Sicilian Cuisine: Must try foods of Sicily, Italy

Having already travelled to several parts of Northern and Central Italy, I thought I knew a thing or two about Italian food. Boy, was I wrong! Sicilians identify first as being Sicilian, then Italian, so their cuisines are vastly different from what you might find on the mainland. Not to mention, Sicily has been ruled by everyone from the Arabs to the Normans, so its cuisines have inherited a bit of each of it’s ruling cultures. And finally, thanks to its resident volcano, Mt. Etna, Sicily is an incredibly fertile island growing everything from olives and pistachios to oranges, lemons, eggplant and tomatoes. Because of all of this, Sicily’s cuisines is varied, incredibly fresh and absolutely delicious! Here are a few of my favorites:

Sfinciuni – One of the best things I ate in Sicily was a soft flatbread with caramelized onions and tomatoes, called sfinciuni or Faccia Vecchia. Sfinciuni means “old woman’s face” in Sicilian, probably because the finished bread has an old, wrinkled look. The origins of sfinciuni go back to before the Greeks controlled Sicily. It originally started out as a plain bread that working people would take for lunch. It’s evolved over time and is now typically made with onions, tomato, anchovies, cheese and finished with a drizzle of olive oil. You might think it’s similar to a pizza, but it’s thicker and has a good crunch, almost more like a focaccia bread. 

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Sicilian sfinciuni

Cassata – Also known as Cassata siciliana, this is a traditional Sicilian sweet consisting of round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips. It is covered with a shell of marzipan, pink and green pastel colored icing, and decorative designs. The cassata is topped with candied fruit depicting cherries and slices of citrus fruit characteristic of Sicily. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love this dessert. If not, you might be overwhelmed by just how sweet it is.

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Cassata Siciliana

Pasta alla Norma – This traditional Sicilian pasta dish is made with sautéed eggplant tossed with tomato sauce and topped with ricotta salata, or salted ricotta. The lore of its origin goes back to a 19th-century composer, Vincenzo Bellini. He was born in Catania, Italy, and was an artist of great renown who composed many operas. One of his most lyrically beautiful and famous was called “Norma.” Apparently, he also liked eggplant! This dish was so simple, but because the ingredients were so fresh it was amazing. I could eat it every day if I lived in Sicily!

Lidia Bastianich
Pasta alla Norma

Pistachios – If you like pistachios you will truly be in heaven in Sicily & Southern Italy. There is a little town called Bronte, at the foot of Mt. Etna, that grows the most heavenly pistachios. Locals call them green gold and they are literally used in everything. I tried pistachio gelato and completely spoiled my palette because now, I cannot seem to find anything with as much flavor and freshness as the ones I had in Sicily. Also, don’t miss pistachio crusted filet and pasta al pesto di pistacchi, a delicious pasta dish where they use pistachios instead of pine nuts to create a delectable pesto sauce.

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Pistachio gelato

Arancini – Arancini are golden fried balls of rice found widely across the Sicily and other parts of Italy. Commonly sold as street food, these little balls of love are usually stuffed with meat, peas and mozzarella, coated with a light, crispy batter of breadcrumbs and then fried in olive oil until they are golden and crunchy. Their Italian name comes from the Italian word for orange (arancia), which they faintly resemble in colour and texture. To me, arancini is like crack. I could eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Good thing I don’t live in Italy!

arancini
Cheese-filled arancini

Cannoli – Although we refer to one of these delicious pastries as “a cannoli,” the singular form is actually cannolo, meaning “little tube.” Cannoli are fried, tube-shaped pastry shells filled with a sweet, creamy filling, most usually ricotta. Cannoli first originated in Palermo when Sicily was under Arab control. Because it was important to the Italians to make their local food stand out, they created cannoli for Carnivale, a important festive season right before lent, as a fertility symbol of the festivities. Nowadays, cannoli is enjoyed throughout the year and is thought of as the ultimate Sicilian dessert. 

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Traditional Sicilian cannolo

Have you been to Sicily? What was your favourite Sicilian food?

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56 thoughts on “Sicilian Cuisine: Must try foods of Sicily, Italy

  1. I love trying new dishes from around the world and this Sicilian cuisine looks delicious. Pistachios are my favourite nut too, and the little town of Bronte at the foot of Mount Etna sounds like a place I would like to visit. Yum yum. Good post!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I love Italian food and everything here looks so good. Haven’t been to Sicily yet, so still have to go there. I especially love pasta so the Pasta alla Norma would be what I’d look forward to the most. The pistachio gelato looks really good too though.

