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Sicilian food has been shaped by multitude of diverse cultures that have called the island home.
From the Greeks, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish and North Africans, each have left their imprint on the food.
Before visiting Sicily to explore the local food, we were not familiar with the regional specialties. As we traveled from throughout the island, we were struck by the differences in the cuisine.
While not exhaustive, we share some of the top traditional and authentic food in Sicily not be missed.
This Sicilian food guide covers iconic dishes, street foods, cheeses and desserts. And dedicated articles about Sicily wineries and the exceptional wines from Mount Etna at the bottom of this guide.
We invite you to taste Sicily like a local with these top 25 Sicilian foods.
What is Sicilian Cuisine?
Sicilian cuisine is as rich in history as it is in flavor. Sometimes referred to as “God’s Kitchen”, it uses the tastes of the sea, mountains and land combined with a passion for cooking.
A love for fresh and seasonal ingredients is found in Sicilian food. Fresh vegetables, seafood, cheeses, indigenous wheat, olives, almonds and citrus feature prominently in local recipes.
The blend of cultures and civilizations has also left an imprint on the local dishes and cooking methods.
Different Sicilian Cuisines
Throughout the island, you’ll find dishes that were once considered “cucina povera” or from the poor man’s kitchen. You’ll also find “cibo di strada” or well loved street food especially around Palermo.
Aristocratic cuisine with French influences on traditional food is the third type of cuisine in Sicily. Known as “cucina dei monsu” or the the cuisine of the monsù, it consists of dishes elaborated with French techniques for aristocratic families.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Exploring the diverse tastes of Sicilian food can be easily accomplished on a food tour. With a local guide, you’ll learn about the history and traditions of the local specialties. See our review 7 of The Best Food Tours in Sicily You Want To Try – Review
Sicilian vs Italian Food
Sicilian food with its own unique culinary tradition is not the same as Italian food. The cuisine is regional with recipes not found in other parts of the country.
As you travel around Sicily, we invite you to enjoy the chaotic combination of cultures you’ll find on your plates.
Open up to the authentic flavors that make up Sicilian food, free of any expectations or comparisons to Italian food.
Top Food in Sicily
1. Pasta Alla Norma – Iconic Sicilian Eggplant, Tomato and Ricotta Salata Pasta
Pasta alla Norma is an iconic Sicilian pasta dish and a culinary specialty of Catania.
It is named after “Norma”, the opera of Vicenzo Bellini, the city’s most famous composer.
This pasta dish is rather simple and made with just a handful of ingredients. Aubergines or eggplants, tomatoes, basil and ricotta salata, a salted ricotta cheese.
The most typical pasta used is a short tubular pasta like penne or rigatoni. We had pasta alla norma frequently in Sicily and particularly in Catania.
While there were some differences in the preparation from how the eggplants were cut to type of pasta used, it was always delicious.
This traditional pasta dish features prominently on restaurant menus all over Catania. As you travel further away from the eastern part of Sicily, you may need to ask for it.
Other parts of Sicily have their own regional pasta dishes that they will showcase.
A symbol of Sicilian cuisine, this famous pasta dish from Catania is worth seeking out when you visit Sicily.
You’ll be amazed by its simplicity and bright explosive flavors.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Pasta alla Norma Authentic Recipe: Taste The Most Famous Pasta in Sicily
2. Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia – Sicilian Spaghetti with Black Squid Ink
Spaghetti al nero di seppia is an impressive pasta dish marked by a dark black color from squid ink.
Drawing from the Mediterranean sea, this pasta dish with squid, garlic, white wine and parsley is quite popular.
It was one of our favorite Sicilian pasta dishes that we enjoyed several times during our stay. In southern Italy, “fruit of the sea” or in Italian, frutti di mare is used alot in the cuisine.
The tradition of “pasta al nero” or pasta cooked with squid is said to have originated from fishermen.
Never wanting to throw food or any part of the squid away, the ink, which is non toxic was added to the food.
This pasta dish is elegant with tangy flavors from the sea. It’s a beautiful dish to enjoy with a glass of Sicilian wine overlooking the sea.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Recipe: How To Make Sicilian Black Pasta
3. Pasta con le Sarde – Sicilian Pasta with Sardines
Pasta con le sarde or pasta with sardines is an emblem of Palermo cuisine.
This traditional delicacy from the island of Sicily has a peculiar history that involves a nun, love and revenge.
