramelised pear wedges on the side. I’ve never had warm pears in a savoury meal before, and I was pleasantly surprised. The pears were soft inside with sweet crispy skin, and they helped to mellow the strong masala flavour.
But overall the Masala in the recipe made the dish too rich for me, and disappointingly I couldn’t get through it. Not like me at all!
TAGLIATA DI CUBE ROLL DI ANGUS ARGENTINO SERVITA CON PATATE AL ROSMARINO
The ribeye steak was served medium as per hubby’s request, sliced and fanned across the plate with a side of crispy rosemary potatoes. Wonderfully simple.
DAY 3: RAGUSA SUPERIOR (NEW TOWN)
Day three was all about doing as little as possible. We started with a late, large continental breakfast, had an hour of relaxation in the spa and then read until our tummies starting rumbling. Must be time for dinner.
We both fancied a light bite and were intrigued by the menu’s Rigatoni pasta. A similar option was available on many local restaurant menus, so surely that meant this was a special dish? And yes, it certainly was.
PASTA “NCASCIATA” OMAGGIO A MONTALABANO RIGATONI AL FORNO CON RAGU DI CARNEM MALANZANE, CACIOCAVALLO RAGUSANO, SALAME E PANGRATTATO
Hand on heart, this was one of the best pasta bakes I’ve ever eaten.
From what I could tell, the base was a generous layer of rigatoni pasta coated with a herby tomato sauce. Then there was a layer of slightly sweet and spicy salami, followed by a second layer of rigatoni. Next up, a layer of torn, fresh and seriously aromatic basil. And just before you think it can’t get any more delicious, there’s a layer of crispy aubergine (eggplant). The dish was made complete with a bountiful topping of breadcrumbs and caciocavallo cheese.
Oh, la, la. What a good choice. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
DAY 4: IBLA, RAGUSA (OLD TOWN)
On day four, we navigated our way down the many, oh so many steps as we ventured into the old town, Ibla. One of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. I often found myself stopping in awe wondering how on earth the buildings were able to seemingly overhang sheer cliff faces, one on top of the other as if by magic. So much history waiting beyond every corner. And, of course, a tasty lunch awaiting us.
When we came across the restaurant ‘That’s a Moro’ we had to go in. The entire building is bursting with art, furniture, pottery and treasures all created by local artists. So much so that the owner refers to his popular eatery as a restaurant museum. This place is bright, cheerful, quirky and full of Sicilian spirit. Beautiful. And so was the food.
FILETTO DI SALMONE AL FORNO CON CROSTA DI PISTACCHIO
VERDURE ALLA GRIGLIA
I had this perfectly cooked salmon with veggies and ordered extra grilled vegetables on the side. Don’t judge me, I had done so much walking I had built up a hunger!
TORTELLACCI AI PORCINI CON SALSA DI POMODORINI SPECK E ZUCCHINE
Hubby fancied the pasta. It took him all of two minutes to devour this little carb sensation.
After lunch, it was time to head back to the hotel, which took ages because of ALL THE STEPS. Man oh man, I thought my heart was going to explode. But, such good exercise! No wonder all the locals are super fit. I don’t think it would be possible to be overweight if you lived here!
On route, we stopped by a little bakery and got ourselves a snack in case we were hungry later in the evening.
There doesn’t appear to be a direct translation for this bread. Various sources give it the name Lasagne Bread, Tomato & Cheese Pie and Stuffed Flat Bread.
To me, the name Lasagne Bread works perfectly. The texture and flavours are what you would expect from a lasagne. At first, this comes as a surprise, as there is no pasta in this bread. Just thin layers of dough folded back and forth, alternating between scrummy layers of cheese and tomato sauce.
We first came across this bread at breakfast, as it is served every morning at the hotel. But the smell (although delightful) was too garlic-heavy for breakfast time, in my opinion. Not ideal before or after brushing your teeth!
But, extremely appetising any other time of the day!
DAY 5: EXPLORING SCALA DEI TURCHI
On day five, we jumped in the car and headed 3 hours west of the Island to Scala Dei Turchi to see the ancient white cliffs and then back inland to Agrigento to bypass Greek ruins. After all that driving we had lunch overlooking the sea and ate more pasta, and we were ready for it!!
When we had no energy left for sightseeing, we took the scenic route back to the hotel adventuring (and braving) the winding mountainous roads. All great fun until the thunder and lightning hit and the rain started to pour. We arrived at our hotel four hours later, and by then it was time for dinner. I had worked up an appetite. It was time for steak.