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    1. The pistachio gelato was the best I’ve ever had. Every kind I’ve eaten outside of Sicily since has been disappointing.

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  3. So glad I read your post! I have traveled throughout Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice, and Amalfi), but never to Sicily. I definitely thought that Sicilian food was the same as “regular” Italian food — pasta and gelato. That sfinciuni looks incredibly delicious… I might just have to go find a recipe now!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wonderful pictures you have here. We tried many of these while in Italy last October. Italian cuisine is really fabulous. How interesting that Sfinciuni means “old woman’s face” 🙂 Surprisingly, we have an icecream called Cassata in India…its something similar.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh this takes me back to Italy. Sitting here salivating thinking about all the incredible food there! I loved how they used pistachios and oranges in everything, even savoury dishes. Great wrap up.

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    1. Agreed. It doesn’t get better than cheese, pasta, gelato and pizza! In fact, I’m getting kind of hungry right now!

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  6. All this food looks incredibly delicious. I’m off to Sicily this summer and even more excited now after reading your post! Loving the look of those arancini!

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  7. We’re planning on going to Italy this Fall and you have gotten me so excited! I love using eggplant in dishes so the Pasta alla Norma looks delicious! I’m a total sucker for brightly colored pastries so the Cassata is a must try and as for the Arancini well… I’ll take 5. Now. Please.

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  8. I knew that Sicilians identify as Sicilians first because of the Godfather, hehehe! All of these dishes look so delicious! I’m dying over the cannoli photo, I love pistachios in a dessert. And that pasta alla norma…to die for! I’d love to go to Sicily some day.

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  9. I recall having Arancini in Rome although I thought they were just called Risotto Balls. They were extremely tasty though and I became somewhat addicted to them during my stay.

    The Sfinciuni looks delicious. I love those flavours. I also like chicken on my pizza with that mix. Mmm.

    Thanks for sharing these yummy suggestions. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Italian cuisine is renowned and revered the world over. I did not have much idea about Sicilian cuisine in particular, but your post is indeed a revelation of sorts. I would love to bite into a Sfinciuni , it looks like a great vegetarian option. The casatta is enticing too.

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  11. You made me hungry with the first picture itself! Thanks so much for sharing this list…what I love most about it is that there is so much vegetarian food! Finding good veg food is always difficult when you travel, but I feel that I will be a happy soul with a happy tummy here!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh my! That Pasta alla Norma’s just calling my name (like an opera singer). My husband and I are not that picky with cuisines, we just love to eat. This is a good article to check when we visit Sicily.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I haven’t thought about Italian food much while living in Asia because I’m always disappointed by it but I grew up in a very Italian area. I’m heading to Europe next year and your post got me SUPER excited to eat all the italian foods. Especially the rice balls, Arancini was one of my favorite back home but its flat out impossible to get in Asia. Thanks for sharing, I’m hungry now and gonna go chow down on something totally unItalian haha.

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  14. Now that’s what a delicious food is….more of the dishes seems to be available in India but i am sure the taste could not me matched anywhere around…the casatta was quite different from what we have here..

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  15. I love Sicilian food! Most of the Italians who migrated to the USA came to Boston so we have the knowledge of this kind of food culture. Try pistachio cannolis from Mike’s Pastry’s to see what I mean 😉 I saw you were visiting on your instagram!

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  16. Girl!!!! I know why you got the Sunshine Blogger Award! I did Sicily Aug.2016 and you got it!!!..
    I cant wait to read more and will… knowing the foods you posted above my mouth is watering as i am writing this! hahaha…slurp. hahha… I’m glad to have found ur site…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Well, this is a fine collection! I especially like the cheese-filled rice balls. Oh heck, anything filled with melted cheese gets me excited. I’ve always wanted to visit this area of the world and nothing gets me more excited than seeing the food that is available. Really enjoyed reading this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Love the collection of incredible foods available in Sicily. I’ve always wanted to visit this part of the world and good food is an incredible incentive. You put together a great collection especially the cheese-filled rice balls. Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thanks for sharing. I have been to Sicily a few times and am going again soon to do a language stay in Aci Castello near to Catania. All this talk of delicious Sicilian food has got me in the mood for my holiday 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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