The story dates back to the year 800, and is attributed to the cook of Eufemio da Messina, the commander of the Byzantine fleet.
He apparently tried to drive out the Byzantines but was unsuccessful. The Byzantine invaders looking for a way to get Eufemio kicked out of the island forever invented a story.
They claimed he had fallen madly in love with a nun and had persuaded her to abandon her vows to be with him.
He sought refuge in Africa, in modern day Tunisia, and concocted a plan of revenge with the Muslims who were planning an invasion of Sicily.
On the voyage to Sicily, the men on the ship were tired, hungry and out of energy.
Needing to feed the men on the ship, Eufemio da Messina’s cook knew he had to invent something.
Having little but the gifts from the earth and sea, he used available sardines and added fresh fennel to taper the flavor of the fish. Pine nuts and saffron enhanced the flavors.
The result is a dish of simplicity and goodness and it is much loved throughout Sicily.
Fresh, plump stuffed sardines with wild fennel pine nuts and raisins await. This Sicilian food is a medley of delightful flavors you will not forget.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Take a Sicily from your kitchen with 5 top Sicilian pastas made with ancient grains. Get this Sicilian Pasta Pack and travel to Sicily in just a few delicious minutes.
4. Pasta Al Timballo or Timballo di Pasta – Baked Pasta
This traditional pasta dish is a specialty of Palermo. It’s an eye catching pasta dish that is baked and encased in dough or eggplant.
The most classic choice of pasta is anelletti, small ring shaped pasta that date back to the Middle Ages.
Some say their shape was inspired by the earrings worn by the women of Moorish nobility during their reign over Sicily.
Sicilians enjoy this traditional food mostly on Sundays at lunch, during holidays or on special occasions.
We found it available at local trattorias mostly at lunch time. There there are several variations to the recipe.
The most typical consists of tomato sauce mixed with Sicilian caciocavallo cheese baked in fried eggplant slices
It’s a hearty dish and generally eaten during the cooler winter months. It’s also a wonderful way of using left over pasta.
Timballo di Pasta is one of the Sicilian traditional dishes you don’t want to miss, especially in Palermo.
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5. Busiate alla Trapanese – Pasta with Trapanese Pesto
Busiate alla Trapanese is a specialty from Trapani in the western region of Sicily.
This pasta dish is notable for the use of use of busiate pasta noodles. The pasta have a unique twisted shape that is said to be made using knitting needles.
In fact the name busiate comes from “buso”, a term used to describe a knitting needle from Trapani.
What’s surprising about this dish is the sauce. The perfectly cooked busiate pasta noodles are served with flavorful yet delicate Sicilian pesto sauce.
The pasta sauce made with garlic, basil, almonds, tomato sauce and olive oil is delightfully fresh.
Tradition says that all ingredients should be smashed in a mortar, for the best, original flavor.
The dish is said to have come from sailors of Genoa who dropped their anchors in the Trapani harbor.
Over time, the recipe was modified by the Trapanese people to use local almonds, tomatoes and olive oil.
Busiate alla Trapanese is recognised by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies as a traditional Sicilian agri-food product.
If you are looking for a meat free traditional Sicily food, seek out these fresh and light flavors from Trapani.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are in Sicily and want to learn how to make traditional Sicilian food, consider taking a cooking class. See our review of the 5 best cooking classes in Sicily you want to take
6. Sfinciuni or Sfincione – The Sicilian Pizza
Sfincione, also known as the “King of Sicilian street foods”, is a symbol of Palermo culinary culture.
It’s a fluffy Sicilian pizza traditionally made with thick dough that is left to rise for several hours or even overnight.
The nameis derived from Latin “spongia” or sponge and the Arabic “sfang” or pancake.
In Sicilian, “sfincia” means soft and it is the best way to describe the consistency of the dough. It is porous and spongy, similar to focaccia, with a slightly fried crust.
All over Palermo, you’ll find sfincione sold by moving street vendors on 3 wheel cars, in bakeries and rotisseries.
Seasonings or toppings include tomato sauce, onions, caciocavallo cheese, anchovies and oil.
It’s delicious, hearty and inexpensive and makes for a filling snack or accompaniment to lunch or dinner.
You’ll find sfincione prepared in a variety of ways. For instance, in Bagheria, a small village near Palermo, the toppings are the Tuma white cheese or ricotta.
