Sicilian Cuisine: Must-Try Foods of Sicily

January 10, 2024 By Bellarome Travel

What to eat in Sicily, according to the locals

A food tour in Sicily is a must for any foodie. This is because Sicilian cuisine is one of the best-known and most appreciated cuisines. Not only in Italy but all over the world. Sicilian cuisine is a reflection of this multicolored, multicultural island. The people, architecture, and art reflect the island’s rich past, as does the gastronomy.

The Sicilian gastronomic tradition is indeed rich with tasty, seasonal dishes, and each part of the island has its own. It comes as a surprise to many that Sicilian food varies across the island. Some nuances that may seem minor to a tourist, are taken very seriously in Sicily. When considering a food tour of Sicily, you might want to familiarize yourself with some of these dishes.

Check out our guide to help you best choose which parts of the island appeal most to you. A tough decision, as it’s all delicious!

Food in Palermo

Palermo’s inhabitants are known for frying, but it is remiss to reduce the local gastronomy to just that. Palermo’s food is characterized by influences from the Arabs, Romans, Normans, Greeks, Spanish, Jews, and so on, a crossroads that is particularly evident in the local street food. In Palermo, street food—and food in general—is serious business. Anywhere and at any time of day or night, you’ll always find something to eat—authentic and tasty, often at a bargain price. Let us first take you on a tasting journey of the typical flavors of Palermo.

Must-try street food in Palermo

  • Arancina: These small rice balls are stuffed with stew, cheese, spinach–anything you want–and fried! They are soft and warm on the inside, and crispy and golden on the outside. In Palermo, they are called ‘arancina’ (female) and they are round. Whereas, they are called ‘arancino’ (masculine) in Catania and are in the shape of a volcano.
  • Sfincione: a thick, soft, wet pizza, covered with tomato sauce, onion, oregano, anchovies and cheese. To eat without moderation.
  • Pani ca Meusa: A peculiar sandwich of Palermo with spleen, caciocavallo cheese and lemon.
  • Pane e panelle: Not a fan of spleen? That’s ok, this other iconic sandwich is a sandwich comprised of fried chickpea flour called “panelle” and fried mashed potatoes or “crocchè”. The hot-fried chickpea flour and mashed potatoes covered with a very thin fried shell will make you want to extend your stay. Season it with just lemon and salt. You might need to sit down and brace yourself for your first bite.
  • Cassata cake: the best typical Cassata is in Palermo! It consists of a round sponge cake moistened with liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit, delicious!
  • Cannolo at Piana degli Albanesi: The cannoli from Piana degli Albanesi are considered the best in the world. They are different from those in Catania, Trapani, Erice, or the rest of Sicily because they make the shells by hand and the ricotta in the filling is made with sheep’s milk.

Palermo street food

Be sure to visit neighboring fishing villages like Sferracavallo or Castellamare del Golfo to enjoy a seaside meal of fresh catches.

Food in Trapani

Located at the west-most point of the main island, Trapani is home to many famous pasta dishes made with fresh ingredients. A variety of aromatic seaside dishes have also evolved due to its historic Arab dominance. Arrange your vacation to Italy, select from a variety of Italy Sicily travel packages, and experience delicious food.

Typical dishes in Trapani

  • Busiate with pesto alla Trapanese: a variation of traditional pesto alla genovese made with oil, basil, tomatoes, almonds, pecorino cheese, and garlic. This pesto can be used to season any kind of pasta, but traditionally it’s combined with Busiate, a particular spiral-shaped pasta originally from Trapani.
  • Couscous alla Trapanese: a traditional dish originating from Mahgreb, which then spread in Sicily after the Arab dominance. An official recipe of Couscous alla trapanese does not exist, because each family has its particular way of preparing it. Chefs in Trapani generally prepare it with seafood and various kinds of vegetables, such as tomatoes, onions, and carrots, then seasoned with olive oil, many spices, herbs, and chopped almonds.
  • Pesce Spada in agrodolce: Swordfish prepared uniquely in Trapani using sweet and sour ingredients like vinegar, raisins, pine nuts, onions, and capers.
  • Pasta with Broccoli is one of the typical dishes in Marsala, Trapani. Made with cheese, breadcrumbs, raisins, and saffron. It may sound simple, but this is a signature trait of Sicilian cuisine. And no one can quite make a simple dish as spectacular as the Trapanesi, Italians will second this!

