The best food in Sicily and the most famous Sicilian recipes
Experience the Culture of Sicilian Cuisine
Sicilian cuisine recipes are not as well-known as other Mediterranean cuisines. Yet, Sicily cuisine culture and tradition have an incredible variety to offer. From seafood to cheese, from authentic street food to plenty of desserts. And not to mention Wine and rivers of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). Let us cover them all before you fly to Sicily to taste them.
Many Sicilian dishes are known worldwide. One for all, Cannoli. A typical Sicilian dessert made up a fried pastry dough, filled with sweet ricotta cheese, chocolate or pistachio cream. However, there are so many other delicacies, which are less popular but nonetheless delicious and that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Sicilian dishes have their own unique taste, sometimes proudly distinctive. Most of the times the ingredients stem from the typical Mediterranean agricultural tradition. Those are sometimes only produced in Sicily thanks to its favorable climate conditions, which distinguish the island from the other regions of Italy. Among those ingredients, history and tradition take the lion share.
Culture Influence and food traditions
Sicily is an island full of history and culture, which dates back to the ancient times. Phoenicians, Greeks, the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, and Spanish to mention some, have left their traces in the Sicilian Cuisine history. The excellent position of Sicily between Africa, Europe and the Middle East has influenced the local cuisine to such an extent that it ranges from typical Italian dishes to oriental specialties such as Cous-Cous. Sicily has a rich culinary tradition with the unique flavors of its wines, cheese and seafood. You will become passionate about Sicily cuisine history.
The Mediterranean Diet
Sicily’s unique history, cuisine, and architecture embodies the Mediterranean lifestyle that makes it a great tourist destination. Be it for a healthy retreat or for a beach holiday with plenty of seafood, fruits, Sicily can constitute a healthy holiday choice complying with the traditional Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, cereals and plenty of olive oil. The freshness of the products and the attention to quality give Sicily cuisine recipes their unique taste and character.
What is Sicily best known for when it comes to food
Food in Sicily is excellent and is perhaps the most distinctive part of the Sicilian life. It cannot be missed if you are ever planning to visit this magnificent island. Sicily food recipes are also one reason to come to Sicily, all year round.
What is Sicily most famous dish? Among the most famous Sicily traditional food we can list Pasta alla Norma, as a first course. Very simple ingredients make it special. Tomato sauce, fried eggplants, salted ricotta cheese and basil. It is said that this dish is a proxy for perfection, as Norma, the Opera written by Vincenzo Bellini.
What food is Sicily known for? Pasta con le sarde for example, combines the Sicilian sweet and sour perfectly. Usually bucatini pasta or similar is garnished with Extra Vergin Olive Oil, sardines or anchovy, wild fennel (typically from the region), raisins and pine nuts. Imagine yourself tasting it in some Taormina restaurants with a view over the sea.
Arancini are a great option for a snack in the streets or why not, for a quick lunch during a city center tour in Sicily. Those are pyramid or ball-shaped fried rice filled with ragù sauce, butter, pistachios and more. The name of those varies depending on which side of Sicily you will visit. While in the East Arancino is the name (masculine), Arancina (feminine) is the word to be used in the West and in Palermo.
U Coppu is a typical fried seafood roll containing anchovies, octopus, squids and baby fish, which can be easily found all across Sicily and on the minor islands.
Swordfish dishes can be found everywhere in Sicily, but the freshest are from the city of Messina. This city lies on the Strait of Messina, the narrow sea channel separating Sicily from mainland Italy. A traditional swordfish fishing activity takes place here with special board featuring high antennas for swordfish observation. This fish is raw in appetizers, in first courses (pasta), or simply served grilled a second course with just lemon juice and parsley.
Ricotta cheese based pastries and cakes are the distinctive trait of Sicilian desserts. Cannoli and Cassata siciliana are the best examples.
Sicily is a destination tailor-made for food lovers. From the island famous street markets, to the fresh seafood on its coastlines, the island will surprise you with an excellent cuisine to be experienced with a cooking class in Sicily and the restaurants that we recommend on our Travel Books. From Michelin-starred to popular food restaurants, we have provide you will all type of options to choose from during your stay in Sicily.
Sicilian ingredients, products and the Sicilian wines
The Sicilian cuisine is a unique regional cuisine, which gets its flavors from the products that are harvested or grown in Sicily. Agriculture represents an important chunk of the Sicilian economy and the products that stand out are for instance, pistachios, almonds, blood oranges and other citrus fruits. Olive oil has a world on its own thanks to centuries of development and refinements.