While in Altavilla Milicia, another tiny village near Palermo, the sfincione has breadcrumbs and pecorino cheese.
Try different styles of sfincione, and taste for yourself one of the best food in Sicily.
7. Pizza and Sicilian Pizza Dough
Since ancient times, Sicily has been a region rich in grains. The island has been considered the granary of Italy due to the variety of wheat crops.
In this pizza making class in Catania, we learned there are more than 50+ ancient cereals native to the island.
High in nutritional value, some of the best known grains are Tumminia, Russello and Perciasacchi.
Tumminia is one of the most appreciated grains for its nutritional value. Russello is wide spread and very digestible and nutritious also used in bread dough.
Perciasacchi takes it name from the pointed and elongated shape of the grain. It literally means “holes to bags” as it pierced the sacks during transportation.
The flour has a yellow color due to the presence of carotenoids.
These ancient wheat grains are used in Sicilian pizza making them different from pizza in other parts of Italy.
In fact, the pizzaiolo or pizza master in our class uses perciasacchi flour to make the pizza dough.
The dough need anywhere from 48 to 72 hours to rise giving the pizza a unique taste, aroma and nutritional value.
At the good pizza restaurants on the island, you can choose the grain you want used for the dough.
We highly recommend trying out pizza made with the different ancient wheat grains for a true taste of Sicily.
RELATED: 20 Best Palermo Restaurants For Authentic Sicilian Pizza, Pasta, Sweets and More
8. Pani Ca Meusa or Panino con la Milza – Sicilian Spleen Sandwich
Pani câ meusa is the most celebrated street food specialty in Palermo. The name literally translates to “bread with spleen”.
It goes by pani câ mèusa in the Sicilian language, or in Italian, it’s pane con la milza.
The Sicilian spleen sandwich was born over 1000 years ago, when it was considered a poor man’s food.
It originated in the Jewish community in Palermo during the 15th century. Working as butchers, they could not accept money as payment for their work, because of their religious beliefs.
So, they were allowed to take home the undesirable parts of the butchered animals. Spleen, guts, lungs or the heart of a cow were boiled, fried, mixed with cheese.
This was then served on a soft bun with sesame seeds known as vastedda bun.
This iconic street food is hard to find outside the city of Palermo. You’ll find several celebrated vendors throughout the city selling the spleen sandwich.
And, it is commonly enjoyed on the eve of the Feast of Immaculate Conception on December 7th.
There are two ways of serving this tradtional Sicilian sandwich. You can have it “single”, with just a sprinkling of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
The other way is to taste the “married” version, topped with fresh ricotta or caciocavallo cheese.
Either way, you don’t want to miss this unique and tasty snack on your visit to Sicily’s capital.
RELATED: 9 Of The Best Street Food in Palermo To Eat Like A Local
9. Arancina vs. Arancino – Fried Rice Balls
Described as the “pearl of Sicily”, the arancini or fried rice balls are also one of the most hotly debated Sicilian foods.
The controversy is in the name. Western Sicilians use the name arancina, with an “A.” Whereas, on the eastern part of the island, they use arancino, with an “O” end.
The shape also differs. In Palermo and the western region of the island, the arancina are round, similar to the shape of little oranges.
And in Catania and on the east, they are shaped like cones, inspired by the Mount Etna volcano.
The arancini rice ball is typically filled with ragu sauce of veal and then deep fried in oil. Recipes vary and you can also find some stuffed with pistachio, eggplant,mushrooms, cheese and more.
Wherever you go on the island, try the arancini and the different fillings. They are easily available and celebrated on the 13th of December for Saint Lucy, who saved the people from starvation.
These stuffed rice balls are a jewel of Sicilian street food and are a delight to be savored.
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10. Paneddi or Panelle – Sicilian Chickpea Fritters
Panelle or Paneddi in the Sicilian dialect are chickpea fritters. It is a traditional street food in Palermo and one that we enjoyed immensely.
This typical Sicilian food is attributed to “cucina povera”, meaning poor man’s kitchen, due to the inexpensive ingredients.
The basic ingredient is the chickpea flour introduced by the Arabs around the 10th century.
Chickpeas are ground up until their consistency resembles flour. And, the fritters are made by mixing chickpea flour, water, and spices and frying them in olive oil.
Today, parsley, salt and pepper is added to the recipe with a few drops of lemon juice sprinkled on top.
Outside of Palermo, you’ll also find a fried variant in Agrigento and Trapani.
