Sicily, flourishing island with a favorable climate and fertile land due to its volcanic origin, strongly linked to agriculture and fishing, has always been famous for its culinary delights – Plato himself in his texts talks about people and food in Syracuse. The dishes that can be enjoyed on this island are a real mix of flavors and ingredients. Vegetables and fruits that grow naturally in the area, join fruits, essences and foods brought there by various rulers over the centuries: lemons, tangerines, oranges, prickly pears, almonds, durum wheat flour, used by the Saracens for the pasta production, sugar cane and more. All this, is accompanied by excellent wines, such as the Nero d’Avola, Corvo Rosso, Pantelleria’s Passito, Syracuse’s Moscato, Lipari’s Malvasia and many other labels famous all around the world.
Here are six things to know about Sicilian cuisine:
1. Ice cream, “sorbetto” and “granita”:
Not everyone knows that the birth of ice cream, granita and sorbetto is attributed precisely to this territory. With the importation of sugar cane, the Arab Emirs began to prepare sugar-based infusions, using water and spices along with flowers such as mulberry trees and jasmine extracts. The preparation was cooled through the use of ice or snow, taken directly from the slopes of Etna, and was called “sherbet“.
This particular dish, the forerunner of sorbetto and granita, was enriched with ingredients coming from the Americas, such as coffee or cocoa, and gained popularity in court banquets in the sixteenth century. Still the granita is one of the most famous dishes in the Sicilian bars. Try that at Noto’s almond’s flavor.
2. Street food:
In the Greek cities of Sicily was born the first “street food” in history. People ate at any time and with their hands, during shopping, meeting up with friends, discussing business. Sauces, deep-fried foods, meat and small snacks were served outside as a modern street food stand. The street food is still very popular in the streets of Syracuse, Catania and Palermo.
3. Deep-fried foods:
Deep-fried food are the true protagonists of the Sicilian cuisine. Among the most famous dishes, there is the Arancini. Born from a Saracen recipe, a rice dish with saffron combined with spices and vegetables, it was enriched with meat and it gained the “orange” shape to simplify the takeaway.
Another famous food is the “Panella”, fried chickpeas polenta to eat in the morning in a sesame bun, born with the name of “piscipanelli“, because of their fishes shape, eaten by those who could not afford deep-fried fish.
Bread is a very important food for Sicily, both from the gastronomic and religious point of view. Every religious festival has his bread, each one of a different form from the others: the grain can in fact be considered a gift of the gods. For example, the “cannarozza bread” has the shape of a trachea, and is dedicated to S. Biagio, patron saint of the throat. The Saint Lucia bread represents the eyes, the St. Paul bread a Serpent, the Salemi bread grasshoppers, calls “cavadduzze“, such as those that invaded the fields in the area and that the inhabitants were hoping to drive away offering bread to St. Biagio.
It is also used as a condiment in the form of grated bread. Among the most known breads, the “cucciddatu”, donut-shaped, typical of Catania, Lentini bread with sesame seeds, the “pupu cu l’ovu”, bread with eggs, tradition spread all Sicilian feasts, and the Sfincione, mashed with tomatoes, anchovies, cheese, which takes its name from the consistency of the dough (soft as a sponge) and is served as a Palermo street food.
5. Main courses:
Fish is the main course in Sicilian cuisine: first courses such as pasta with tuna, with bottarga, with sea urchins, and second courses such as the “Beccafico Sardine”, a Catanese dish that involves baked sardines rolled around a mixture of bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, pine nuts, salt, pepper and oil. Also the boiled octopus, snails, called “babbaluci”, stuffed squid and swordfish served in various ways.
Sicilian cuisine offers also many meat dishes, mostly offal. For example “stigghiole” of sheep intestines on a skewer, the “quarume“, bovine offal boiled in broth, the “frittola” residual meat sautéed with saffron and served hot in a basket. Also, the sandwich with the spleen, served with ricotta cheese, and the Sicilian Rolls, with pine nuts, raisins, onions, bay leaves and beef. Also vegetables are often the main ingredients of great dishes, like the famous Pasta alla Norma with eggplant, tomato and ricotta salata, or peppers caponata.
Sicilian meals have always very sweet endings, and each city has its typical desserts. Among the most known and popular we find the almond paste, the cannoli, Modica chocolate, nougat with almonds and pistachios.