The Nero d’Avola wine is perhaps one of the most widely known Italian red wines. Etna Rosso, which takes its peculiar features from the rich volcanic soil is a red wine on the rise, conquering the markets in Italy and in the world. A wide variety of white wines are produced in the West side of the Island, making the choices endless. Furthermore, other Sicilian noteworthy wines are the Marsala, Malvasia and several types of Passito dessert wines. In a nutshell, throughout history, Sicily has been greatly influenced by other cultures such as Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs, which have left their mark on Sicilian wine making. An experience not to be missed is a Wine Tasting in Sicily or a combination of food and wine in the typical Sicily food and wine tours.
Sicilian Cuisine vs Italian
Is still the cuisine in Sicily Italian cuisine? Let’s find it out! Sicily food culture has a lot in common with the Italian cuisine. For instance, pasta is an important component both cuisines. However, Sicily unlike other regions in Italy is capable of reinventing Italian recipes using its own products and ingredients and thoroughly following what tradition has to teach. The influence of the Greek, Arab or Catalan cuisine can be found in Sicily, and rarely in the rest of Italy as those foreign dominations marked profoundly the history and the culinary traditions in Sicily.
Sicily exports seafood all over Italy, enjoying a privileged geographical position in the Mediterranean. Daily flights leave from Sicily to Milan to supply fresh seafood coming from the port of Mazara del Vallo, the town with the largest fishing fleet in Italy. This also means that the Sicilian cuisine is rich in seafood.
Unlike Italian recipes, when it comes to pastries and desserts Sicily beats everyone else. Sicilian desserts are baroque, like history and architecture after all. Plenty of sugar, candied fruit, pistachios, almonds and ricotta cheese based sweets are the signature of the Sicilian cuisine.
Palermo food culture and the Street Markets
In the Sicilian capital, Palermo, food and in particular its street food experience is peculiar of the city. In its street markets such as Ballarò or Il Capo, lunch time is full of sounds, smells, colors like a real-life theatrical representation. Here you can have multiple snacks during the day for example tasting Pani ca meusa, a sandwich filled up with fried spleen and lungs. It can be garnished with salted ricotta cheese or simply served with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Another Palermo street food must is Pane e Panelle, a bread roll with chickpea flower fritters, or Panelle e Crocchè, a plate with panelle fritters and crocchè (fried mashed potato and egg, covered in bread crumbs). As for street seafood, the boiled octopus with lemon is a light alternative to all the above. And all of this will be a valid, cheap alternative to a more traditional lunch since Palermo food prices are very affordable in the city street markets.
For the braves, the Palermo food market offers a variety of more extreme street food which shows the quintessential identity of this city. For example, Frittola is made of fried veal left overs extracted from a covered, warm bucket and served in a paper cone with some lemon juice. And if you think that eating Frittola is not brave enough, try Stigghiola. This is grilled lamb guts seasoned with salt, parsley and other herbs.
For the conservatives, the classic Arancina, a pyramid-shaped fried rice ball filled with ragù sauce is a cheap and tasty street food option in Palermo. Discover more about Palermo food specialties, its street food culture and where to taste all the delicacies with our Palermo Travel Guide pdf.
Sicilian flagship Fruits
Sicily is land of the citrus fruits. The Orange trees spread all around Sicily, reaching their agricultural excellence between Catania and Siracusa provinces. This is where the distinctive blood oranges such as the Moro, Sanguinello or Tarocco are grown. What makes this region unique for the blood orange production is the microclimate close to Mount Etna, for which the sharp air temperature drop at night makes the orange pulp dark red. A way Sicilians use the blood orange in the Sicilian cuisine is the Orange and Fennel salad.
When it comes to lemons, Sicily unique production of Cedro (Citron in English) surprises tourists who see this bulky lemon sold at many Sicilian street corners. It has thick white rind inside and limited pulp mass, which makes it sweeter than acid and particularly pleasant to eat with some salt.
Barbary fig plants dominate the Sicilian vegetation. This type of cactus plant spreads all over the Mediterranean and Southern Italy, but in Sicily it find the best conditions for growing. This is why this has become an iconic plant part of the Sicilian imagery in art and ceramics production. Its fruit, the Barbary fig or also called prickly pear, is commonly eaten in Sicily and used in several pastries, ice creams, granitas or to produce liquors. Once in Sicily you cannot miss the chance of trying it and experience its very distinctive texture and sweetness.
