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Sicilian meals is fully completely different out of your typical Italian delicacies. In the event you’re going to be spending time in Sicily, don’t anticipate to seize a Roman carbonara or a Florentine steak.
As a substitute, think about a delicacies crammed with contemporary greens, a lot of seafood, and the smallest quantity of meat. Think about eggplants and pine nuts and swordfish, wild fennel rising on the facet of the street, a sprinkling of couscous right here and there, calamari grilled to perfection, liqueurs constructed from native fruits and herbs. And — I received’t lie — Sicilians generally tend to get inventive with the organs.
In the event you’re planning a visit to Sicily, you’re going to need to attempt EVERYTHING. And whereas I’ve traveled to Sicily a number of occasions, on my most up-to-date journey I made an goal to eat each main Sicilian dish that I might discover. What a scrumptious mission that was.
Let’s check out what to eat in Sicily — and what makes Sicilian meals so particular.
Sicilian Meals Influences and Historical past
First off, you may’t perceive conventional Sicilian meals with out realizing a bit about Sicilian historical past and geography. Italy is a various nation of nation-states that didn’t unify till 1861. A lot of Italy’s 20 areas every really feel like their very own nation — however Sicily feels particularly distinctive.
This island within the Mediterranean has been conquered, invaded, and settled by the Arabs, the Normans, the Vikings, the Spanish, and way more.
Every tradition introduced their very own meals, turning Sicily into a pleasant culinary melting pot. However above all else, Arab culinary traditions took maintain deeply in Sicily, with dishes from caponata to couscous adorning Sicilian menus. Bread comes sprinkled with sesame seeds, and saffron provides perfume and coloration to pasta dishes.
Briefly, Sicily is so much nearer to Tunis than Rome — not solely by geography however by tradition and delicacies as effectively.
(And it goes to folks, too. What a shock I obtained after I obtained my DNA take a look at and the Sicilian facet of the household was truly fairly Center Jap!)
Touring to Sicily? Begin with a Meals Tour
In the event you’re touring to Sicily and trying to find out about typical Sicilian meals, I extremely, extremely advocate beginning with a meals tour. It offers you a lot context, introduce you to dishes you’ll love, and make the remainder of your journey a lot simpler.
Streaty is a meals tour firm run by Sicilians! I took their final Sicilian delicacies and wine tour in Palermo, which was completely improbable and the easiest way to begin my journey.
In addition they run a Catania meals tour.
Caponata is among the most recognizable dishes from Sicily, and one that’s incessantly on the desk as an appetizer. This candy and bitter eggplant-based dish consists of a number of greens, cooked individually after which mixed in an agrodolce sauce.
Fried eggplant is crucial part of caponata, and it additionally consists of celery, tomatoes, capers, inexperienced olives, and olives, cooked with olive oil, vinegar, and sugar.
Sometimes you could find a extra upscale caponata that features octopus (polpo) or swordfish (spade).
Speak to Sicilians and so they’ll let you know that making ready caponata is a time-consuming endeavor, every vegetable requiring a special cooking course of. Many Sicilian cooks wish to make an enormous batch of it for the season and protect it in jars.
Arancini are one other beloved dish from Sicily — stuffed rice balls which can be lined with breadcrumbs and deep fried. These are a straightforward and filling snack in Sicily; locals seize them at any time of day, and so they normally price round a euro.
Arancini are discovered all through Sicily, however know that there are two distinct sorts.
In Palermo and the west, they’re referred to as arancin (singular) or arancine (plural) and are spherical.
In Catania and the east, they’re referred to as arancino (singular) or arancini (plural) and are conical, formed like Mount Etna.
In both of those sorts, the fillings could be al burro (ham and cheese, normally Béchamel or mozzarella) or al ragu (tomato and meat sauce, generally with peas), although you could find something from pistachios and mortadella to eggplant and ricotta salata.
Arancini are generally served as road meals in Sicily, however you could find them in eating places, in rosticcerie, in every single place.
