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Sicilian meals is utterly completely different out of your standard 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 an alternative, think about a delicacies crammed with contemporary greens, plenty of seafood, and the smallest quantity of meat. Think about eggplants and pine nuts and swordfish, wild fennel rising on the aspect of the highway, a sprinkling of couscous right here and there, calamari grilled to perfection, liqueurs constituted of native fruits and herbs. And — I gained’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 instances, 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 figuring out a bit about Sicilian historical past and geography. Italy is a various nation of nation-states that didn’t unify till 1861. Lots 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 much 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.
In brief, Sicily is loads nearer to Tunis than Rome — not solely by geography however by tradition and delicacies as nicely.
(And it goes to folks, too. What a shock I obtained once I obtained my DNA check and the Sicilian aspect of the household was truly fairly Center Japanese!)
Touring to Sicily? Begin with a Meals Tour
In the event you’re touring to Sicily and trying to study typical Sicilian meals, I extremely, extremely suggest beginning with a meals tour. It provides you with 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 ultimate Sicilian cuisine and wine tour in Palermo, which was completely incredible and one of the best ways to start out my journey.
Additionally they run a Catania food tour.
Caponata is among the most recognizable dishes from Sicily, and one that’s continuously 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 an important part of caponata, and it additionally contains celery, tomatoes, capers, inexperienced olives, and olives, cooked with olive oil, vinegar, and sugar.
Often yow will discover a extra upscale caponata that features octopus (polpo) or swordfish (spade).
Speak to Sicilians they usually’ll let you know that getting ready caponata is a time-consuming endeavor, every vegetable requiring a distinct cooking course of. Many Sicilian cooks prefer to make a giant 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, they usually often 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, often Béchamel or mozzarella) or al ragu (tomato and meat sauce, generally with peas), although yow will discover something from pistachios and mortadella to eggplant and ricotta salata.
Arancini are generally served as road meals in Sicily, however yow will discover them in eating places, in rosticcerie, in every single place.
Parmigiana di Melanzane
Yet one more extremely in style 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 picket 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 often eaten both as an appetizer or a aspect dish. A superb accompaniment to any Sicilian meal!
Zucca in Agrodolce
One other in style 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 associates joked. It was created to evoke the looks of candy and bitter liver, a extra in style dish for moneyed Sicilians.
The pumpkin in query is often a Sicilian crimson or yellow pumpkin, or comparable squashes, cooked in a easy recipe with sugar, vinegar, olive oil, and mint.
Considered one of Sicily’s most unusual meals is bottarga — dried compressed fish roe sac, often constituted of gray mullet or bluefin tuna. It’s mainly a slab of dried, salty fish, filled with umami taste.
Bottarga is usually 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 numerous 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. Strive each and see what you favor!
Caciocavallo cheese is in style all through Sicily — and Italy as an entire. However caciocavallo all’argentiera is a dish that you’ll find 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 take pleasure in melted cheese (and who doesn’t love melted cheese?).
This dish was reportedly invented by the spouse of a silversmith dwelling on By way of Argentiera who had fallen on exhausting instances. She made the cheese within the model of rabbit, and the scent was so good, folks didn’t notice it wasn’t meat!
Insalata di Musso
I warn you that insalata di musso is arguably the least interesting meals on this listing, but it surely’s in style in Palermo, so I’m sharing it right here. This can be a salad fabricated 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 advantageous skipping this one. (Then once more, I’m an adventurous eater and that is the one meals on this listing I couldn’t end.)
And now, a a lot 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. Generally yow will discover al mare variations that embody tuna or octopus.
This may be served as a aspect dish (contorno) or essential dish. It’s powerful to search out outdoors the Aeolian Islands, so take pleasure in it when you have it!
Sicilian Road Meals
In Palermo, generally it looks like each road snack is fried. And probably the most 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 preferred 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 in case you’re a vegetarian or vegan in Palermo, that is certainly one of your most strong 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, but it surely’s typically dressed up in fancier eating places.
This dish is hottest in Palermo, and yow will discover 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 pal who hates seafood — likelihood is they gained’t discover).
You’ll be able to 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 a protracted night time out, these are sfincione!
I even confirmed an image of Rhode Island-style pizza slices to my Sicilian associates, they usually all agreed — “That’s sfincione!”
These are an awesome dish to maintain you going whenever you want a chunk however not an entire meal.
Pani câ meusa
And now probably the most 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 prime. 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 like each tradition has its personal model of potato croquettes — and the Sicilians aren’t any exception with their crocchè. This in style road meals is offered all through Sicily.
Crocchè are constituted of mashed potatoes and eggs generally with grated caciocavallo cheese, then lined in breadcrumbs and fried. Mint provides a vivid 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 heart. Sicilian panzerotti could be picked up at a rosticceria within the morning, they usually make a filling and moveable breakfast on this typically breakfast-averse nation.
The skin 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 great panzerotto, you gained’t need the rest!
You’ll find panzerotti throughout Italy, they usually differ fairly a bit regionally. Panzerotti are vastly in style in Puglia, however they have a tendency to have a thinner outdoors 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 sort of toppings you may think about. Some in style 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 often 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, it’s essential watch out to maintain the elements from rolling off!