It is common to see pictures with the Greek Valley of the Temples in Agrigento and the blooming almond trees all around. For the Sicilian cuisine, cuisine and landscape, almonds represent a very solid foundation. Not a surprise, around 80% of the Italian almonds production takes place in Sicily thanks to its generous sunshine all over the year. The Agrigento and Ragusa provinces together with the towns around Noto are the best areas for almonds to grow in Sicily. One of the most famous and highly prized type is the Avola almond. In the Sicilian gastronomy almonds are the key ingredient for making the typical Marzipan, Martorana fruit, Torrone (Nougat), Latte di Mandorla (almond milk) and with it the almond Granita.
Olive trees are the backbone of Sicily and Olive Oil the blood that flows in the Sicilian veins. High quality Extra Vergin Olive Oil is on the rise in Sicily and reaching level of quality rarely achieved worldwide. This is why an olive oil tasting is something that can make a holiday in Sicily truly special.
Last but not least, the King of the Sicilian precious agricultural produce is the worldwide known Bronte Pistachio. Bronte is a village by the footsteps of Mount Etna. Over centuries, here Pistachio production and harvesting has been refined to reach incredible results, making it one of the most pricy pistachios in the world. The harvest takes place in September and it is the opportunity to discover the pistachio farms and taste pistachios and its derivatives. With our Tailor-made travel plans we can help you find the right pistachio experience or cooking class during your Sicily food tour.
Sicilian dessert recipes
Among all the regions in Italy, Sicily is undoubtedly the Queen when it comes to sweets, pastries and desserts. These traditional Sicilian recipes are linked to the deep Baroque identity of most of the island, where exaggeration is seen as a component of beauty rather than an extreme behavior to be tamed. When it comes to patisserie that translates into plenty of sugar, almonds, nuts, and chocolate.
Cannoli are the absolute evergreen of Sicilian sweets. For many they are an irresistible delicacy in taste, texture, shape and colors. The Cassata siciliana cake is another foundation of Sicilian cakes making. Several layers of sponge cake and sweet ricotta cheese, mixed with chocolate chips and candied fruits make Cassata a heavy but delicious cake.
Pastry making is also an art in Sicily. It is not only about the taste, but also about the look. In Sicily there is a long tradition of making Marzipan fruit-shaped sweets, called Frutta Martorana. Pastry chefs become artists when they literally finish the sweet by painting the surface of the fruit sculpture they have created. Many say that that Martorana fruits are so beautiful and realistic that you might regret about eating them. They come in different shapes, like oranges, apples, pears, bananas, barbary figs etc.
Finally, when you buy Cioccolato di Modica, what you buy goes well beyond the chocolate product that it represents. It is a combination of quality raw chocolate beans, unchanged chocolate making processes stemming from a profound history that makes the Modica Chocolate a story to be told. It features a grainy texture thanks to its cold making process that does not melt sugar. By doing so, the ancient chocolate making tradition of the Aztecs is preserved exactly in the way it was imported by the Spanish conquistadores at the time when Sicily was ruled by the Kingdom of Spain.
Granita and Ice creams in Sicily
Especially on hot summer days in Sicily, there is nothing more refreshing than a cold Granita with brioche. In Eastern Sicily, this is an indispensable remedy against the heat. Should you want to have a light and refreshing breakfast or a treat go for Granita. Or even eat it for lunch as Sicilians do. The most popular flavors are almond, coffee (or a combination of the two, Granita Mandorla e Caffè), fig, barbary fig, peach, lemon, strawberry or mulberry for a typical Catania Granita. In essence, Granite constitute the middle way between the texture of an Italian ice-cream and the one of a fruit smoothie.
It is believed that the making of Granita, at times when refrigerating systems where not existing, originated by combining the Sicilian fruits available with the snow coming from Mount Etna. In Sicily you will find also a wide choice about the Italian ice cream you might have in mind, a better quality one though as usually the Gelato making process is not industrialized but it remains artisanal in Sicily.
What is a typical Sicilian breakfast? In any cafeterias in Sicily you can get a Granita with brioche, and the way you should eat it is by dipping a chunk of brioche in the Granita cup to use it like a little spoon to taste the brioche dough and the Granita together.
To conclude, did we answer the question: Does Sicily have good food? We hope we did provide an additional reason on why you should visit Sicily. Get inspired by our Travel Guide Books and book your Sicily holidays now!