FILETTO DI MANZO MODICANO AGLI AROMI, LA SUA SALSA CON PATATE E PEPERONI ALL’ACETO BALSAMICO
A good quality piece of beef = a good steak and this was a great steak. So, not much more to say about that. The greatest surprise to me about this dish was the small diced mixed vegetables drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It showed me the importance of spending a few extra bucks on a good quality balsamic vinegar. It’s capable of transforming your ingredients into something incredibly special.
DAY 6: IBLA, RAGUSA (OLD TOWN)
Our final day in Ragusa was spent back in Ibla, blissfully wandering around the local shops, landmarks and park.
Today we had our hearts set on experiencing some of our favourite Italian foods we often eat at home, here in their true authentic style. So for lunch, we decided on Spaghetti Carbonara.
SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA
Hubby had a concerned frown when his plate of Carbonara arrived. He whispered, “Why is it so yellow?”.
He was eating a ‘real’ Carbonara, made with fresh pasta and a sauce of egg yolks, cheese (Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano) and starchy pasta water. All naturally yellow ingredients.
Over the years, he has become accustomed to eating supermarket versions that include ingredients like cream and cornflour, making them white in comparison.
A yellow, authentic Carbonara, made by an Italian chef. “Eccellente!”
For dinner, we ate pizza at Konza. We chose Konza because their pizza bases are made using Ancient Sicilian Grain Flour. Flour that is wholegrain, high in protein, fibre and low in gluten. Perfect for a real food diet.
MARGARITA & PRIMAVERA PIZZA
Hubby had the Primavera, a pizza loaded with a herby tomato sauce, mozzarella, baked ham and a medley of vegetables. The flavour combo was insane.
I ordered a classic Margarita, and it was exceptional. The crust was thin, light and crispy. Just what you’d expect from an authentic Italian pizza crust. The chef scattered fresh basil leaves over the bubbling mozzarella straight from the pizza oven. The fragrance was sensational.
And get this, my Margarita was only €4.50. I don’t know anywhere in the UK where I could find a pizza of this quality for only £3.85! What!?
The perfect end to a perfect day.
DAY 7: GOING HOME
After a fabulous six days in Sicily, it was time to go home. Our trip of eating real food in Sicilian real food adventure was coming to an end. But not before one final pasta dish near Catania airport.
PASTA ALLA NORMA
Pasta in a tomato sauce with aubergines hidden under a mountain of creamy ricotta, and a sprinkle of almonds to add some crunch. This classic Sicilian dish seemed like the perfect way to end our holiday.
Soon after, we were boarding the plane at Catalana airport taking in the magnificent views of Mount Etna in the distance.
My oh my, I just loved eating real food in Ragusa Sicily. If I were asked to sum up my food experiences, I would say – simple food, made with fresh seasonal ingredients that pack the flavour.
After all the food I tasted that week, I now have some great ideas of how I can make entirely real food versions of some of these classic Italian dishes you see here on this post. I will add links to the recipe posts here once I have finished experimenting with the ingredients and fleshed out the recipes.
WEIGHT LOSS UPDATE
I wasn’t planning on talking about weight loss until I had been blogging for a while and I started to feel more comfortable with putting myself out there to the world. But, I had a change of heart when I hopped on the weighing scales on my return. Despite being mindful about choosing real food options or as close to it as possible, I was still expecting a weight gain, because well, that’s what usually happens after a holiday, right?
So imagine my surprise when I actually lost weight. In fact, I LOST 8.8 lbs. What?!
I lost weight despite eating in restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, that’s despite eating food I love to eat.
How? Well, here’s what I think happened.
- I consistently ate three meals a day, and I didn’t snack.
- I ate one course at dinner, skipping the starters and desserts.
- I didn’t drink alcohol or soda.
- I drank a large bottle of water with every meal.
- I walked A LOT! Up and down sooooo many steps!
- I made a point of asking the servers questions to ensure I was eating as much real food as possible. (This felt a little uncomfortable at first and it was sometimes challenging because of the language barrier. But I soon got used to it, and the restaurants seemed genuinely happy to chat about their food.)
- More often than not I ordered a side of Italian Grilled Vegetables to fill me up. The vegetables served were very similar in every restaurant we visited – aubergine, courgette and red pepper. Sometimes the plate included tomatoes, mushrooms and/or onions.
REAL FOOD FOR THE WIN!
Arrivederci! (Bye for Now!)
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