Panelle is typically eaten as a snack. You can also have it as a sandwich with the panelle fritters stuffed between two slices of bread.
In this case, it’s called mafalda and it served with a squeeze of fresh lemon on top.
This classic Sicilian dish is recognised within the Traditional Italian Agri-food Products (PAT).
11. Cipollina or Cipolline Catanesi – Onion Puff Pastry
The cipollina is one of the most traditional and celebrated street foods from Catania.
It’s a beautiful puff pastry layered with sweet onions.
In Catania, it goes by Cipolline Catanesi and it was one of our best street foods in this Sicilian city.
The cipollina is a little puff pastry parcel, golden-baked and fragrant. The signature ingredient is tender spring onions which have a sweet taste when baked.
Other ingredients include tomatoes, black olives and mozzarella cheese. You can also find some stuffed with ham as well.
The cipollina are typically sold at rosticcerias. These are little eateries selling delicious small bites which can be likened to Sicilian fast food.
No matter the time of the day or occasion, the cipollina are easy to eat. Amongst locals, these tradtiional savory bites are a popular choice before dinner.
Regardless of the occasion or time of the day, one thing is certain. The cipollina is a must-have during your stay in Catania.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: In Catania you’ll find the cipollina at many eateries or Sicilian rotisseries. However, on a street food tour in Catania, we discovered the best cipollina we ever had. For a taste of some of the best Sicily food from Catania, we recommend taking a Catania street food tour.
12. Carne di Cavallo or Horse Meat – A Catania Delicacy
Horse meat or carne di cavallo is a surprising traditional dish we discovered in Catania. In the evening in some parts of the city, you see butchers setting up their grills to cook meat and in particular horse meat.
One of the most popular Catania street foods is polpette di cavallo or horse meat balls served in a bun.
The bright red succulent meat is a delicacy and one of the undisputed street foods in Sicily’s second city.
While horse meat balls are popular, you can also taste horse meat cut in a similar fashion to cuts of steak.
Via Plebiscito street in Catania is known for street food and the grilling culture. Smoke from outdoor grills can be found at almost every corner with meat roasting to perfection.
You’ll find some of the best horse meat here and at some vendors, you’ll even find donkey meat.
We tried horse meat on the street of Catania at several places including Via Plebiscito.
It was well seasoned and not particularly strong. Generally, horse meat is lean and rich in iron and protein.
In this YouTube Shorts, we tried horse meat sandwich from a butcher on Via Plebiscito dedicated to horse meat. Click to see more about the experience.
An experience for adventurous eaters, this traditional Sicilian food should not be missed in Catania.
13. Stigghiola or Cipola – Roasted Lamb Intestines Rolled On Green Spring Onions
This specialty is a Sicilian street food snack from Palermo, made with lamb, veal or goat intestines.
They are wrapped around a spring onion, along with fresh parsley threads and sprinkled with fresh lemons.
Cooked over charcoal or on wood barbecues, they are a main attraction at butcher shops and street vendors.
The stigghiularu or person that cooks the stigghiola needs to cook them with precision so they are not rubbery or hard.
Often times, grilling alongside the stigghiola is another typical Sicilian street food called “mangia e bevi.” It is a spring onion wrapped in pancetta.
The stigghiola is an officially recognized Sicily food especially in Palermo. In other parts of the island, you’ll find some variations.
For example, in Siracusa and Ragusa, the typical stigghiola is the fish stigghiola.
In Enna and Caltanissetta, the guts aren’t rolled on a leek but on a piece of meatloaf from the same animal.
Join locals on the streets for this treasured Sicilian food.
14. Salsiccia alla Pizzaiola – Sicilian Sausages
We love sausages of all kinds and they are one of our favorite simple go-to foods in whichever country we’re in.
In Sicily, Sicilian style sausages known as salsiccia are a real treat. The name comes from the Latin word “salsus”, which means salted.
What makes Sicilian sausages incredibly tasty is the use of wild fennel in the recipe. This gives the sausages fragrant aromas and delightful contrast to savory pork meat.
Be aware that there are some varieties of stuffed sausages with cheese. We much prefered the non-cheese version and you want to ask the butcher before making your purchase.
We typically enjoyed the sausages by themselves oven-baked or grilled. You’ll also find the option to add salsiccia to pizza or pasta dishes. Sausage sandwiches are also a popular street food option.
