What is Sicily Famous For?
You’re probably asking yourself, what exactly is Sicily known for? Sicily is known for many things – beautiful beaches with welcoming crystal clear water, the ancient architecture and theaters, the active Mt. Etna volcano, and the lively native people who inhabit the island. But most of all, Sicily is famous for it’s food.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Sicily several times, oftentimes staying with family. Being able to stay with family really immerses you in the culture and food of the people who live there. From my visits I’ve learned there are quite a few foods that Sicily is famous for.
During my recent trip I had the opportunity to taste each of these myself, so I can truly attest to their deliciousness! Keep reading below for my favorites.
Why is Sicily So Important?
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and not to mention is the largest region within Italy. It’s located in the southernmost tip of Italy, also known as the island that the “boot” is kicking. The island’s origins date back to the 8th century BC, when it was colonized by the Greeks.
Sicily has long played a crucial role in many wars, as it’s location is strategic in relation to mainland Europe. It has been conquered by several different kingdoms, leading to the unique aspects of its modern day culture and architecture.
The Top 10 Foods Sicily is Famous For
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. **UPDATE** it’s now one of my favorite side dishes and makes for the perfect Summer salad. Be sure to check out my recipe here.
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 is probably the most internationally known food that Sicily is famous for. 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!
In Conclusion: What is Sicily Best Known For?
So, I hope you agree that these foods are exactly what Sicily is famous for! Which of these foods of Sicily would you like to sample? Let me know which ones sound most delicious in the comments below!
If you’re planning a trip to Sicily this year, you might want to check out this post on my favorite travel tips while in Sicily. Some parts of the island are not as tourist friendly, so it’s in your best interest to read before you go.
I’ll be traveling to Sicily again this Summer, so if you’d like to follow along on my adventures you can follow me on Instagram.