Parmigiana di Melanzane
Yet one more extremely widespread dish in Sicily is parmigiana di melanzane — eggplant parmigiana. When you see this dish throughout Italy, it originated in eggplant-rich Sicily.
The phrase “parmigiana” truly has nothing to do with parmesan cheese — meals historians imagine it’s associated to the phrase parmiciana, or the wood strips that make up Persian blinds, which describes how the dish is lower and layered.
Eggplant is sliced thinly and layered with tomato sauce and both caciocavallo or mozzarella cheese.
That is normally eaten both as an appetizer or a facet dish. A wonderful accompaniment to any Sicilian meal!
Zucca in Agrodolce
One other widespread appetizer in Sicily is zucca in agrodolce — skinny slices of pumpkin in agrodolce, or candy and bitter sauce.
That is referred to as “poor man’s liver,” my Sicilian pals joked. It was created to evoke the looks of candy and bitter liver, a extra widespread dish for moneyed Sicilians.
The pumpkin in query is normally a Sicilian crimson or yellow pumpkin, or comparable squashes, cooked in a easy recipe with sugar, vinegar, olive oil, and mint.
One among Sicily’s most original meals is bottarga — dried compressed fish roe sac, normally constructed from gray mullet or bluefin tuna. It’s mainly a slab of dried, salty fish, full of umami taste.
Bottarga is commonly sliced and served on crostini, or grated and added to dishes, particularly pasta dishes. (You typically see it as an included ingredient in five-star eating places world wide.)
Like many Sicilian dishes, bottarga could be seen in several cultures — from Greece to Sardinia to the Arab world.
Many Sicilians have sturdy opinions over whether or not bottarga needs to be served with lemon. Some are very a lot in favor of lemon; some are adamantly towards it. Attempt each and see what you favor!
Caciocavallo cheese is widespread all through Sicily — and Italy as a complete. However caciocavallo all’argentiera is a dish that you will see that solely in Sicily — particularly, Palermo!
On this dish, caciocavallo cheese is cooked in a pan with garlic and vinegar till melted and served in a dish topped with oregano and pepper. It’s an herby, vibrant technique to get pleasure from melted cheese (and who doesn’t love melted cheese?).
This dish was reportedly invented by the spouse of a silversmith residing on By way of Argentiera who had fallen on exhausting occasions. She made the cheese within the fashion of rabbit, and the scent was so good, folks didn’t understand it wasn’t meat!
Insalata di Musso
I warn you that insalata di musso is arguably the least interesting meals on this checklist, nevertheless it’s widespread in Palermo, so I’m sharing it right here. This can be a salad manufactured from boiled veal cartilage taken from the snout (musso), foot, and jaw.
The boiled cartilage items are cooked in olive oil with carrots, celery, and olives. It’s served at room temperature.
Adventurous eater? Go for it! Not a lot? You’ll be high quality skipping this one. (Then once more, I’m an adventurous eater and that is the one meals on this checklist I couldn’t end.)
And now, a significantly better Sicilian salad. The Aeolian Islands are well-known for his or her capers, and that is showcased within the insalata eoliana — a hearty salad that fills you up for hours.
Insalata eoliana, generally referred to as insalata liparota for the island of Lipari, is Sicilian potato salad — a salad of potatoes, tomatoes, capers, and olives, topped with olive oil, lemon, and oregano. Typically you could find al mare variations that embody tuna or octopus.
This may be served as a facet dish (contorno) or principal dish. It’s powerful to search out exterior the Aeolian Islands, so get pleasure from it whilst you have it!
Sicilian Road Meals
In Palermo, generally it looks as if each road snack is fried. And one of the crucial well-known is panelle — chickpea fritters made with chickpea flour, salt and pepper, olive oil, and generally lemon juice or herbs. They soften in your mouth.
Panelle could be eaten on their very own, however a well-liked road snack in Palermo is pane panelle — a sandwich with panelle served inside a sesame seed roll. Usually crocchè (potato croquettes coated in bread crumbs and fried) are added to it.