Sicilian sausages are typically made of high quality local pork and they are free of fillers and preservatives.
If you love sausages, be sure to savor sausages in Sicilian pasta, sandwiches and more.
15. Involtini – Small Rolls of Food
In the Italian language, Involtini is the term used to describe food that is rolled or filled. On many Sicilian menus, you’ll see vegetable, beef or veal involtini and also involtini of fish.
The word itself “involto” means small bundle and there are numerous variations across Sicily.
Involtini made from griled eggplants and stuffed with cheese are baked for delightful bites of goodness.
Involtini with beef either slowly cooked in a tomato sauce or grilled and stuffed with cheese is a classic choice. And, one of our personal favorites is pork involtini with citrus flavoring, either baked or grilled.
The coating used in involtini is generally bread crumbs flavored with herbs and spices.
You’ll come across the involtini tradition in every part of the island.
While the stuffings and variations may vary, you can count on tasty and easy to eat bundles of Sicilian love.
READ MORE: 11 of The Best Italian Cooking Vacations for Tasting Italy
Fish and Seafood
16. Purpu Vugghiutu or Polpo Bollito – Boiled Octopus
Boiled octopus is a beloved Palermo street food. Around the coastal areas of Palermo and especially in nearby Mondello, you’ll find seafood stalls and restaurants selling this Sicilian food.
At seafood stalls, vendors with fresh octopus sitting in buckets, would take one out and put it in a pot of boiling water.
Once ready, it is chopped up into pieces and served with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Some also serve the octopus lightly fried as calamari rings.
We enjoyed this traditional Sicily food in Palermo and Catania by the historic city markets.
It makes for a light snack or tasty bite before dinner. And, there is nothing like savoring freshly cooked octopus.
If you do try the octopus at a restaurant, be sure to pair it with a refreshing Sicilian white wine.
Go for a glass of a versatile Catarratto white wine or our favorite crisp Grillo white wine.
RELATED: 15 Best Wineries in Sicily To Visit For Tasting Wines of Sicily
17. Spada and Involtini di Pesce Spada – Swordfish and Swordfish Rolls
Pesce Spada or Swordfish is one of Sicily’s most emblematic fish, prevalent in the Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean Seas.
Swordfish play an important role in Sicilian cuisine and is highly prized for its meaty texture, delicate flavor and easy preparation.
At seafood stands at the local markets, you’ll see swordfish easily identifiable by a long, pointed sword-like nose.
On a food tour of La Pescheria, Catania’s largest fish market, we learned an important tip from our guide. If the nose of the swordfish is on display and the eyes look clear, it means the fish is fresh.
On the other hand, if there is no head and the eyes hazy, it is not the freshest catch of the day.
With swordfish so widespread, you’ll find many traditional and creative recipes and preparation styles.
Our favorite was swordfish steaks, grilled and doused with extra virgin olive oil. We also enjoyed involtini di pesce spada or swordfish involtini for light and tasty bites.
You’ll find plenty of Sicilian dishes with swordfish, either in pasta or grilled, baked or pan-fried.
Swordfish quickly became one of our most loved fish dishes and it is a food in Sicily not to be missed.
18. Frittura di Paranza or Fritto Misto de Mare – Fried seafood
The geographical position of Italy gives the country the biggest advantage, which is a big variety of seafood at its disposal.
All over the country, “frutti di mare” or fruits of the sea, are used in different recipes. In beach towns, “fritto misto” or a mix of fried fish is one of the most common traditional dishes.
It’s an unofficial sign of summer and commonly eaten street-food style.
The name, frittura di paranza is derived from the typical trawling boats used by fishermen. At the end of the day, the fish would be selected and categorized by type and size.
The remaining, often small fish, like shrimp, anchovies, mullet would be collected, fried and served extremely fresh and hot.
You’ll find fritto misto abundantly available in Sicily. Small gourmet street food concepts like Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab in Catania is renowned for its blend of tradition and seafood.
You’ll also find fritto misto at local eateries, fish restaurants, and beach towns.
This mixed-fried fish dish is delicious and classic Sicilian food. The mix of small fish, drizzled with a little bit of fresh lemon juice, enhances the taste of the sea.
RELATED: 20 Of The Best Restaurants in Catania Sicily for Pasta, Pizza and More
19. Caponata – Eggplant Caponata
Eggplant caponata is a symbol of Sicily and a Sicilian gastronomy specialty. It is a mixture of fried vegetables, mostly eggplants with a sweet and sour sauce.
