15 local specialities to discover in Sicily

Étal d'arancini

Looking for a taste of Sicilian cuisine? Discover the 15 must-try local specialties in Sicily.

Sicily, a sunny island full of flavors, is renowned for its rich and varied cuisine. From the Mediterranean Sea to the slopes of MountEtna, this Italian region is brimming with culinary specialties that will delight the taste buds of even the most discerning gourmets. From traditional dishes to succulent desserts, let yourself be carried away on a gustatory journey through the lively streets of Sicilian cities.

We present the 15 Sicilian specialties you should try during your trip to the island. From crispyarancino to savory caponata and exquisite cannolo, get ready to discover the unique culinary treasures for which Sicilian gastronomy is renowned.

La parmigiana di melanzane

parmigiana

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This eggplant gratin is a delight for the taste buds. Thin slices of fried eggplant alternate with a tomato basil sauce and melting mozzarella, creating a subtle and delicious marriage of flavors. Parmigiana di melanzane can be enjoyed as a main course or as a side dish. You can also add grated Parmesan and fresh parsley for an explosion of flavor.

The origins of this dish are uncertain, sometimes associated with the Parma region, sometimes with Sicily. Whatever the case, reproducing this recipe at home prolongs the taste of vacation and immerses you in the richness of Italian cuisine.

La caponata

caponata

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Discover caponata, one of Sicily’s most emblematic specialties. This « Sicilian ratatouille » is a veritable festival of flavors. Carefully prepared with candied eggplant, olives, pine nuts, raisins and capers, caponata is a unique blend of tastes and textures. Each Sicilian territory has its own recipe!

Sicilian caponata is distinguished from Provençal ratatouille by the addition of celery, vinegar and a delicate touch of honey, giving it an irresistible sweet-and-sour flavor. Traditionally served cold as an appetizer, accompanied by crusty slices of bread, it can also be used as a topping on bruschetta. Its origins probably date back to the time when Sicily was under Moorish rule. Once eaten on its own with bread, it is now often served as a side dish or antipasti.

The arancini

arancini

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These delicious fried rice balls, both crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, are a real treat. You’ll be seduced by the different varieties on offer, such as arancini with saffron, meat ragù, peas and mozzarella, or pistachio.

The Moorish influence is felt in this specialty, with the tradition of eating rice seasoned with spices. The name « arancini » refers to their shape and color, reminiscent of an orange.

La pasta alla Norma

pasta alla Norma

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Inherited from Catania, this delicious Sicilian specialty featuresa garlic-scented tomato sauce, crispy fried eggplant and grated ricotta that melts delicately over the pasta. Served with maccheroni, penne or rigatoni, this harmony of flavors is enhanced by fresh basil leaves.

La pasta con pesto di pistacchio e gamberi

pasta con pesto di pistacchio

Shutterstock – Lia Sanz

Discover one of Sicily’s most popular local specialties: pasta con pesto di pistacchio e gamberi. This unique dish subtly combines pistachio and grilled prawns for an unforgettable culinary experience. The twisted pasta, known as busiate, goes perfectly with the pistachio pesto sauce.

Pasta con pesto di pistacchio e gamberi is often served at festive dinners or on special occasions. Sicilian pistachios are abundant in quality and used in many local recipes, but it’s in this dish that they reveal their true brilliance.

La pasta cu l’Agghia Pistata

Busiate, Pesto alla trapanese

Wikimedia – Amire80

This traditional Sicilian dish is a real treat for the taste buds and an unforgettable culinary experience. The « agghia pistata » sauce, made with garlic, olive oil, chili pepper and breadcrumbs, is a real delight. Served with al dente pasta, this sauce offers an authentic combination of flavors and can be enjoyed as a main course or side dish.

La sfincione

sfincione

Shutterstock – Giuseppe Fricano

Sfincione is a veritable symphony of flavors. Originating in Palermo, these delicacies are often compared to focaccia with their thick, chewy crust. Their twice-raised bread dough offers an airy, light texture. Topped with a delicious tomato sauce, melting onions, salted anchovies and Sicilian cheese, sfincione is a must-try specialty of Sicilian street food, and can be enjoyed hot or cold. It’s easy to find on street vendors all over Sicily.

