Agrigento and its province is one of the richest places in the world for archeological treasures; the culinary landscape is diverse and tasteful reminiscent of its history, folklore and traditions. La Valle dei Tempi, Temples’ Valley where many Greek temples are located, is a territory south of Agrigento, gently sloping towards the sea where the town of Porto Empedocle Vigata, a port city on the coast of the Strait of Sicily, is situated about 7 miles away.
The cooking of this province is very familiar to me because my family has been very close friends with the Trapani family, originally from Porto Empedocle. We spend festivities, holidays and week-ends together, enjoying each others cooking specialties and sharing our friendship while having good conversation and good times. My brother-in-law Valentino Amodio, my sister Anna Maria’s husband, is also from Porto Empedocle, and I have had many opportunities to sample the Agrigento cooking style of his family.
Some of the specialties prepared by the Trapani’s for any occasion and any occasion is always a good excuse, are the cuddiruni and the small focaccia bread stuffed with olives and scallions called ‘nmiscati or a variation the “mignulati” stuffed with sausage meat and cheese.
Cuddiruni is a rectangular focaccia stuffed with fried onions, tomatoes, sliced boiled potatoes, anchovies, herbs and cheese. The “cuddiruni in bianco”, a “white” version is made using cauliflower instead of tomato. Each family makes variations sometime adding meat, fish or vegetables.
Those specialties we eat at picnics, at the beach, at parties and without fail for Christmas Eve and New Year Eve.
- Serves: 8
- 2 lbs flour
- 2 oz fresh active yeast or 3 envelopes of dry yeast
- pinch of salt
- (or buy 2 lbs of bread dough in your local Italian bakery)
- 5 medium onions, sliced ¼ of inch
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 1 can (28 oz) Italian peeled tomatoes
- 4 cups boiled potatoes, sliced or chopped, about 1¼ lbs raw
- salt and pepper
- 10 salted filleted anchovies, rinsed (optional)
- ½ cup of grated caciocavallo cheese
- ½ cup of diced caciocavallo cheese
- ½ cup of breadcrumbs
- ¼ teaspoon of oregano
- greased baking pan 13 x 8
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil for baking
- In a bowl mix ½ cup of warm water with the yeast.
- Add ½ cup of flour, mix until it is well blended and a soft dough is obtained.
- If it is too dry add some water, if it is too watery add some flour.
- Set aside covered in a warm place.
- After 45 minutes to 1 hour combine the risen dough with the remaining flour, add some lukewarm water, a pinch of salt and knead to obtain an elastic dough, similar to bread dough.
- Make a ball, cut across the top to allow it to rise again, cover and put in a warm place until it almost doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours.
- In a 4 qt. saucepan, over a medium flame, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil with the onions and add a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions release their liquid. Place onion in a colander to drain the cooking liquids.
- In a 4 qt. saucepan, over a medium flame heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil with the drained onions and sauté for 5 minutes or until the onions are light golden in color, stirring frequently.
- Meanwhile drain peeled tomatoes, cut them in half and eliminate some seeds.
- Add the tomatoes to the onion.
- Lower heat to low, add salt and pepper and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Set on the side. If it results too moist, drain the liquid.
To Assemble Edit
- When dough is ready, split it in 2 pieces.
- Briefly knead each piece and roll one to cover the greased baking pan 13 x 8.
- Making sure that the dough goes a little over the edge of the pan.
- Pour the onion-tomato sauce into the pan and evenly spread the potatoes, and grated cheese over it.
- Push into the sauce the diced caciocavallo and the anchovies; sprinkle the oregano uniformly.
- Moisten the edge of the impanata with water and knead the other piece of dough, roll and place it on the top.
- Seal it well and pinch it all around to make sure it is firmly sealed.
- With a fork pinch a few holes on top to permit the vapor to escape.
- Make some indentations with your finger on top of the cuddiruni, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil, shake over the breadcrumbs and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top of the breadcrumbs.
- Preheat oven at 400 degrees, bake for 15 minutes, rotate it and continue baking for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until light golden brown.
- Serve hot.