The Scent of the Sea: Pasta con i Ricci

Seafood is one of Sicily’s most appreciated perks. Even better when it compliments a dish that it will remind you of the scent of holidays by the sea forever. Today I have in mind pasta with sea urchins, alias pasta con i ricci […]

For those who are not familiar with these sea creatures, sea urchins are somehow cute and potentially very painful spiky balls. They are often attached to the rocks in shallow waters and found in all oceans. Although I would advise to carefully avoid them while snorkelling, I could not possibly give you the same advice when you find them listed on the menu.

ricci in their shell or in an espresso cup

At the fish market of Catania as well as at my Sicilian wedding I’ve eaten ricci raw or sprinkled with fresh lemon. The inside of a sea urchins presents itself as a tiny flattened orange star perfectly attached to the bottom of its armour and – to my surprise – might pass unnoticed to a virgin eye. I’ve been brought to realise this by some of my Dutch guests who believed them to be almost empty. If this post has any value in contributing to a better society, it would be to prevent you from ever tossing one of these delicious sea creatures away for this reason.

Due to their small size, when you would like to buy sea urchins to accompany pasta for 3-4 servings, you should consider buying at least 50 of them. That is the equivalent of what would fill up an espresso cup!

A man opening sea urchins.


The Best Pasta con i Ricci

As for many great Italian dishes, the quality of the ingredients and the timing rather than the amount and the complex procedures are the keys for a superb result. So it does not come as a surprise that all you need for pasta con i ricci is pasta, sea urchins, virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh Italian parsley.

My Sicilian friend Tiziana La Piana prepared for me the best pasta con i ricci I ever ate.  If she had a restaurant I would have not hesitate to reccomend it. Instead, she decided to pursue her artistic talent for her career and to reserve her culinary skill only for her family and a few other privileged people. Lucky me!

If this post made you even a little curious of the taste of the sea released by this dish, you are left with three other alternatives:

  • befriend Tiziana or another Sicilian who loves seafood;
  • learn how to make your own pasta con i ricci, provided that you live in a country where it is possible to find them fresh;
  • go to Sicily and enjoy this dish in one of the many restaurants accompanied by a glass of Inzolia.

The choice is yours to make!


  • Casa Cycas: waterfront apartment in Aci Trezza;
  • Casa delle Alohe: immensely panoramic apartment in Aci Trezza;
  • Casa Macanà: apartment in Aci Castello with shared pool and direct access to the sea.
©photo Alfio Garozzo 

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