Posted on 29/07/2022

#Culture #Italy

A tour of Sicily through the island's best dishes

Thanks to its historical and cultural heritage, as well as the friendly population, Sicily is one of the most visited Italian regions in Europe. It has got a lot to offer, but of course the food is yet another great reason to visit. So let's discover some of the best dishes and recipes that truly represent Sicilian cuisine, in a gastronomic tour that will bring some joy to your taste buds.

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Sardine pasta

Simple, delicious and affordable, pasta with sardines is one of the most popular dishes in Sicily, bringing some joy to kitchens, even more so between March and September, which is the right time for sardines, as well as wild fennel, which is then harvested and is another key ingredient. According to legends, the creator of the dish would have been an Arab cook who, during military campaigns in Syracuse, was forced to feed his troops with what was available. The result is an exquisite combination of produce from the sea and the mountain, to which were added pine nuts, onions, anchovies, sultanas, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a pinch of saffron later on.

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The aubergine is a key ingredient used in many recipes in Sicily. It is also the main ingredient in the traditional caponata, which is a stew made of chopped vegetables cooked in olive oil and topped with tomato sauce, celery, onion and olives, giving it a sweet and sour flavor. The simplest and most classic version is the 'palermitana', which contains sugar, vinegar and sometimes basil leaves, pine nuts and toasted almonds. The Agrigento version is spicier and sweeter, with chili, honey and sultanas. It is usually eaten as a side dish to go with meat or fish, although it can also be an appetizer.

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Une publication partagée par siciliankitchen (@siciliankitchen)

Fish Couscous

Similarly to the architecture and cultural heritage, Sicilian gastronomy is characterized by the influence of strangers who lived there. A good example of that is fish couscous that comes from the Arabic influence, and is yet another dish every food lover should try during their trip to Sicily. The rich ingredients and fresh fishes used to make the broth, give it a unique flavor that will make your taste buds dance. Originally, this was a poor man's dish cooked by fishmongers with unsold fish, and in North Africa, couscous is usually steamed after being worked by hand for several hours. Today, in addition to various fishes, people also add some crustaceans, such as squid, mussels and clams. 

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Arancini are at the center of Sicilian street food. Easy and quick to eat, the breaded rice balls are fried and filled with a wide variety of ingredients, making it the perfect snack. The most popular are those with meat sauce, but those with mozzarella, ham and béchamel sauce, or mozzarella and spinach, as well as tomato sauce and aubergines, are also very popular. Today, there are plenty of variations, and even sweet versions of the dish. The name comes from its characteristic shape and color, that looks like an orange. In the eastern part of the island, however, it is usually conical, particularly in Catania and in the towns near Mount Etna. According to tradition, the shape was inspired by the volcano, and when you bite into it, the steam looks like the smoke from an eruption, but what corresponds to lava is a delicious tomato sauce.

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In competition with arancini in terms of Sicilian street food, are the classic panelle. Made with chickpea flour, water and salt, they are fried and usually served in small sandwiches, sometimes going with crocchè, which are mashed potato croquettes. The both of them together are pretty heavy, but they taste so good that you won't be able to resist. No wonder that they are one of the region's favorite snacks.

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Busiati with Agghia Pistata

Busiati are a type of long, braided pasta from Trapani, which are traditionally served with pesto alla trapanese. It is a traditional dish coming from Ligurian sailors who stopped there, and to which Sicilians later added two of their most common local products: tomatoes and almonds. Like Genovese pesto, it also contains basil, but the ingredients that make it unique are red garlic, grated pecorino cheese and black pepper, mixed together in a mortar, along with olive oil to give it its characteristic creamy consistency.

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Sarde a Beccafico

As we have mentioned before, fish, and particularly sardines, are a beloved part of traditional Sicilian cuisine, and sarde a beccafico is yet another example of that. This delicious dish is stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, raisins, pine nuts, pepper, salt and olive oil, and is a favorite in Palermo, but is also in Messina, Trapani, Agrigento and Catania. They can be eaten either as an aperitif or as an appetizer since any occasion is great to have them. 

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Granita with Brioche

When it comes to sweets, granita is the star of breakfasts in Sicily. Made with sugar, water and various toppings, it is traditionally eaten in a brioche. It has a light consistency, but on the west coast and around Palermo, the ice is even thinner thanks to various freezing techniques². There is a wide variety of flavors, but the most famous granitas are coffee granita, typical of the city of Messina, almond granita in Catania, as well as chocolate and citrus granitas.

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Crunchy and delicious, cannoli are probably the most famous sweet from Sicily, and the most popular abroad. They are tubes of fried dough, filled with ricotta and sugar, and usually decorated with candied fruit or garnished with various things such as pistachio, vanilla, Marsala wine, chocolate and rosewater. Like many of the dishes, it has Arabic origins, and it was eaten during Carnival. Today, Sicilian cannoli can be eaten any time of the year, and are some of the most popular treats. 

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Cassata is probably our favorite. Arabic as well, it will give you pleasure by just looking at it since it looks pretty amazing and also means that, without tasting it you will get its inimitable flavor. Made with ricotta cheese, sugar, sponge cake, marzipan, candied fruit and icing sugar, it is a fairly simple recipe, but offers various and unique decorations. Depending on where you are, it can be decorated with candied fruit, maraschino cherries, pistachios, pine nuts, cinnamon or orange blossom, so the combinations are endless, and we have to say we like them all.

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Une publication partagée par Alessandra Bongiorno (@alebongi17)