My Top 10 Foods of Sicily
Today I will be sharing some of the wonderful foods of Sicily, Italy! Sicily is located in the southernmost tip of Italy, also known as the island that the “boot” is kicking. During my recent trip I had the opportunity to taste each of these myself, so I can truly attest to their deliciousness!
Arancini are fried rice balls traditionally filled with tomato sauce, meat, mozzarella cheese, and occasionally with peas. They’re made by taking risotto, forming it into a cone shape (or round ball), rolling it in breadcrumbs, and deep frying it.
They are also sometimes made with squid ink, which dyes the rice inside a deep black color. This is a color we don’t normally find in the US so I urge you to try it when in Sicily.
Orange & Fennel Salad
This has to be my favorite dish of the whole trip. It is so simple, yet so delicious, and offers the unique licorice flavor of fennel that we don’t readily find in American dishes. I have already made a mental note to start cooking with more fennel!
I will be attempting to recreate a traditional Sicilian Orange & Fennel Salad in the coming weeks, so check back here for my recipe.
I learned something about ricotta cheese on my trip to Sicily, in that it is completely different from the ricotta we get here in the US.
There are 3 types of ricotta in Sicily: Ricotta fresca (fresh ricotta), Ricotta salata (salted firm ricotta), and Ricotta Infornata (a hard crumbly ricotta).
Ricotta Fresca is soft and has a rice pudding-like texture. It is not salty and actually tastes slightly sweet. It was very delicious and unlike any cheese I’ve ever had (and nothing like the kind we have in the US!) The batch I tasted was freshly made and bought from the farm early that morning, and while we ate it cold with our lunch, it was still warm from the cooking process when it was purchased.
Ricotta Salata is a harder type of cheese that Sicilians often use to sprinkle on pasta dishes, similar to how we use parmesan here in the States. When the ricotta mixes in with the warm tomato sauce, the flavor is creamy and amazing.
Granita & Brioche
This is a traditional Sicilian breakfast which consists of granita (Sicilian version of Italian ice) and a brioche (which is a sugared pastry bun). You eat them together and can dip the brioche in the granita if you like. It’s a fun way to start the day!
Granita is also eaten in Sicily as a dessert and after dinner as a “digestive.”
If you are a seafood lover you have come to the right place. Sicily is known for its fresh fish, seafood, octopus, and shellfish. Local residents advise tasting the seafood in the regions near Mt. Etna, as they tend to be sweeter and more flavorful (the same goes for the fruits and vegetables!). Some say it’s the minerals in the ash from Mt. Etna that gives the soil extra nutrients, and therefore more flavorful foods.
The cannoli was born in Sicily so you should definitely sample one while you’re here. I can tell you the filling will be super creamy and fresh due to the ricotta fresca that’s made at the nearby farms. The ends are usually dipped in crushed pistachio nuts which give the cannoli additional texture and flavor.
I was lucky enough to have a family member make this for me while I was in Sicily and it is quite a smorgasbord of flavors! It is a stew-like mixture that contains roasted eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, peppers, pignoli nuts, and sometimes even potatoes. All the veggies are mixed up and served as a side dish or with meats and bread. It can be a bit on the salty side, but definitely do not miss a chance to taste it.
Pasta alla Norma
This is another eggplant dish traditional to Sicily. Fried eggplant chunks are served mixed in with traditional tomato sauce, basil and a sprinkling of ricotta insalata over pasta (usually spaghetti).
Also try the Pizza alla Norma featuring fried chunks of eggplant on a traditional pizza.
Blood Oranges & Melone Giallo
The produce in Sicily is some of the sweetest and juiciest I’ve ever had. As with the seafood above, many believe this is due to the nutrient rich soil found near Mt. Etna.
The blood oranges are a specialty in Sicily, and if you can’t find any fresh oranges, the grocery store sells blood orange juice in cartons (similar to our OJ). It is a sweet juice with a flavor profile somewhere between an orange juice and a ruby red grapefruit juice blend, but I found it to be much less acidic. Simply delicious!
Melone Giallo (Yellow Melon) is also a family favorite, similar to a Crenshaw melon here in the US, but I promise you, you will not be able to find this flavor and texture anywhere else but in Sicily (I’ve tried). You will often see vendors selling tons of these melons from farm carts on the side of the road.
Cioccolato di Modica (Chocolate of Modica)
I am a self-certified chocoholic and I wouldn’t be doing justice to that title if I didn’t sample the local chocolate while in Sicily.
Cioccolato di Modica is a chocolate unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The variety I had was infused with a lemon oil giving it a sweet flavor, but the chocolate on its own is dark and “rustic”. It has an unusual texture and contains grainy bubbles that crunch in your mouth when you eat it. Very unusual, but delicious!
So, those are my top 10 favorites! Which of these foods of Sicily would you like to sample? Let me know which ones sound most delicious in the comments below!