When we tell you that Sicily is a true paradise for food lovers, we sure are not telling you something you don’t know. This island has an invaluable food culture: cooking is an art here – an art that is equally performed and/or appreciated by all its inhabitants, with no regards for age, class, sex or anything else. The value of food is considered to be not only in its deliciousness or its quantity: it is often perceived in its symbolic characteristics. Just picture this: Sicilians use to say that when one is invited at someone else’s house, he should “knock the door with his feet” … because hands would be busy carrying loads of food as a gift!
See also: Sicilian street food: our top 5
And when you’ll finally visit the island, you’ll find out that all the words you heard could not describe what you actually will experience. Local products are delicious, fresh and tasty, and you’ll be surrounded by flavors and colors almost everywhere – from the crowded and lively markets of the big cities to the fish restaurants along the sea; from the flavors coming out of ancient bakeries to the scent of the citrus fields in the countryside. We would need more than a book (probably an encyclopedia!) to list all the delicacies you can find here… but let’s stick to the basics – say, a “Sicily food 101“: here you are, the five delicacies you absolutely mustn’t miss during your stay. And don’t forget to ask for the recipe: true Sicilian cooks (from the chef of a restaurant to the housewife) are eager to tell you their personal trick or special ingredient that make it so delicious!
– Cannoli Siciliani
You may have tasted cannoli in your homeland, finding them really good, but the cannoli you’ll eat in Sicily have no rivals. These delicious pastry desserts are made with the finest ricotta cheese and chocolate beads or candied fruit, wrapped in fried pastry dough (a mix of wheat, wine, sugar and lard). Cannoli were first created in the area of Palermo during Carnevale, and can be found in every corner of Sicily all year long. If you are staying in the Trapani area (check our Marsala holiday rentals catalogue for accommodations) you’ll be able to taste XL-size cannoli in a little town just outside Trapani: you’ll discover that their taste is equally unforgettable, regardless of their size. When to try cannoli siciliani: for breakfast, with a strong Espresso coffee, or after lunch or dinner, with a glass of “L’oro di Dora” wine.
– Pasta con le sarde
Pasta with sardines is basically the most famous first course all over Sicily: its success surely comes from the perfect match of its main ingredients – sardines, pasta and fennel. Sardines are most fished from March to September – the same period of the year during which it is possible to harvest fennel: you’ll find pasta con le sarde all year long everywhere in Sicily, but you’ll taste the most delicious one during the warm season since its main ingredients will surely be fresh. The dish is enriched and flavored by pine nuts, raisins, saffron and of course some drops of local olive oil.
When to try pasta con le sarde: at lunch, with a glass of “Bianco Alcamo” white wine that will bring out the flavors of raisins and pine nuts.
– Arancine Siciliane
You surely are familiar with these fried rice balls: they have been first created in Sicily, but can be found almost everywhere in the world. But the taste and the “cult”… they belong to Sicily. This is one of the most beloved Sicilian foods, by its inhabitants first, who are still fighting for the proper “gender” of this food: if you are in Palermo, remember to call it Arancina (female). If someone will hear you saying Arancino (male), as they say in the Catania district, he’ll probably get upset! The most famous arancine are stuffed with rice, meat and peas or rice and butter, but you’ll find a huge choice of varieties, from the gluten-free to the nutella-stuffed one.
When to try Arancine siciliane: this is typical street food, so try an arancina as you walk around for shopping (yes, Sicilians eat arancine while they go shopping!) or sightseeing. If you happen to visit Sicily in December, remember that Dec. 13 is Santa Lucia, the Arancina day, when (especially in Palermo) people eat arancine for lunch and dinner and incredible new varieties are created!
– Pasta con bottarga di tonno di Favignana (pasta with Favignana tuna eggs)
The red tuna of the little island of Favignana, the most important of the Aegadian Islands (less than an hour by boat from the port of Trapani), is really great. If you choose spring for your holiday in Sicily (our Favignana villas are available all year long!), you’ll be happy to know that this particular kind of tuna is fished during May, so you’ll have plenty of chances to taste it all over the mainland as well. The very point is the delicate and delightful taste of this fish, so you can try almost any of the recipes that most tickle your taste; anyway, we suggest you try pasta with Favignana red tuna eggs (also called “the Mediterranean caviar”) for its originality and uniqueness (you’ll find it only in Sicily!).
When to try Pasta con bottarga di tonno di Favignana: for lunch or for dinner, and if you are a red wine lover we suggest you an islander one, Salina igt.
– Caponata di melanzane (Eggplant caponata)
Eggplants are one of the most common vegetables in the cooking tradition of Sicily: you’ll find them in the classic parmigiana, or fried inside a sandwich, but caponata is definitely the best way to get to know not only eggplants but also the history of this beautiful land. This course was first realized a lot of centuries ago, and is still nowadays a great starter for any meal, served in every house as well as in every restaurant all around Sicily. There is a wide number of variations all over the island (as we told you, every cook claims to have a secret ingredient that makes it really special), anyway the most used ingredients – besides eggplants, of course – are tomato sauce, celery, capers, vinegar and a sweet and sour sauce.
When to try eggplant caponata: this is a perfect starter/appetizer for any meal, but can also be tasted during the happy hour. It’s not easy to match the perfect wine with a recipe that uses a lot of vinegar; anyway, a good match would be the red Cerasuolo di Vittoria.
We could continue this list for months… But we are waiting for your suggestions: what’s your “must-taste” in Sicily?