The Sicilian cuisine
The Sicilian cuisine is not as famous as the Tuscan cuisine, but certainly not due to lack of quality! In many locations on this sunny island you can enjoy delicious dishes, great home-made ice cream, very sweet dolci, street food, savory snacks, pizza and the Sicilian sfincione , fine wines and regional products.
Obviously we can’t mention all of them on one page. We will, however, describe a few of its most famous dishes, starting with the “snacks”:
Arancina literally means “small orange” and is a famous Sicilian snack. You can buy this ball made of rice, either filled with minced meat and green peas or with ham and cheese, in almost every Sicilian bar. The most delicious arancine are made by a bar in the town of Alcamo, close to the coastal towns of Balestrate and Castellammare del Golfo.
Pane e panelle
Panelle are thin, fried slices of dough made from chickpeas, frequently served in a bun. It’s a popular snack which is also served as antipasti in restaurants.
Pane con la milza
Pane con la milza, “pani cà meusa” in dialect, is a favorite treat, especially in the city of Palermo and has a rather salty taste. This sandwich made of fried beef spleen is served with a slice of fresh Sicilian lemon and some grated local cheese (caciocavallo). Although pane con la milza can be found in many Sicilian towns and cities, the people from Palermo are convinced that their pani cà meusa is simply the best!
You shouldn’t confuse the sfincione with the pizza, although both are made with similar ingredients. The sfincione is in a way, the Sicilian equivalent of the Italian pizza. The base is thicker than that of a pizza and is covered with a mixture of tomatoes, onions, anchovies, cheese (caciocavallo), olive oil, oregano and bread-crumbs. You can eat this treat both cold and warm.
Obviously the Sicilian cuisine consists of more than snacks! Some of the famous and less known dishes are:
Pasta con le sarde
This is by far the most famous and most appreciated Sicilian dish. It’s a pasta with sardines and fennel, and in Palermo, it is also served with tomato sauce, pine nuts, and currants. In the city of Catania on the other side of Sicily the sardines are frequently replaced by anchovies. The dish is then called pasta cche masculini (masculini means anchovies in the local dialect).
The caponata is a vegetarian dish made from fried vegetables (usually eggplant and sweet peppers) mixed with olives, capers and celery. It has a sweet and sour taste and is often served as an antipasto (starter)
Sarde a beccafico
This traditional Sicilian dish from Palermo is made from sardines, filled with bread-crumbs, pine nuts, cinnamon, grapes, currants and anchovies. We recommend you try this delicious dish!
Bistecca alla palermitana
One of the most famous dishes on the island is Bistecca alla palermitana! It is a breaded veal cutlet baked, not fried, and delicious when served with a little lemon juice.
Some typical Sicilian sweet treats (dolci) recommended by us:
Years ago this dolce was only eaten during carnival, but nowadays it’s one of the most famous Sicilian treats which you can buy all throughout Sicily. Just like the Sicilian cassata, the cannolo was introduced during the Arabian domination. It’s a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling of sweetened ricotta cheese and chocolate. For those who are not that hungry, there’s the possibility to order the cannolicchio, the smaller version of the cannolo.
Also a typical Sicilian treat that you simply must taste! Of this glazed cake, prepared with sweetened ricotta cheese, sugar and candied fruit, exist many versions. Sometimes a layer of almond paste is added and in certain parts of the island the cassata is less sweet. The sweetest cassata is the one made in Palermo and is considered the best one in Sicily (especially by the Palermitani, the inhabitants of Palermo)!
Brioche con gelato
Ice cream (gelato) obviously is not typical Sicilian, but the combination with a sweet bun (brioche) is something you will probably not often see in the north of Italy. “A bun with ice cream?” you might ask. Yes, indeed it may sound a little strange, but once you have tasted an ice-cream sandwich, you probably won’t go back to buying ice cream in a cone. The quality of the Sicilian ice cream is excellent because the fresh fruit that is used is very sweet and flavorful, due to the amount of sun hours on the island of Sicily. There are literally hundreds of flavors, from the “standard” fruit flavored ice cream, to ice cream with pistachio, chocolate ice cream with red (hot) peppers, sette veli (seven layers of different kinds of chocolate), the cassata icecream and so on. The best ice cream is homemade, so when in Sicily, look for a gelateria artigiana, to be sure the ice cream is homemade!
The basic granita is made from water (finely chopped ice), sugar and lemon, and is very refreshing. There are a variety of different flavors, such as peach, pear, almond, chocolate, pistachio and many more. In bars, granita is usually served with a brioche (a sweet bun) on the side, however, many places will serve it in a bun, in which case it’s called brioche con granita.
The cassatelle are dolci filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and chocolate, covered with a sugar icing. The shape of a cassatella looks like a small calzone, the famous folded pizza. The best cassatelle are made in a bar in the coastal town of Castellammare del Golfo, close to Balestrate.
Obviously the best way to get to know the Sicilian cuisine is to come and visit Sicily for a lovely, relaxing holiday!