It feels a bit like carbs on carbs on carbs, however it is a scrumptious sandwich! And if you happen to’re a vegetarian or vegan in Palermo, that is one in every of your most stable lunch choices.
A sfincione is a Sicilian-style pizza slice — sq., topped with tomato sauce, generally with grated caciocavallo cheese. This can be a basic Sicilian road meals specialty, nevertheless it’s typically dressed up in fancier eating places.
This dish is hottest in Palermo, and you could find variations with or with out cheese, in addition to variations topped with onions or anchovies. Usually anchovies are a part of the sauce (although don’t inform your buddy who hates seafood — chances are high they received’t discover).
You may see straightforward connections to Italian-American pizza slices. In the event you’ve been to L&P Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn, or lined up for a “grandma slice” after an extended evening out, these are sfincione!
I even confirmed an image of Rhode Island-style pizza slices to my Sicilian pals, and so they all agreed — “That’s sfincione!”
These are an excellent dish to maintain you going if you want a chew however not a complete meal.
Pani câ meusa
And now one of the crucial intimidating Sicilian streets meals on the planet! Pani câ meusa is a sandwich made with veal spleen and lung. Sure, significantly.
Pani câ meusa is a well-liked road meals dish in Palermo; good luck discovering it elsewhere in Sicily. The spleen and lungs are boiled, then fried in lard and served on a delicate roll with sesame seeds on high. It’s generally served with ricotta or caciocavallo cheese — that is referred to as maritatu, or married in Sicilian, whereas the cheeseless sandwich is schettu (single).
It may not be your first selection for a meal in Sicily — however know that this sandwich exemplifies how nothing ever goes to waste on this a part of Italy.
And one other considerably intimidating specialty from Palermo — stigghiola! Stigghiole (plural kind) are lamb or veal intestines seasoned and wrapped round a spring onion or leek, then grilled and lower into bite-size items.
In Palermo they name it mangia e bevi, or eat and drink. You’ll find these scorching on the grill in Palermo’s markets.
It looks as if each tradition has its personal model of potato croquettes — and the Sicilians aren’t any exception with their crocchè. This widespread road meals is accessible all through Sicily.
Crocchè are constructed from mashed potatoes and eggs generally with grated caciocavallo cheese, then lined in breadcrumbs and fried. Mint provides a shiny addition to them.
In Palermo, you may have the crocchè added to a pane e panelle sandwich — deliciously carby!
A panzerotto, in essence, is just like a calzone — a deliciously fried piece of dough with a filling within the middle. Sicilian panzerotti could be picked up at a rosticceria within the morning, and so they make a filling and transportable breakfast on this typically breakfast-averse nation.
The surface is fried and crispy, and the within is contemporary and spongy. In Sicily, panzerotti are sometimes al burro, which means crammed with ham and cheese. In the event you get a very good panzerotto, you received’t need the rest!
You’ll find panzerotti throughout Italy, and so they fluctuate fairly a bit regionally. Panzerotti are massively widespread in Puglia, however they have a tendency to have a thinner exterior crust and crammed with tomato and mozzarella. In Naples, pizza fritta (fried pizza) is just like Puglian panzerotti, however the time period panzerotti truly refers to potato croquettes. Complicated!
Pane cunzatu (additionally referred to as pane cunzato) is a dish initially from the Aeolian Islands — a flatbread topped with olive oil and any form of toppings you may think about. Some widespread toppings are greens like capers, tomatoes, olives, artichokes, or sun-dried tomatoes; cheeses like mozzarella or ricotta salata, and/or fish like anchovies or tuna.
Pane cunzatu is the last word low cost meal within the Aeolian Islands — as a result of they’re normally huge and straightforward to separate between two folks! (Some come smaller, although, particularly in nicer eating places. Test earlier than you order.) And since every thing is balanced on an enormous piece of agency bread, you want to watch out to maintain the components from rolling off!
Surprisingly, everytime you discover pane cunzatu exterior the Aeolian Islands, it’s in sandwich kind — the toppings between two items of bread. A lot simpler to eat!