Unusually, everytime you discover pane cunzatu outdoors 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 in search of 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, could be very completely different from the everyday easy ricotta cheese you would possibly decide 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, but it surely originated in Catania and stays a supply of pleasure 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 components of the island lately.
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 yow will discover it with numerous forms 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 motive, 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 in case you can’t discover wild fennel the place you reside.
Pasta alla Lido (Pasta Pesce Spada)
One other in style 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 often casarecce — a flat rectangular pasta form that curls into itself, a bit like a protracted maccheroni however not fairly a tube.
This can be a incredible Sicilian pasta, utilizing basic Sicilian elements that you just discover nearly in every single place — and the mint leaves simply add a stunning brightness to the dish.
Busiate Alla Trapanese
Busiate is a sort 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 an area grass, ampelodesmos.
Pesto alla trapanese is a bit completely different from the pesto you’re used to up in Genoa — this pesto is constituted of almonds, grated pecorino cheese, tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Often it’s referred to as pesto alla siciliana.
That is one other wonderful 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, complicated taste.
Sea urchin is a winter delicacy in Sicily. The season often runs from November by April.
This pasta is often 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 method into our dish above!
Couscous alla Trapanese
Among the best methods to see the affect of North Africa in Sicilian delicacies is to move 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 often served with meat, couscous alla trapanese is served with fish or seafood of any form. 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 in case you 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 — whenever you’re on the coast, it’s typically exhausting to discover a essential dish that isn’t seafood! (If not, it’s often veal — the hen of Italy.) And often meaning what’s contemporary and native, served merely.
Sicilian menus typically characteristic sardines (sarde), anchovies (alici), tuna (tonno), swordfish (pesce spade), octopus (polpo) and squid (calamari).
Past that, there are Sicilian seafood dishes that it is best to preserve a watch 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 sort 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 novel candy taste and are served uncooked. You’ll be able to take pleasure in them on their very own or combined into one other dish — I had a beautiful pasta with pistachio pesto, burrata, and crimson shrimp at Ngonia Bay lodge in Milazzo.
Involtini di Pesce Spade
You might 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 good 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 identical dish made with butterflied sardines wrapped across the breadcrumbs combination.
Sicilian Desserts and Candy Treats
Actually, I believe one of many highlights of visiting Sicily is the desserts. I believe Sicily has the most effective desserts in all of Italy!
You’ve little question heard of cannoli, and you could have tried a granita or two, however Sicilian desserts get far 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 nicely. 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 realize 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 get them organized 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.
They usually come in numerous sizes — have a mini cannolo accompanying your caffe macchiato after lunch, or seize a full-sized one that might 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 yow will discover all through the island.
Cassata siciliana is the well-known vivid inexperienced cassata, often with plenty of candied fruit or geometric designs or a cherry on prime. 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 widespread 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 fabricated from layers of chocolate and hazelnuts. The identify 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 prime. (In the event you’re a baker and in search of a problem, this requires numerous completely different steps! No surprise it was a technical problem on The Nice British Bake-Off.)
This can be a in style birthday cake in Palermo — however you’re welcome to have it simply to rejoice being in Sicily!
Granita con Brioche
Whenever you go to Italy, you’re used to seeing gelato spots on each block. Whenever you get to Sicily, you is likely to be questioning why there are so few of them! Certain, gelato exists, however granita is the chilly candy deal with of selection in Sicily.
Granita is just like slush — it’s a easy semi-frozen dessert. And in Sicily, granita con brioche is granita served with a brioche — a scrumptious breakfast on a sizzling day! Sure, that is breakfast!
In Sicily, a few of 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 Japanese Sicily and chunkier in Western Sicily.
You can too get it topped with crema, both served as whipped cream or liquid cream, in case you’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 prime 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 to be fruit and veggies. These are frutta martorana — conventional marzipan sweets that originated in Palermo.
They’re softer than you assume, and so splendidly almondy.
Frutta martorana is a conventional dessert served on All Soul’s Day. Whereas it originated in Palermo, yow will discover it year-round all through Sicily.
What to Drink in Sicily
Like most Italians, Sicilians are inclined to drink wine, water, and low with nice enthusiasm.
Italians are justifiably pleased with their indigenous grape varietals. In Sicily, the native wine that you just’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 strong Sicilian white wine selections that you just’ll see on menus all through the island. Malvasia is a well-liked white wine from the Aeolian Islands value making an attempt.
Sicily additionally makes wonderful candy wines. Marsala is a candy wine from southwest Sicily that you just’ll see round.
It may be a bit overwhelming selecting an Italian wine in case you’re not acquainted with their varietals. (I typically say that one of many largest errors vacationers make in Italy is consistently 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 decide a bottle at random in case you’re feeling adventurous! Wine could be fairly low-cost in Sicily.
A digestivo is a liqueur consumed on the finish of your meal to help digestion. Does it work? Who is aware of, but it surely’s the basic technique to finish your meal in Sicily!
The preferred Sicilian digestivo is Amaro. Amaro is a bittersweet liqueur constituted of 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!