In Syracuse, I stayed on the island of Ortigia, just at the tip of the Syracuse peninsula. The island is connected to the main city of Syracuse by three bridges and bordered by the deep blue waters of the Meditterean.
We spent the first half of the day taking an Ortigia boat tour. The little boat slipped in and out of the rocky grottos. One grotto after another with different names; one was named green, one violet, one inammorata (because the opening was the shape of a heart), one coral. I had a hard time keeping up with the captain as he rattled the names off in a thick Sicilian accent, which chopped off endings of words. I kept repeating the words in my schoolbook Italian and awful Amercian accent to make sure I was understanding correctly, as if knowing the name of each grotto was necessary to admire its beauty. Luckily he found me more of an amusement then an annoyance, and he started repeating the names without my asking.
We stopped a few times so we could "fare un bagno nel mare" (literally meaning--take a bath in the ocean). With the ocean so blue and clear it's impossible to resist jumping in for a bath.
After a day on the boat, I wanted a dish that tasted of the sea. The pasta plate named after the city of Siracuse is just that; it's fish and salt and the breadcrumbs soak up these flavors. The taste lingers on the tongue like the salty sea on my skin after my bath in the ocean.
You can find Spaghetti Siracusana on the menu at most of the trattorie in Syracuse. Each trattoria has its own version, adding tomatoes, raisins, and/or pinenuts to the dish. All Spaghetti Siracusana have capers, breadcrumbs, and olive oil at the base. Below is my version of Spaghetti Siracusana. Let me know how you like it and whether you made changes to make your own version.
About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound peeled plum tomatoes, pressed through a mesh strainer
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 salt-cured anchovies, rinsed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons salt-cured capers, rinsed
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
8 basil leaves, torn
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup freshly ground pecorino cheese
Heat the olive oil. Add the eggplant and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and let reduce for about 10 minutes. Add the anchovies, capers, olives and basil and heat through.
Meanwhile, boil two quarts of lightly salted water. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce, tossing the mixtures together. Off the heat, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and pecorino cheese and serve.