Known for centuries as the Granary of Rome, Sicily’s abundance does not halt at grain production. From wild foraged to farm harvested goods, the island’s year-round production makes it a true cornucopia of fresh, high quality produce. As a result, Sicilian food traditions and heritage are deeply rooted in the natural cycles of the island’s productivity, giving Sicilians an endless list of exceptional recipes to enjoy throughout the year. Consequently, the best Sicilian dishes are highly contested among Sicilians, as are the methodologies behind their preparation. That being said, we’ve pulled some of our favorite bites together to help dip your toes into the wonderful, endless pool of Sicily’s most celebrated dishes.
In early June, warm summer winds rush through high stalks of ancient grains; their golden kernels glittering under the sun’s watchful eye. Across the island, the harvest of ancient grains has begun, delivering proof of Sicily’s well-deserved moniker. As such, any list of Sicily’s best dishes would be remiss not to start with the best Sicilian pasta recipes.
CLASSIC SICILIAN PASTA DISHES
Busiate alla TrapaneseCombining sun-ripened tomatoes, sweet Italian almonds, garlic, chili flakes and herbs, the deliciously bright and fresh pesto is traditionally folded into busiate. Bring out your mortar and pestle and enjoy a true Sicilian favorite tonight.
Pasta alla Norma
Featuring luscious eggplant, juicy tomatoes, garlic, and salty ricotta salata, pasta alla Norma is another dish that you’ll fall in love with over, and over again while traveling through Sicily. Give it a try at home. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity, it’s a favorite for a reason.
Pasta con le Sarde
With both anchovies and sardines folded into this beautifully saline pasta, sweet-sour bursts of currants and aromatic, fresh fennel bring a nuance and balance to the unique and beloved dish.
BEST SICILIAN SEAFOOD DISHES
Surrounded by the gleaming, turquoise hues of the Mediterranean Sea, there is no shortage of exceptional Sicilian fare highlighting the flavors of the ocean. World renowned for their honey-dew sweetness and stunning red complexion, Mazara red prawns are found on the southwestern coast of Sicily and are prized by chefs around the globe. Like many of its Mediterranean neighbors, squid and octopus adorn the table frequently, their rubbery flesh carefully cooked to a buttery and succulent texture.
Of course, the plethora of Sicilian dishes that highlight their beautiful ocean bounty do so in tandem with the incredible flavors grown right there on the island. From Pesce spada alla siciliana (swordfish cooked in bitter olives, juicy tomatoes, and briny capers), to Sarde a beccafico (sardines wrapped around a mixture of breadcrumb, raisin, anchovy, and herbs), and show stopping Spaghetti al nero di seppie (cuttlefish ink pasta), Sicily is where land and sea collide in a stunning marriage of flavors. With ingredients so fresh and abundant, you could spend years exploring Sicilian seafood.
BEST STREETFOOD IN SICILYLike any agrarian culture, Sicilians have cultivated an exceptional spread of scrumptious street food that are reason enough to visit the stunning island. Sold throughout Sicily from street carts, storefronts, and restaurants, arancini (breaded and deep-fried, creamy delicious balls of risotto) are a local staple. In eastern Sicily, you’ll find these decadent treats stuffed with hearty ragù and molded into triangular shapes to mimic the looming Mt. Etna. In other parts of the island, you’ll find the filling snack stuffed with mozzarella and ham, pistachios, mushrooms, or a creamy bechamel sauce. Regardless of what’s inside, the crispy fried exterior and creamy hot center are simply irresistible once you’ve had your first bite.
BEST SICILIAN DESSERTS
Then there’s the refreshingly cold, sweet, and often fruity granita. Originally made with shaved snow from the peaks of Sicily’s mountaintops, these icy treats are beloved throughout the island. For a traditional experience, bringing honey, sugar, and water together into a sweet and creamy dessert, try the Granita Siciliana.
If you’re in search of a more savory indulgence, cassata is a delicious treat often served to celebrate the festival of Saint Agatha. Starting with a layer of sponge cake soaked in liquor, the cake is then piled high with ricotta and fresh fruit, and finally covered in a dome of marzipan. From amaretti to buccellati, there are also a myriad of delectable cookies filled with the fruits and nuts of the island to indulge in while traveling through Sicily, or replicate in your own kitchen.
While Italy is a mecca for food lovers around the world, just off its southern coast, Sicily is an eden in the land of good food, wine, and hospitality. Have a Sicilian favorite of your own? Let us know in the comments below.