Pasta alla Norma
In the event you’re on the lookout for a primary Sicilian pasta dish, one that’s on most menus, check out pasta alla Norma. Pasta is served with tomato sauce, fried eggplant, basil, and topped with grated ricotta salata cheese.
Be aware that ricotta salata, or salted ricotta, may be very completely different from the everyday clean ricotta cheese you would possibly choose up on the grocery retailer. Ricotta salata has been pressed, salted, and aged, and is crumbly and really salty.
You’ll find pasta alla Norma wherever in Sicily, nevertheless it originated in Catania and stays a supply of delight within the metropolis. The dish is known as for Catanian composer Vicenzo Bellini, who composed the opera La Norma.
Pasta con le Sarde
Maybe Sicily’s most well-known (or notorious?) pasta is pasta con le sarde, or pasta with sardines. This pasta dish originated in Palermo, and needs to be eaten in Palermo, although you may generally discover it in different elements of the island as of late.
The sauce is a mixture of sardines and anchovies with onions, wild fennel, raisins, pine nuts, and saffron, topped with bread crumbs for texture. The normal pasta to make use of is bucatini, although you could find it with numerous kinds of pasta.
Raisins and sardines in a pasta — collectively? I do know, it sounds a bit nuts. However belief me — this is among the most well-known Sicilian pasta dishes for good purpose, and is a wonderful mix of Italian, Arab, and pan-Mediterranean cuisines.
Wild fennel has an intense taste and is well present in Italy, however could be powerful to search out elsewhere. You need to use common fennel fronds, bulbs, and seeds if you happen to can’t discover wild fennel the place you reside.
Pasta alla Lido (Pasta Pesce Spada)
One other widespread Sicilian pasta is pasta alla Lido, generally referred to as Pasta Pesce Spada. This pasta has a supply of tomato, eggplant, small items of swordfish, and mint leaves.
The pasta is normally casarecce — a flat rectangular pasta form that curls into itself, a bit like an extended maccheroni however not fairly a tube.
This can be a improbable Sicilian pasta, utilizing basic Sicilian components that you simply discover virtually in every single place — and the mint leaves simply add a stunning brightness to the dish.
Busiate Alla Trapanese
Busiate is a form of pasta that appears a bit like an old-school phone wire — lengthy and spiraled. It initially comes from Trapani province, the westernmost a part of Sicily, and is shaped by twisting the pasta round a neighborhood grass, ampelodesmos.
Pesto alla trapanese is a bit completely different from the pesto you’re used to up in Genoa — this pesto is constructed from almonds, grated pecorino cheese, tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Sometimes it’s referred to as pesto alla siciliana.
That is one other glorious vegetarian pasta dish in Sicily. The almonds actually give it a heft!
Pasta Coi Ricci
Pasta coi ricci, generally referred to as pasta ai ricci di mare, is pasta with sea urchin — an costly however oh so scrumptious native specialty in Sicily! In the event you’re utilizing contemporary sea urchins pulled from the ocean that morning, it’s a bit time-consuming to take away the edible flesh. However you’ll be rewarded with a deep, advanced taste.
Sea urchin is a winter delicacy in Sicily. The season normally runs from November by means of April.
This pasta is normally easy — simply sea urchin cooked with olive oil, garlic, and salt. However often you’ll discover pastas that throw different seafood into the dish, just like the shrimp that discovered their manner into our dish above!
Couscous alla Trapanese
Among the finest methods to see the affect of North Africa in Sicilian delicacies is to go to Trapani province. Right here, couscous typically accompanies dishes as a substitute of pasta!
However that’s the place the cuisines diverge. Whereas Moroccan couscous is normally served with meat, couscous alla trapanese is served with fish or seafood of any sort. It’s seen as a primo piatto right here, or a primary course, on par with pasta. Flavors like saffron can up the depth.
And if you happen to can’t get sufficient of Sicilian couscous, Cous Cous Fest takes place within the city of San Vito Lo Capo every September!
