Arance Rosse

March 7, 2012 / Food & Wine
Nothing can chase away the winter blues better than a dose of Sicily’s arance rosse, the “red oranges” commonly known as blood oranges. And in case you are thinking this means dark red blood oranges, you are only partially right, as Sicily produces 3 varieties of arance rosse that are protected under the IGP certification (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) which is attributed to heirloom/heritage produce and products from specific geographic areas.

In eastern Sicily, this IGP area is roughly south of Catania and north of Syracuse in the fertile area enriched by the Mt. Etna volcano. The sharp difference in temperatures between day and night creates the perfect climate for blood oranges to produce anthocyanins, which are responsible for the red color of the flesh. 

The Moro variety has the dark wine-colored flesh often associated with blood oranges, while the Sanguinello has flesh just lightly streaked with red. Both are often used for juice.

In a class by itself is the plump Tarocco orange, packed with 40% more vitamin C than other oranges, with a luscious orange pulp streaked with red. It was discovered near the Sicilian town of Francofonte sometime in the 18th century, and to any Sicilian, tarocco oranges from the Francofonte area are the most highly prized.

The color of the skin of the tarocco blood orange gives little clue as to what is inside. Sometimes the skin is uniformly orange, or it can be blushed with red, as though embarrassed to reveal its voluptuous flesh. Fragrant and meaty, the flesh has just the right balance of acidity and sweetness, and the red streaks are bursting with the flavor of raspberries. Delicious eaten on its own, the tarocco orange is also excellent in salads with fennel, or it can nonchalantly hold its own in a pungent Sicilian salad of onions and black olives, something a standard navel orange couldn’t dream of doing.


red oranges sliced 600 x 410

red orange & fennel salad blue plate 252 x 371

Anita Iaconangelo

by Anita Iaconangelo

An expert on walking and culinary tours in many areas of Italy, with a special focus on Sicily, Anita Iaconangelo is the founder of Italian Connection Tours and author of the blog Anita’s Italy. She is currently at work on a book entitled Savoring Sicily: A Culinary Quest. 

13 Responses to “Arance Rosse”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thank you Anita. The temperatures are plummeting again today so it’s great to have these colours to warm us all up. A beautifully written and informative note.

  2. Virginia C. Mars

    As I am very fond of blood oranges (juice or freshly sliced), I was delighted with the very informative note. I can even find the fresh juice in grocery stores here in VA. Others have discovered it’s unique and delicious taste. Thank you for enlightening us to the various varieties.

  3. Anita Iaconangelo

    Thanks, Penny. Actually right now in Sicily an unusually cold wind is whipping the rain against the kitchen windows, so I’m
    glad to have a stock of arance rosse on hand!

  4. Mary Wallace

    Thank you for this lovely post Anita.

    I have a series of paintings of citrus fruit,some of which are blood oranges – ‘Sanguinello’; ‘Morro’; and ‘Tarocco’.

    ‘Sanguinello’ was inspired by a sojourn in Piemonte, where I breakfasted daily on ‘spremuta d’arancia‘ of every hue from tangerine through to persimmon. I didn’t see any citrus trees whilst there; but the colours of the fruit in the markets and the ever-changing blush of the ‘orange’ juice , sparked something deep down.’ – this is an excerpt from my blog about my inspiration. If you would like to hear more have a look:

  5. Jim Syfers

    Is there any company that sells the seeds of the tarocco ?
    I would love to try to raise it where I am (Sonoma, California).

    • Anita Iaconangelo

      Jim- Most of the citrus plants in Sicily have a root stock and trunk from the bitter orange tree (most disease resistant), onto which is grafted the desired variety of orange or lemon. So, if you’ve already got a tree, you can cut it at the grafting point, and graft 3-4 tarocco shoots onto it- the season for this in Sicily is May. But of course, you need to find those shoots….or start off with an already grafted small tarocco tree. And you need to have the warm days and much cooler nights required to get those delicious red streaks.

  6. louise

    Great Note, Anita. Fun to read, fun to look at the lovely pictures, and fun to dream of the blood oranges. Do write more about Sicily, what a magical place.

  7. Julia Lewis

    Can you buy these oranges on line. I live in Florida & cannot find them.

    • Anita Iaconangelo

      Not sure they are available in the US, and I know that Florida does not have the right temperatures for growing them – maybe a trip to Scily is in order!

  8. Milton Fowler

    RE: BLOOD ORANGES. In America – atleast in some super markets
    (incl.PUBLIX in Florida)you can buy San Pellegrino Arancia Rossa soda in six packs. Delicioso!


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