The sauce has fried eggplants or aubergines, tomatoes, onions, capers, olives, vinegar and it is served as an appetizer or side dish.
There are many variations of caponata and a variety of ingredients used. It’s a tasty starter and one that we enjoyed regularly.
Aside from the classic ingredients, each province of Sicily is known for adding it’s own unique touch.
In Catania, for example, we find red and yellow peppers in caponata, as well as olives. In Agrigento garlic, chili peppers, basil, pine nuts and dried raisins are added to the dish.
In Trapani, caponata has ripe tomatoes and toasted almonds. And, the original caponata from Palermo is made with eggplants, olives, celery and tomatoes.
Everywhere you visit in Sicily, you’ll find caponata available. Order it at several eateries in different parts of the island, and savor the medley of flavors in this local culinary heritage.
20. Parmigiana di Melanzane – Eggplant Parmesan
A classic in Italian cuisine, parmigiana di melanzane or eggplant parmesan is a culinary specialty in Sicily.
Beyond Sicily, it is also popular in the city of Parma and Naples. In fact, all three regions claim the origin of this dish.
Regardless of its true origins, it’s a timeless classic in Sicily and is widely available. It’s typically referred to as just parmigiana and consists of Sicilian eggplants, tomatoes, cheese and basil.
La parmigiana is very tasty and incredibly versatile. You can have a small portion as a starter, or a larger portion for hearty meal.
The fried aubergine are traditionally deep fried then loaded up with fresh rich sauce from tomatoes and layers of cheese.
All the ingredients are layered together and then baked to make one of the best loved Sicilian foods.
A comforting and hearty meal, we enjoyed savoring parmigiana in different places. The nuances between baked eggplants versus fried gave the dish it own unique expression.
Be sure parmigiana is on your must-eat list on your travels to Sicily.
21. Cuscusu alla Trapanese – Trapani Style Couscous /KusKus
Sicilian kus kus or cous cous alla trapanese, is a speciality food from Trapani and Marsala in western Sicily.
Unlike widely available couscous from North Africa which is prepared with meat, the Sicilian version is made with fish.
A symbol of Sicilian cuisine, it has a dedicated festival that takes place in September in the town of San Vito Lo Capo in Trapani.
While exploring the food in western Sicily, Sicilian kus kus was one of our best foods from the region.
The fish coucous is made with very fine coucous which has been laboriously rolled by hand.
It is served with an incredibly flavorful fish broth and topped with a medley of seafood like prawns, grouper and more.
This dish that made its way with the Arabs from Africa into Sicily, is a symbol of cultural integration.
An iconic dish from Trapani, fish couscous is a sheer delight and a must for any food lover.
22. Sicilian Cheese
The tradition of cheese making in Sicily is strong and and dates back to antiquity. You’ll find several different kinds of cheese made from cow’s milk and goat’s milk.
Below, we highlight three of the most popular and traditional Sicilian you’ll come across on the island.
Ricotta Cheese – Fresh Salted and Baked Sicilian Ricotta Cheese
Fresh ricotta cheese is soft, creamy and white and is made from sheep milk. It is most commonly used in desserts, especially the cannoli, which uses a sweetened fresh ricotta.
Ricotta Salata is a dry salted ricotta cheese and the traditional cheese used in Sicily’s iconic Pasta alla Norma dish.. It is a hard cheese and traditionally made using sheep milk.
Baked Ricotta Cheese is a tasty variation of the classic fresh ricotta cheese. In this case, the ricotta is baked in the oven at low temperatures until the surface turns hard and it is brown in color. Baked ricotta can eaten as an appetizer or used in pasta dishes.
Pecorino Pepato – Peppery Sheep Cheese
Pecorino Pepato is a hard sheep milk cheese that we found most commonly available in Catania. It has black peppercorns inside which add a spicy kick and crunch that pairs well with the smooth textured cheese. It flakes easily and is used cooking and pasta dishes.
Caciocavallo – Hard Cow Milk Cheese
At the markets in Sicily, you’ll see large wheels of Caciocavallo cheese. It’s a mild cheese and and used frequently in Sicilian cuisine. There is another kind of Caciocavallo cheese from Ragusa with a distinctive oval shape and a knot on top. It’s also used in Sicilian cuisine.