Be sure to visit Marsala when in Trapani, famous for its wine, ancient ruins, salt mines, chicken marsala, marsala sauce, etc. Ask us if you want more time there to explore the Stagnone Nature Reserve, or visit any of the archeological museums.

Trapani dishes

Food in Agrigento

Agrigento is famous as the home of Greek temples, but also a must for a food tour of Sicily. A vegetarian paradise, you won’t go hungry in Agrigento and you’ll leave feeling light. Here you can find many of the famous Sicilian street foods like cannoli, granita, and arancino/a, but here are some peculiar dishes that have evolved from Green and Arab influences over the centuries.

Typical dishes in Agrigento

  • Macco di fave: Macco con le fava beans is a dish that consists of a cream of broad beans, enriched with vegetables and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil. You can also try ‘pasta with fava beans’ during fava bean season in Agrigento.
  • Pasta al carciofo: ‘pasta with artichokes’ is a seasonal dish served mostly during the artichoke season (March to May). It is a celebration of the region’s artichokes, widely cultivated in the fertile lands surrounding Agrigento.
  • Pizza Agrigento: Agrigento-style pizza is influenced by Sicilian flavors and ingredients, making it distinct from other Italian pizza styles. It has a thick soft crust and uses local seasonal produce for the toppings.
  • Ricotta and cavatelli all’agrigentina: A hearty durum wheat small pasta with a rolled shape served with fresh ripe tomatoes,  eggplant, and salted ricotta.

Agrigento food

Food in Catania

Last but certainly not least is Catania, the second largest city in Sicily after the capital, Palermo. It’s located on the opposite side of the island and seems to be proudly turning its back on that city, gazing wistfully towards Greece. It occupies the space between the sea and Mount Etna—known locally as ‘a Muntagna or ‘u Mungibeddu—one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Catania and Palermo are great rivals when it comes to cuisine. See if you can taste the differences if you visit both locations on your food tour of Sicily.

Signature dishes in Catania

  • Pasta alla norma: This pasta has historical significance and features rigatoni, cooked in a tomato and basil sauce, with fried eggplant. Then a generous amount of grated ricotta salata (salted ricotta cheese) is sprinkled on top. Tomato, plus eggplant, plus cheese is Heaven on a plate!
  • Caponata: Hands down one of the tastiest dishes only Sicilians can master. Caponata is a mix of sauteed onions, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants pepperoni, pine nuts, and raisins. This is a perfect side dish cooked mainly with aubergines, tomatoes and basil. The result is a mix of scents, colors, and flavors that recall the suggestions of the splendid land.

Catania dishes

 

Street food in Catania

  • Arancino (fried rice balls): Italians often debate whether Sicily’s famous rice balls are feminine (arancine) or masculine (arancini). In Sicily there is no doubt whatsoever: in Palermo they are feminine and in Catania masculine. They also look different. Arancine are round like the oranges from which they get their name; whilst arancini have a point on the top, like Mount Etna.
  • Cartocciata: Pastry rolls stuffed with mozzarella, cooked ham, and olives. The fillings peek out from each end of the pastry, promising a delicious mouthful in every bite.
  • Ricotta infornata: Baked ricotta cheese takes on a yellow hue and a more intense taste which pairs well with dessert wine. There’s a dispute as to whether to use this cheese or salted ricotta (ricotta salata) with Pasta alla Norma.
  • Horse meat: Not compulsory of course. But if you are game, a traditional street food that you can find just in Catania is horse meat, usually eaten as meatballs or small steaks.
  • Granita: Any time is perfect for a Sicilian Granita! The ritual of Sicilian granita (semi-frozen Sicilian dessert) is a symbol of Sicilian culture and history. The locals like it with cream and a brioche for breakfast during summertime or as a dessert. There is even a flavour made with real pistachio from Bronte which is like nothing you’ve ever tasted!

Catania street food

Be sure to visit Bronte and try their world-famous pistachio – aka green gold. On an excursion to Bronte, you can sample the infinite possibilities of sweet and savory dishes featuring the versatile pistachio prepared in different ways.

For an immersive experience, explore Sicily through our curated Tour packages of Sicily, where every bite becomes a journey through the island’s rich heritage. Discover the secrets behind these sweet masterpieces and create memories that linger like the flavors of Sicily.

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