Travel Notes blog
Sicilian spring delights: a recipe from one of the world’s best chefs
by Max Lane
5 min read

Sicilian spring delights: a recipe from one of the world’s best chefs

Sicilian spring delights: a recipe from one of the world’s best chefs
Learn more about renowned chef Christian Puglisi, and his upcoming unique cookery retreat at our Sicilian villa, Rocca delle Tre Contrade. In this blog, immerse yourself in the flavors of spring, traditional Sicilian cuisine, and a special recipe from Puglisi.

In Sicily, spring arrives deliciously early. In February, almond trees across the island defy winter with their bursting rosé-white blossom. In March, dormant fields and pastures take on intense green hues and dance in the breeze with a multitude of wildflowers. By April, the air is fragrant with the heady, sun-kissed scents of primavera.


Soon, the bounty of Sicily’s fertile soil lands on the island’s market stalls: peas, fava beans, artichokes, asparagus, spring greens, strawberries, medlars and peaches arrive in a mouthwatering procession that make locals beam - the reappearance of such treasured delights is like meeting old friends.

One person who can’t wait to get back to experience all this is Christian F. Puglisi, a Norwegian-Sicilian (or Sicilian-Norwegian) chef, who will be returning to our villa Rocca delle Tre Contrade from 4th to 11th May 2024, to host his third culinary retreat there.

Discover the Puglisi retreat


Born in Messina, just up the east coast of Sicily from Rocca delle Tre Contrade, Christian moved to Denmark with his family when he was eight. After working as a sous-chef in Noma, and honing his skills at El Bulli, in 2010, he opened his first restaurant, Relae, in the heart of Copenhagen. It soon earned a Michelin Star and was included in the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants for several years. In 2020, it was time to move on, and he closed Relae to concentrate on his two other creations: Baest, an award-winning Italian restaurant, and Mirabelle Spiserìa, an eatery inspired by his previous stays at Rocca delle Tre Contrade and the subsequent reawakening of his passion for Sicilian culinary traditions.


In anticipation of his forthcoming residence at Rocca delle Tre Contrade, we asked him about his love of Sicilian cuisine and what he’s looking forward to most about returning to the island of his birth.

“Sicily is a very important part of my heritage and it’s a big part of my identity in general. In terms of cooking, I’ve always been inspired by simplicity, nothing too elaborate, and I think that this can be traced back to the Sicilian-Italian approach to cooking. The first thing I always want to eat when I go back to Sicily is my aunt’s cooking, traditional food, like pasta al forno (a baked pasta dish with meat and tomato sauce, aubergines and ricotta cheese), which will be ready when I arrive. Then there’s stuffed aubergines…


“For this next adventure at Rocca delle Tre Contrade, I’m really looking forward to the sense of spring, things like peas and fava beans. It’s the first signs of spring, the greens that really attract me. I’m also looking forward to meeting and spending time with the participants. These retreats are a really rewarding way to cook with and for people. In a normal restaurant set up, it can be difficult to carry through all the messages I want communicate, but when you’re with a group of people for a long time and they’re involved in the process, you can really engage and go deeper into the significance of what you’re all doing. For me, it’s a new way to deal with food.


“It will also be great to be reunited with Dora [Rocca delle Tre Contrade’s beloved in-villa chef]. Everything she cooks is incredible. Her combination of experience and curiosity – she’s so open to new things and curious about how others work – is great. I’ve never met anybody like her before. If I can be so open-minded when I’m her age, then I’ve really reached a goal. She’s fantastic.”

Puglisi’s love of communicating ideas and discussing and sharing food is even more evident when we ask him what the most important non-culinary ingredient to a successful meal is: “The people. There’s no such thing as a great dinner without good company. We chefs sometimes forget that we’re not in the front line. It’s whoever is facing you and having dinner with you that’s the most important factor.”

If you have a love of spring and Sicilian culinary magic, and would like to spend time cooking with a great chef in one of the very top villas in the Mediterranean, why not join Christian and his team this May? Find out more here and then try out Chef Puglisi’s recipe for pistachio brownie below.

Christian Puglisi's pistachio brownie recipe

This is a soft and moist variant of the traditional "brownie", using Sicilian almonds and pistachios (gluten-free).Makes 2-4 portions


50g pistachio paste

50g white chocolate

15g butter

1 egg

40g almond flour

25g corn starch

65g sugar


1/2 lemon

A handful of whole almonds for decoration


You can make the almond flour yourself by blitzing blanched or peeled almonds for a few seconds in your blender. To make the pistachio paste yourself, blitz 50g of untoasted and unsalted Sicilian pistachios with a tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Melt the butter and white chocolate in a glass bowl over a simmering water bath. Add the pistachio paste to the melting butter and chocolate, and take off the water bath when it is all soft and melted.

Crack one egg into a mixing bowl and add the sugar. Use a simple hand blender to whip until fluffy, then add the lemon zest and juice of half a lemon. Whip the mixture a bit more.  Add the almond flour, cornstarch, salt and finally the pistachio and chocolate mixture. Fold everything together and then pour into the baking tin lined with parchment paper.

Decorate with whole almonds.

Bake at 185°c (365°f) for about 25 minutes.