23. Cannoli – Sicily’s Most Famous Dessert
Cannoli or singular, the cannolo is a traditional Sicilian dessert, famous not only in Italy but around the world.
It is a deep-fried cylindrical pastry shell filled with sweet creamy ricotta cream that is impossible to resist.
You’ll find cannoli all over the island in different sizes and topped with candied fruit, pistachio or grated chocolate.
The key to a great cannolo is to have the pastry shell filled with fresh ricotta just before eating it.
You want to avoid the cannoli that have been sitting on display at bakeries or pastry shops for some time.
While there are many versions to the origin of cannoli, its roots can be traced back to when the Arabs ruled over Sicily.
This Sicilian traditional dessert represents a melting pot of cultures. And, is an experience to be savored over and over again in Sicily.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: If you want to make authentic Sicilian cannoli at home, try our simple Authentic Sicilian Cannoli Recipe – How To Make The Best Traditional Cannoli
24. Granita – Semi Fozen Sicilian Dessert
Originally from Catania, granita is a refreshing semi frozen treat, eaten at breakfast especially in the warmer months.
It is creamy and grainy in texture and comes in a variety of flavors. Almond and pistachio flavors are popular as well as citrus flavors like lemon or mandarin.
While you can enjoy granita on its own, it is traditionally served with a freshly baked brioche roll. You can eat the two together like an ice cream sandwich as most locals do.
Not all granita is made equal. The taste and consistency vary from town to town and from pastry shop to pastry shop.
Wherever you go in Sicily, you will find some well know bars that are locally popular for their granita.
Bam Bar in Taormina was highly recommended to us by locals in Catania. They specialize in granita and we were blown away by the flavors and delicate consistency.
Granita reflects the culture and history of Sicily. It’s tradition dates back several centuries to the collection of snow from Mount Etna.
Sicilian granita, one of the best food in Sicily is a tasty specialty not to be missed.
READ MORE: The Best Sicilian Desserts: 12 Desserts in Sicily You Want To Eat
25. Cassata – Italian Cheesecake
Cassata is another one of the most appreciated sweet treats from Sicily. It is a delicious sponge cake with creamy ricotta filling sweetened with sugar or honey.
The glazing on top has lemon zest, to cut the sweetness from inside. And, it is decorated with an explosion of candied fruits and traditional marzipan sweets.
This traditional Sicilian sweet sponge cake is said to have originated around the Palermo area. It is widespread across the island with various iterations and recipes.
There are many theories about the origin of this traditional Sicilian cake. It has been linked to the Romans, Magna Grecia, Arabs and early Sicilian Jews.
While on the island, a slice of cassata is a delicious end to a typical Sicilian menu. It is quite sweet in taste and goes well with a cup of coffee.
As one of Sicily’s most attractive and irresistable desserts, any sweet tooth lover will be at home with the cassata.
The blend of civilisations on the island has given birth to Sicilian food, one of the most loved cuisines in the world.
Eating the local food in Sicily is biting in to the culinary heritage and tradition. As we savored the local flavors, we enjoyed the food even more knowing the influences that have shaped the cuisine.
We left the island with a deeper appreciation for the traditional Sicilian cuisine. And, we invite you to use this Sicily food guide to navigate the cultures that have shaped the cooking ingredients and techniques.
Which one do you consider to be the best food in Sicily? Please tell us in the comments below, what is your favorite Sicilian food.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
Find out more about Authentic Food Quest
4 Comments on “The Best Sicilian Food: 25 Authentic Dishes in Sicily You Must Eat”
Having lived in Palermo in the past, I found your article about authentic Sicilian food excellent and informative, particularly against errors people often make.
I wish to include an old rival to the “Arancina” – the “Ravazzata”, so very delicious when available.
Thank you so much, Rosaly. Appreciate your kind words about our article. We really immersed ourselves into the local food scene to learn about the recipes and dishes. Interesting about ravazzata. Will dig deeper into that one 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. Cheers
You nailed it! I am in Sicily 6 months/year, and your food itinerary is the most accurate I’ve read. As you know, Sicilians in general have a very fierce pride regarding their food, history, culture, and land. You described like a Sicilian!
Wonderful, Caterina. Thank you so much for the positive feedback. We spent lots of time with locals getting to the local food culture and glad you appreciate the effort 🙂 Indeed, Sicilians are fierce and proud of their culture, and they have every reason to. Enjoy your Sicily stay. Cheers