I had the good fortune to be able visit Natalia Ravidà and several generations of her family several years ago when I took a trip to Sicily. I was a huge fan of her family’s estate-bottled extra-virgin olive oil. The exquisite, lush oil had been produced on the family estate, in Menfi, in southwestern Sicily, for hundreds of years, and for most of that time was used only by her family. Natalia started promoting the family oil in l991, and it is now available worldwide. I first picked up a bottle at a Williams-Sonoma store in Manhattan. Ravidà oil has gone on to win numerous awards.
Natalia has now gathered her family recipes and stories in a beautiful new book called Seasons of Sicily: Recipes from the South of Sicily (New Holland Publishers, 208 pages, $29.95). From it you’ll learn the history of La Gurra, the family’s ancestral estate and olive grove, and you’ll enjoy recipes for Sicilian classics such as pasta con zucchini e fiori di zucca (with zucchini blossoms); spaghetti con pesto di mandorle fresche (fresh almond pesto); frittella, a springtime stew of favas, artichokes, and peas; shrimp sautéed in the island’s famous Marsala wine; and gelo di melone, a chilled watermelon pudding flavored with pistachios, cinnamon, and jasmine flowers, all legacies of Sicily’s Arab past. All the recipes are both traditional and personal, with little family touches that have a history of their own but impart a contemporary, fresh feel. And the book is loaded with gorgeous photos of the Ravidà estate and olive trees, and of course the food. If you love Sicilian food (and I know you do, since you’re visiting my website), you’ll find this book to be a real treasure.