Sicily is all about food. We went to Sicily this summer for our honeymoon, and spent a high percentage of the time eating! Local cuisine picked the best from every conqueror that governed this island, and now is a delicious mixture of Italian cuisine and Arabic influences. Sicilian sweets are considered to be the best in Italy, but there are also fresh seafood, pasta, and all sorts of fruit and vegetables that thrive on the islands fertile soil under the hot Mediterranean sun.
I made a list of 12 foods I tried and liked the most, but in reality, the list is quite longer, and the comment block below is just waiting to be filled with your ideas and picks on this topic!
Here they go:
1. LEMONS&ORANGES- Warm climate with loads of sun during the entire year is the reason for such abundance of citruses. Sicilian blood orange ( Arancia Rossa di Sicilia ) is a an indigenous sort, which has a protected geographical status. Lemon and orange trees grow literally on every corner of Sicily. We saw abundant orange trees with ripe oranges falling on the ground on bus stations and no one even picked them up! We had a big lemon tree in the garden of our apartment in Modica, and brought a bunch of lemons back home in a suitcase. One of the most popular lemon products is limoncello- a sweet and sour liquer made of lemon zests!
2. CAPONATA- traditional Sicilan dish made of aubergines and tomatoes (melanzane e pomodoro). As any kind of stew, the longer it cooks, the better it gets! One of the best I’ve had was in the Sicilian restaurant in Berlin! Who would have guessed, right?
3. GELATO- Italy is a land of gelato, but Sicilian gelato is something special indeed. Introduced by Arabs, first Sicilian gelato was made with snow brought from the slopes of Mount Etna to the nearby towns. Secret to its quality? It has a less percentage of cream comparing to those of other countries. There are numerous sorts of Sicilian gelato, but the pistacchio sort was the tastiest I’ve tried. Gelato with brioche is a typical Palermitan dish, and the locals say that you can’t leave Palermo without trying it- one more reason to go back to Sicily!
4. CANNOLI- crispy tubes filled with fresh ricotta and often dipped in candied fruit, pistacchio or chocolate. The tastiest ones are filled minutes before serving, and could be eaten for breakfast, as a dessert after lunch or dinner- practically any time is a good time for cannoli!
5. GAMBERO ROSSO- as big as scampi and as delicious! It is a typical Mediterranean species of prawns with a specific taste. Served with pasta, as a main dish or antipasti, seafood lovers (like me) could not get enough of it. On our first evening in Cefalú (and on Sicily) we found a great restaurant which served this pasta with gambero rosso- it was sooo delicious!
6. PASTA CON LE SARDE- traditional Sicilian pasta dish, (usually) made of spaghetti with sardines, fennel, raisins, pine nuts and saffron. Arabic influences can be tasted in its aromatic mixture of sweet and salty, and since it’s one of the signature dishes of Sicilian cuisine, you shouldn’t leave Sicily without giving it a try!
7. ARANCINE- fried rice balls with all sorts of fillings, such as meat ragu, mozarrela and prosciutto or tomato sauce. They are crisp on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside, and a great street food option for a quick meal! The name comes from its shape and color that resembles the orange.
8. SALAMI&CHEESE- In every restaurant where we ordered a cold starter we got excellent sorts of local cheeses and salami. Sicilians are very proud of their own products, and most likely are going to informe you about the region of origin of the served food. I particulary liked the pecorino with peppercorns and the salami with pistacchios!
9. PESTO DI PISTACCHIO- Italy is known for its great pestos which can be used in pasta dishes or bruschettas, and Sicily is known for pistacchios. Logical combination? – Sicilian pesto di pistacchio. I’ve tried it in deferent pasta combinations and it’s delicious! This one was made especially for us, on a farm below the town of Petralia Soprana- we sat on the terrace and watched the cook picking the mint leaves and then blending them with pistacchios- it really couldn't get any fresher than that!
10. CHOCOLATE- for chocolate enthusiasts, the town of Modica is the place to be! There are many chocolate shops in the town, but the most famous is the one runned by Bonajuto family since the year 1880. The quality of their chocolate relies on the ancient Aztec recipes, brought to Sicily by Spaniards. Chocolate is made of cacao beans with granulated sugar which gives this chocolate its peculiar taste, and you can choose from all sorts of flavors such as white pepper, salt, orange, nutmeg, chilli pepper...
11. PASTA NORMA- another typical Sicilian pasta dish made with aubergine, tomato, basil and salted ricotta. Like Pasta con le Sarde, can be found on every restaurant’s menu and there is really nothing not to like regarding this dish! The one below was served with gnocchi instead of pasta- both versions are delicious!
12. BISCOTTI DI PASTA DI MANDORLE- I’ve tried this soft almond cookies in Sicilian Restaurant in Berlin (again!), but if you’re going to Sicily, do not miss them out! Forget about dry crispy cookies- these have almost creamy texture and you will not get enough of them!