Concetta Pagano Mavilia, my grandmother's cousin (1983)
My mother (center) with Concetta,
her husband Giuseppe, daughter Rosetta,
and granddaughter Giovanna.
Gesso is a small town situated in the hills of Messina
Province. It derives its name from the mineral, calcium
sulfate, or gypsum, a resource that once provided
economic security for the town. One of the first Norman
battles against the Saracens occurred nearby, and to
celebrate their victory, the Normans erected a church and
monastery dedicated to San Gregorio Magno, Saint
Gregory the Great. The old railway station that now lies
defunct near the gypsum quarry, is on the site of the
former monastery.

The town also saw battles during the end of the Bourbon
era, and in the last century, the Italian resistance and
inhabitants of Gesso shielded American soldiers from
German forces during WWII.
The former home of my maternal  grandmother's  cousins
family on via Belvedere, which sits near the top of the
narrow main road. The rear  terrace of the property
overlooks a  spledid view of the mountains and sea, as
seen in the photo below.
Gesso is the proud home of a small museum dedicated
to popular Sicilian musical instruments,
Museo Cultura
e Musica Popolare dei Peloritani. I have yet to visit the
museum, but look forward to seeing the exhibit on my
next trip.
Gesu Cristo, la Madonna e le Aninme Purganti,
Chiesa Madre di San Antonio Abate, Gesso.

The painter Onofrio Gabrieli (1619-1706), a native of
Gesso, returned there to pass his remaining years.
Gabrieli's paintings are on view in churches and
museums throughout Sicily and Italy. In 1983, an
extensive exhibition of his work was on display in
Gesso that I was fortunate enough to see, thanks to
my cousins.
Concetta Pagano Mavilia, my grandmother's cousin
My cousins, Franco, Annamaria, Giovanna,
Antonio and Domenica.
Rosetta Mavilia Giacobbe
and Ciccino Giacobbe
pagnottelle alla Rosetta

rosetta's pagnottelle


300    gr. di farina
300    gr. di patate (già  lessate e schiacciate)
25      gr. di burro
3-4     cucchiai di latte
10      gr. di lievito di birra
1        pizzico di sale
2        uova
           cubetti di mozzarella
           cubetti di prosciutto (o mortadella)

Dopo aver sciolto il burro ed il lievito nel latte, si impasta il
tutto con la farina e le patate, aggiungendo il sale e le 2

Ottenuta una pasta molto morbida, si formano sul palmo
della mano delle palline  e si farciscono con cubetti di
mozzarella e prosciutto.

Si lasciano lievitare e poi si friggono in abbondante olio.

Con queste dosi si ottengono circa 20 pagnottelle.
sfincione alla nonna

grandmother's sicilian pizza


for the dough:

3     cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1     tablespoon sea salt
1     package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1     cup warm water, plus (spring water)

for the topping

2     tablespoons olive oil
4     medium-sized onions
2     tablespoons dried oregano
6     anchovy filets (optional)
        extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


for the dough

Warm the water to 105° F, then pour 1/2 cup into a small bowl,
and stir in the yeast. Let the yeast dissolve until it foams, about
15 minutes.

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the center,
then add the salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the yeast
and the rest of the water to the well and work the dough into a
ball. Turn out the dough onto a flour-dusted work surface and
slowly knead the dough for about 10 to 15 minutes until it is
smooth and elastic, adding more flour if the dough seems too

Dust the bowl with flour and place the dough in the bowl, dust
the top of the dough with flour. Cover the bowl with a kitchen
towel and place it in a warm spot and let the dough rise for at
least 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Once the dough has finished rising, brush a 12 x 18-inch baking
sheet with olive oil. Gently punch down the dough and place it in
the pan. Using your fingers, shape the dough to line the pan and
fit it to the edges of the pan. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel
and allow the dough to rise for at least 30 minutes.

When the dough is ready, spread  the onions over the top of the
dough and gently press them into the surface, then sprinkle with
oregano, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the bottom of
the crust turns golden brown.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and slice into squares  and serve.

for the topping

Peel the onions and cut them into 1/4 inch slices. Place the onions
in a sauté pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over moderate heat
and cook for about 10 minutes until translucent and lightly
golden, add the salt and set aside.

If using anchovies, omit the salt, finely chop the anchovies and
stir them in with the onions.
                                                            the food of the eolian islands and sicily

copyright © la cucina eoliana e siciliana 2012 ~ all rights reserved
Casa Giacobbe