What to eat in Sicily?
Updated: May 9
The Sicilian gastronomic tradition is certainly one of the most important and richest in Italy, as it is the result of influences from all the cultures that have settled in Sicily over the centuries.
It is a complex cuisine full of Mediterranean flavors, enclosed in a unique balance between land and sea.
In the various areas of Sicily, it is natural to discover typical Sicilian products that are always different and closely linked to the territory, which inevitably transforms any cultural and tourist itinerary into a delicious food and wine tour. Discover the typical food to eat if you are going to Palermo or Catania.
Below are the island's main culinary specialties:
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A symbol of Sicilian gastronomy is the arancino, commonly called arancina if we are in the west of the island.
A typical expression of Sicilian rotisserie, the arancino is a cone or sphere of rice stuffed, breaded and fried. The classic flavors are meat sauce and butter, but there are different variations such as 'alla Norma' and even chocolate.
Its origins are debated and the various cities on the island dispute its creation, anyway arancino, everywhere in Sicily, is an indispensable delicacy which has to be tasted at any time of day.
Pasta Alla norma
Among the tastiest Sicilian specialties are first courses, including the popular pasta Alla Norma, which is characterized by typically Mediterranean flavors: prepared with macaroni or various types of short pasta, it is seasoned with tomato, fried aubergines, salted ricotta, and basil.
Originally from Catania, pasta ca' Norma owes its name to playwright Nino Martoglio, who compared it to Vincenzo Bellini's famous play because of its goodness.
With its dozens of variations, Sicilian caponata is a dish characterized by Mediterranean flavors with a sweet and sour taste, used either as a side dish or as a main course accompanied by bread.
The ingredients common to the main recipes, which vary according to local customs on the island, are fried aubergines, tomatoes, capers, olives, celery, onions, salt, vinegar, and sugar.
Caponata is a typical 'poor man's dish' with a rich, and flavorsome taste, eaten mainly in the summer months when the aubergine is perfectly ripe.
It is worth mentioning Palermo's street food, which is considered on the top street food in the world ranking, whose symbol is panelle accompanied by bread.
Panelle are made with chickpea flour, water, parsley, and salt; the resulting batter is then cut and fried.
“U pani chi Panelli” is a delicious snack often paired with crocchè, which consists of croquettes made of potatoes, pepper, and parsley.
Couscous di Pesce
You cannot visit Sicily without tasting fish couscous at least once. A gastronomic tradition typical of the Trapani area, from Mazara del Vallo to San Vito Lo Capo, which tells of the influence of Maghreb culture on this part of the island.
Considered the king of Sicilian pastry, and particularly popular in Taormina, the cannolo has many centuries of history and consists of a wafer of fried dough rolled up and filled with fresh ricotta cheese.
Depending on the area in which you are, the outer filling may be enriched with candied orange peel, pistachio grains, and chocolate drops; or the filling might contain chocolate cream instead of ricotta.
The cannolo was initially prepared for the carnival, but its unparalleled goodness has allowed it to spread more widely, thus becoming a renowned example of Sicilian and Italian pastry art in the world.
If the cannolo is the king of Sicilian pastries, the cassata is definitely the queen.
The ancient recipe consists of a cake made with fresh sheep's ricotta cheese, sponge cake, almond paste (also known as pasta reale), sugar icing, and candied fruit decorations, which give it a regal appearance and make this dessert of Palermo origin a real triumph for the palate.
There is no shortage of local variations on this typical Sicilian cake, and there is also a single-portion version: the cassatina.
Pasta di mandorle
Also known as Pasta Reale (royal paste) because it is considered 'worthy of a king' for its goodness, almond paste is another typical product of the island's confectionery industry.
It is used for the preparation of various sweets such as biscuits and pastries with almonds or candied fruit, Martorana fruit (which is given as a gift on All Saints' Day), cassata, and cassatelle.
Derived from the seed of the almond tree, which is widely used in Sicilian cuisine, almond paste is also made in other regions but is officially recognized as a traditional Sicilian food product.
Gelo di Melone
A fresh, aromatic spoon dessert of ancient origin. The recipe is a legacy of Arab culture. The main ingredient is watermelon, which the Sicilians call melon, flavored with jasmine infusion. Usually served in a bowl, it is embellished with pistachio grains. It is the summer pleasure that people in Sicily enjoy after a meal.
Granita has been a typical Sicilian breakfast since ancient times, especially during the warm months in coastal areas. Also used as an afternoon snack, the Sicilian granita consists of a semi-frozen liquid made from water, sugar, and an extract of the main ingredient (lemon, pistachio, coffee, etc.).
It is almost always eaten together with the classic brioscia con tuppo, made with egg leavened dough. The most popular flavors of Sicilian granita are lemon, coffee with cream, pistachio, strawberry, almond, chocolate, peach, jasmine, and black mulberry.
One of the typical Sicilian drinks is water and aniseed (also called zammù), an ancient drink made famous by the Tutone company, which still produces its famous Aniseed.
The flavor is reminiscent of Sambuca, but the alcohol content is decidedly lighter: the aniseed is poured in drops into the glass (the bottle has a small, specially designed opening) and cold water is added. A thirst-quenching and digestive drink, which is a real must in Sicilian cuisine.
Spuma is a vintage drink always in vogue: it’s the historic Sicilian drink, characterized by its aromatic flavor and amber color. The taste is sweet and aromatic, thanks to elder flowers, caramel, cloves, and rhubarb root: it can be enjoyed at any time of day, from aperitifs to snacks. A typically Sicilian flavor to try: it is sold bottled, both in bars and in supermarkets.
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