In Sicily, it’s all about seafood — if you’re on the coast, it’s typically exhausting to discover a principal dish that isn’t seafood! (If not, it’s normally veal — the rooster of Italy.) And normally which means what’s contemporary and native, served merely.
Sicilian menus typically function sardines (sarde), anchovies (alici), tuna (tonno), swordfish (pesce spade), octopus (polpo) and squid (calamari).
Past that, there are Sicilian seafood dishes that it’s best to maintain an eye fixed out for. Right here they’re:
Gambero Rosso di Mazara
Sicilians love shrimp (or prawns, as you Brits name them) — however there may be one form of shrimp that’s particularly lauded all through Sicily. The gambero rosso di Mazara, or the crimson shrimp from the city of Mazara del Vallo in Trapani province. They’re additionally referred to as ammaru russu in Sicilian.
Mazara del Vallo is among the largest fishing ports in Sicily, and these shrimp are fished all through the ocean southwest of the island, the closest half to Tunisia.
The shrimp have a singular candy taste and are served uncooked. You may get pleasure from them on their very own or blended into one other dish — I had a beautiful pasta with pistachio pesto, burrata, and crimson shrimp at Ngonia Bay resort in Milazzo.
Involtini di Pesce Spade
You may need heard of eggplant involtini — little rolled up eggplant, served as an appetizer — however have you ever heard of swordfish involtini? Involtini di pesce spade are swordfish rolls, served as a secondo piatto (second course).
Skinny filets of swordfish are wrapped round seasoned breadcrumbs, generally with raisins and pine nuts, and baked.
This dish is a superb instance of Sicilians stretching their proteins far — a small quantity of swordfish can feed a big household when ready this manner.
Sarde a bettafico is an analogous dish made with butterflied sardines wrapped across the breadcrumbs combination.
Sicilian Desserts and Candy Treats
Actually, I feel one of many highlights of visiting Sicily is the desserts. I feel Sicily has the perfect desserts in all of Italy!
You’ve little doubt heard of cannoli, and you will have tried a granita or two, however Sicilian desserts get way more intense than that.
My advice? Each afternoon, cease for a espresso and a deal with to fulfill your candy tooth. One of many good issues about Sicilian bakeries is that they typically make every dessert in mini sizes as effectively. Good for sampling!
Of all Sicilian desserts, what’s extra well-known than a cannoli? Or cannolo, truly. Within the Italian language, cannolo is singular and cannoli is plural. Mainland Italy calls them cannoli siciliani.
You already know this one — it’s a fried pastry shell formed like a tube, referred to as a scorza, and crammed with ricotta. (Ideally, the shells needs to be empty till you organize them after which crammed with ricotta, although not each place follows this step.)
In Sicily, cannoli are sometimes topped with candied oranges or cherries, crammed with chocolate chips, or dusted with chopped pistachios. Some shells are made with marsala wine.
And so they come in several sizes — have a mini cannolo accompanying your caffe macchiato after lunch, or seize a full-sized one that would double as a homicide weapon.
And now for the second most well-known Italian dessert: cassata! Cassata is made with layers of sponge cake moistened with liqueur, ricotta, and candied fruit. Past that, there’s fairly a little bit of variation in cassata, which originated in Palermo however you could find all through the island.
Cassata siciliana is the well-known shiny inexperienced cassata, normally with a lot of candied fruit or geometric designs or a cherry on high. It’s wrapped in marzipan and has vivid almond and pistachio flavors.
Cassata al forno is extra just like a ricotta pie, with a shortcrust pastry wrapped round ricotta, sponge cake, and generally chocolate. This model is extra frequent in Catania and generally referred to as cassata Catanese.
And naturally, there are the minne di vergine, or virgins’ breasts (!) — a model of cassata served for the pageant of Sant Agata in Catania (although I did discover some in Palermo, too). This one is white and topped with a cherry, in fact.
In the event you’re having fun with the desserts in Palermo however craving one thing a bit extra chocolatey, you’ll need to take a look at the torta setteveli — a wealthy cake manufactured from layers of chocolate and hazelnuts. The title means seven-veil cake in Italian, and it takes the type of seven layers.
