Sicilian Christmas Pasta: Sciabbo

December 22, 2012

I posted this recipe last year: Sicilian Christmas noodles, otherwise known as sciabbo.

It’s a wonderfully easy dish from Pomp and Sustenance by Mary Taylor Simeti. Mary is an authority on Sicilian cuisine and its history, and I’m thrilled she allowed me to share it with you.

Take a look at some of the ingredients:

Some of the ingredients for sciabbo, Sicilian Christmas noodles, copyright Jann Huizenga

Mmmm! Cocoa and cinnamon and red wine and onion go into sciabbo.

The complete list of ingredients:

1 medium onion

1/4 cup olive oil

3/4 pound pork meat, diced small (I used ground pork)

2 T tomato extract (or 3 T tomato paste)

1/2 cup red wine

2 cups plain tomato sauce (I used a good store-bought sauce)

2 cups water


1/2 t ground cinnamon

1 T sugar

1 T unsweetened cocoa

1.5 pounds lasagna ricce (I used pappardelle)


Sauté the onion in the oil until soft. Add the pork and cook, stirring, until browned. Add the tomato extract and the wine, stirring to dissolve the extract completely.

Cooking Sciabbo, Sicilian Christmas Noodles, copyright Jann Huizenga

Add the tomato sauce and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick.

Sciabbo, Sicilian Christmas Noodles, copyright Jann Huizenga

Correct the salt (if the extract is salty, it may not be necessary to add more). Stir in the cinnamon, sugar, and cocoa.

Cook the pasta in abundant salted water until it is al dente, drain well, and toss with the sauce. You may wish to serve grated cheese on the side, although I think sciabbo is better without it.

Sciabbo, Christmas Noodles, copyright Jann Huizenga

Merry Christmas! Sending warm, fuzzy thoughts your way.


Some Sicilian-Americans still cook seven fishes for Christmas Eve, but Mary Taylor Simeti emailed me that this tradition pretty much died out in Sicily itself after World War II. She has written other wonderful books too, including Sicilian Food: Recipes from an Abundant Isle and a memoir, On Persephone’s Island.


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26 comments to Sicilian Christmas Pasta: Sciabbo

  • I fell behind on my blog-reading and just read this today. I wish I had read this before Christmas – I would have added it to our table! I think I may make this for New Years instead. Thanks and thanks to Mary Taylor Simeti for letting you post this yummy looking recipe.

    • Jann

      Hope you’re having a wondrous holiday, Diane!!! And hope the recipe turns out well for you if you make it. xxxxxx

  • Jann,
    this looks FABulously exquisite.

    How was your Christmas? What did you eat? Xxxxx

  • cemal karahan

    Bon appetit to you all….! Can’t it be made with lamb meat or other meat other than pork…?

  • Oh yum! The main dish and dessert all on the same plate! Saves on time and dirty dishes.
    Wishing you all that is merry and bright, cozy and loving, spicy and delightful for the holiday season and spilling over into the New Year!

  • This is Sicily Jann. Multi-layered. Apparently simple but actually very exotic….Buon natale e buon appetito cara. Un abbraccio.

  • Buon Natale, Jann, e buon anno!

  • Anasthasia

    I guess I will do the Christmas recipe on New Years
    as I’m running out of time and energy. Thank you for
    introducing me to a new friend. I have really enjoyed
    corresponding with her.
    Happy Holidays!

    • Jann

      Anasthasia–so glad about your new virtual friend!!! I know what you mean about running out of time & energy….Buone feste!

  • joanne


    I made this recipe last year..just not for the holidays..want to let you know it was kind of awful…Perhaps it just wasn’t to my taste…it may be authentic but no one ate it…

    • Jann

      Whoops! Sorry you didn’t like it, Joanne!!! But glad you commented. We all love it, and Mary Taylor Simeti is a master cook. But I guess you have to like pork and meat sauces, for one thing, and also the addition of chocolate/cinnamon–sort of Mexican/North African additions.

  • John Schinina

    Ciao Jann, I must try this recipe, sounds delicous. Have a Happy and wonderful Christmas and a Healthy, and Happy New Year, wish I was there, smelling all those wonderful aroma’s, floating in the air.

  • Carmelo Cucinotta

    I love your stuff, I’m in the executive protection business and reading your articles and looking at the pics I get homesick. I still do the seven fish’s and look forward to it every year

    • Jann

      Ciao Carmelo! So glad you dropped by!!! I would love someday to do a Sicilian-American fish dinner!!! Auguri!

  • Nancy

    Thanks for the recipe. I do have a few of her books but not sure if this is one of them so I copied the recipe just in case. I’ll have to check my books out. I know I’ve gotten quite of few good recipes from some of those books.
    A Merry Christmas to you and yours. Hope you have a wonderful holiday.
    Some day….Christmas in Sicily.

  • Joyce LaGow

    And, of course–Buon Natale! 🙂

  • Joyce LaGow

    Great recipe, Jann–thanks!

    I didn’t realize that 7 fish dishes for Christmas Eve was Sicilian, too–when I was growing up, that was the tradition in my family as well, and my father, whose traditions we followed, was from the Trieste area. I carried on that tradition in my own family, and still do it when I can. It does help to have 3 or 4 women doing the cooking!

    The main dish was baccala. stewed cod. We used to get the salted cod a week or so before Christmas, and then steeped it in a tub of fresh water, changing it every day, in order to get out the salt. The dish itself was terrific, but ye gods our basement stank for a week!

    • Jann

      Joyce–Sicilians do a lot of baccala around the holidays, too. It’s in all the markets. I’ve always been too terrified to try to make it myself, what with all work getting the salt out beforehand…

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