One of the most enjoyable times of my short stay in Lipari was undoubtedly the break I treated me with at the Chitarra Bar in Marina Corta: two hours chilling out in the sun, with a stunning view on this little corner of the world and a delicious Sicilian pistachio granita. Pure perfection!
Chatting with Maria Rosa, co-owner of the bar with her brother, I got to discover the history and traditions of this famous dessert and of course I had her explain to me how to prepare a homemade version …
Granita is a semi-frozen dessert, creamy, refreshing, and gritty at the same time. Sicily is a real institution, and according to the tradition, it’s part of the morning breakfast (once served with fresh crusty bread, now replaced by a delicious brioche locally known as tuppu). You can actually enjoy it any time during the day, sitting in the shade, on the beach, or during a cool evening stroll downtown.
This dessert is an evolution of the sherbet, the iced drink flavored with fruit juice or rose water imported to the island during the Arab domination. In Sicily, the snow collected on the Etna, the Peloritani, and Nebrodi and stowed in the nivieri, the typical stony ice-store built on natural caves, became the basis of this recipe. The layers of ice were then scratched during the summer and flavored as usual and until the early twentieth century.
During the last century, it turned out that the snow mixed with salt could refrigerate this sweet drink and Sicilian people developed the precursor of the ice cream machine, the so-called pozzetto (i.e., cockpit) that you can still find in some antiquarian shop: it is a wooden vat containing a zinc bucket isolated by layers of straw and connected to a handle that allows maintaining the granita in motion to avoid large ice crystals that would be tasteless.
At the Chitarra Bar in Lipari, the granita is produced exclusively with mineral water, sugar, and strictly seasonal fresh fruit: watermelon, peach, fig, Etna black mulberry, lemon, orange, and tangerine (all organic and untreated).
Here’s how to prepare the Sicilian granita:
- 1 l of natural mineral water
- 250 ml of lemon juice
- 250 gr of sugar
First of all, let a lemon cut into four segments macerate into the water, then grate the zest of another lemon in the flavored water and add the sugar. Blend it all by dissolving the sugar on low fire. Have it cool down, filter with a strainer, and add the lemon juice.
At this point, you can put it in the freezer, blending it every two hours. Before serving your granita, mix it once more with a hand blender or a mixer (at low speed).
The Sicilian granita is served in a glass of clear glass, perhaps with a sprinkle of whipped cream 😉
I only tried the lemon granita, but this spring, I want to try the one with fresh almonds, and I look forward to summertime to play around with watermelon, melon, and other seasonal fruits!
And you? What flavour do you prefer?