The cake consists of two layers of chocolate cake, two layers of hazelnut cream, and one layer every of chocolate mousse, hazelnut crunch, and a shiny mirror glaze on high. (In the event you’re a baker and on the lookout for a problem, this requires a whole lot of completely different steps! No marvel it was a technical problem on The Nice British Bake-Off.)
This can be a widespread birthday cake in Palermo — however you’re welcome to have it simply to have a good time being in Sicily!
Granita con Brioche
While you go to Italy, you’re used to seeing gelato spots on each block. While you get to Sicily, you may be questioning why there are so few of them! Positive, gelato exists, however granita is the chilly candy deal with of selection in Sicily.
Granita is just like slush — it’s a clean semi-frozen dessert. And in Sicily, granita con brioche is granita served with a brioche — a scrumptious breakfast on a scorching day! Sure, that is breakfast!
In Sicily, among the hottest granita flavors are mandorla (almond), limone (lemon), pistacchio (pistachio), fragola (strawberry), caffe (espresso, black with sugar), mandarino (mandarin) and gelso (mulberry). The feel tends to be smoother in Jap Sicily and chunkier in Western Sicily.
You can too get it topped with crema, both served as whipped cream or liquid cream, if you happen to’d like. I’m nonetheless dreaming of the caffe granita with cream I had in Salina within the Aeolian Islands.
Brioche con Gelato
So how is gelato served in Sicily after they do have it? Usually in a brioche con gelato! That is the last word ice cream sandwich — scoops or a slab of gelato are put between two halves of a candy brioche.
And sure — like granita con brioche, brioche con gelato is eaten for breakfast in Sicily. The gelato melts into the buttery bun and makes a fabulously indulgent begin to your day.
And generally the ice cream vendor will even give you cream to placed on high of the gelato. As a result of this dish wasn’t decadent sufficient!
In Sicilian bakeries and cafes, you’ll typically see baskets of brightly coloured sweets painted to appear like vegetables and fruit. These are frutta martorana — conventional marzipan sweets that originated in Palermo.
They’re softer than you suppose, and so splendidly almondy.
Frutta martorana is a conventional dessert served on All Soul’s Day. Whereas it originated in Palermo, you could find it year-round all through Sicily.
What to Drink in Sicily
Like most Italians, Sicilians are inclined to drink wine, water, and occasional with nice enthusiasm.
Italians are justifiably pleased with their indigenous grape varietals. In Sicily, the native wine that you simply’ve in all probability heard of is Nero d’Avola — a deep, full-bodied crimson wine from southeast Sicily.
As for whites, Grillo and Carracante are two stable Sicilian white wine decisions that you simply’ll see on menus all through the island. Malvasia is a well-liked white wine from the Aeolian Islands value attempting.
Sicily additionally makes glorious candy wines. Marsala is a candy wine from southwest Sicily that you simply’ll see round.
It may be a bit overwhelming selecting an Italian wine if you happen to’re not accustomed to their varietals. (I typically say that one of many largest errors vacationers make in Italy is continually ordering Chianti as a result of it’s the one Italian varietal they’ve heard of.)
To get round this, you may at all times ask for the vino della casa (home wine) or ask your server for a advice. Or choose a bottle at random if you happen to’re feeling adventurous! Wine could be fairly low cost in Sicily.
A digestivo is a liqueur consumed on the finish of your meal to assist digestion. Does it work? Who is aware of, nevertheless it’s the basic technique to finish your meal in Sicily!
The preferred Sicilian digestivo is Amaro. Amaro is a bittersweet liqueur constructed from herbs, roots, spices, citrus peels, impartial alcohol or wine, and sugar syrup. It comes served neat — sip away!
If you wish to go extra fruity than bitter, Sicilians additionally make their very own limoncello, arancello, and different fruity digestives.
Extra on Sicily:
Cool Locations in Southern Italy:
Cool Locations in Northern Italy:
Planning a Journey to Italy:
What’s your favourite Sicilian meals? Share away!