If you talk about Italy it’s impossible not to mention the Italian's passion for life, love of great food and stunning scenery.
However, one part of the country which is often overlooked and should be experienced is Sicily. The island sits just south of the Italian Peninsula, separated from the mainland by the narrow strait of Messina. It’s best described as an autonomous region of Italy after having become part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Because it also has a long history, you’ll find Sicilian food to be different, yet just as fantastic as traditional Italian cuisine. Naturally, the best way to appreciate authentic Sicilian food is to dine in local restaurants, but if that’s not possible you can recreate the best food in Sicily at home. Just take a look at Dolceterra’s Sugo Norma for a perfect pasta alla Norma.
That’s just one of many options available to bring Sicilian cuisine into your home.
What Is Traditional Sicilian Food
Sicily is famous for being home to Mount Etna, the highest and most active volcano in Europe. It’s been erupting (not continuously) for over 500,000 years! This has helped to create a unique and surprisingly fertile soil on the island: vegetables and grapes grow exceptionally well. Of course, the Mediterranean sun helps.
The land creates the food of Sicily. This approach was the only feasible option in the 19th century and ensured all food was created with fresh local ingredients.
Sicilian food is mainly fish, legumes and grains: all these items are in plentiful supply within the area. One particularly popular vegetable is the eggplant. You’ll also find an array of recipes with artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper and even zucchini.
When it comes to desserts it’s hard to beat Sicilian food. Lemons and oranges are a common ingredient, along with pistachios. Sicily food also contains olives and capers, not local but introduced by the Greeks
But that’s not all! Sicily is also famous for some of its cheeses. They need to be tried to be believed. One of the most common is Caciocavallo cheese which can be eaten when young and is made from cow’s milk. Ricotta is perhaps the most famous and potentially most used cheese, although you may have also heard of Ragusano Dop, Vastedda Valle Del Belice, or Piacentinu Ennese.
Famous Sicilian Dishes
If you’re not already feeling hungry then you will when you read about some of the most common and famous Sicilian food options:
This is a traditional Sicilian snack. It’s simple creamy risotto rice coated in breadcrumbs, then deep-fried until golden. It’s plentiful across Sicily and tastes fantastic as a snack at any time.
You’ll find this on menus all over Europe and even further afield. It is made with aubergine, pine nuts and raisins, but the key ingredient is copious amounts of vinegar. The mixture becomes a stew with the aid of tomatoes, onions, celery, capers and olives.
- Busiate al pesto Trapanese
This dish actually originated in Northern Italy and uses pesto. However, there’s a Sicilian variant which needs to be tried. The Sicilians combine almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic and some Pecorino cheese to make a sauce and add it to busiate pasta.
- Pasta alla Norma
This dish is generally found on the east coast of Sicily and is perhaps the most famous Sicilian pasta dish. It uses local tomatoes, garlic, basil, aubergines and ricotta. It’s regarded by locals as a masterpiece.
- Involtini di pesce spada
This is basically swordfish rolls. It’s created with finely sliced swordfish which is covered with capers, raisins, olive, pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon. This simple pleasure is then rolled and placed onto a skewer to be baked, grilled or even fried.
One thing is certain: Sicilian food is full of flavor, smells fantastic and has to be tried at least once in your life. You can visit Sicily or replicate the traditional recipes at home. All it takes is committing to a Sicilian night.
It could be the best thing you ever do!