Bronte pistachios

pistaches de l'Etna

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Considered among the best in the world, these pistachios are renowned for their unique taste and exceptional quality. Their history dates back to Roman times, when Emperor Caligula introduced them to Sicily. Since then, pistachio cultivation has flourished in the Bronte region, thanks to its favorable climate and volcanic soil, particularly that of MountEtna. Bronte pistachios are distinguished by their intense emerald-green color, small size and delicate, sweet flavor. Their quality is such that they were awarded Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP) status in 2009, guaranteeing their origin and excellence.

Every year, the « sagra de la pistachio » festival in Bronte offers visitors the chance to taste pistachio products and delve into their fascinating history.

Pasta with sardines and « Beccafico » sardines

sardines Beccafico

Shutterstock – Giuseppe Elio Cammarata

From Palermo, this pasta is seasoned with fresh sardines, olive oil, onions, raisins, pine nuts, saffron and wild fennel. The perfect combination of the salty flavors of sardines and the sweetness of raisins, enhanced by the aromas of wild fennel, is an authentic delight.

In Sicily, sardines are also given pride of place with the famous Sardinian Beccafico. These sardines are prepared with a delicious stuffing of breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, raisins, pine nuts and citrus zest. Baked in the oven, they are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Marsala wine

Tonneaux de Marsala

Shutterstock – Barmalini

Marsala is a premium wine, distinguished by its amber color and irresistible aromas of dried fruit, honey and vanilla. Harvested when fully ripe , this Mediterranean wine is appreciated for its sweet, fruity flavors. Two types of Marsala are particularly prized: « crema mandorla », with a subtle almond aroma, and « Marsala fine », with a hint of almond. Produced in the Sicilian wine-growing region near the town of Marsala, this liqueur-like wine fortified with alcohol offers a rich, complex flavor and is available in different varieties: white, red, dry and amabile, each with specific characteristics and aging.

Used in cooking to enhance sauces, meats and desserts, Marsala is the symbol of Sicilian gastronomy. Its origins date back to ancient times under the name « Perpetum », and its current name is derived from the Arabic port of Allah, « Mars Al-Allah ». Marsala enjoyed international success thanks to an English merchant by the name of John Woodhouse. In 1773, during a forced stopover in the port of Marsala, Woodhouse discovered the production of this exceptional wine and decided to export it to England. Since then, Marsala has become the ambassador of Sicily, testifying to its rich culinary heritage and wine-making craftsmanship.

Sicilian cassata

cassata

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This traditional Sicilian culinary specialty, originally from Palermo, is a true symbol of local gastronomy. Prepared for Easter, this exquisite cake is made with a soft sponge cake, ricotta, marzipan, candied fruit and a sweet glaze. Decorated with marzipan motifs in the colors of the Sicilian flag, the Sicilian cassata is a veritable explosion of unique flavors. With over 1000 years of history, this pastry takes you on a gustatory journey through time.

The buccellatini

buccellatini

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Buccellatini are delicious Sicilian cookies, recognizable by their crescent-shaped spirals. Inspired by the famous traditional Sicilian cake, buccellato, they are made with the same ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, butter, almonds and candied fruit. Popular in Sicily and other regions of Italy, buccellatini offer a unique culinary experience, combining delicate flavor and melt-in-the-mouth texture.

As for buccellato, the original cake, you’ll find it in the shape of a wreath, especially at Christmas. Its composition is just as tasty, mixing figs, walnuts, flour, sugar, eggs, butter and raisins. Buccellatini and buccellato are often accompanied by a cup of coffee or tea.

Sicilian cannoli

cannoli

Shutterstock – Fotopogledi

These deliciously crispy, deep-fried desserts, filled with sheep’s ricotta, chocolate and candied fruit, promise an unforgettable taste experience. Whether at Carnival or all year round, these crispy, generously filled cylinders will transport you to the heart of Sicilian culinary tradition.

The exact origins of cannoli are open to debate, but one thing is certain: their fame extends beyond the island’s borders. Some say they originated in the town of Caltanissetta, while others maintain that they were introduced during Moorish rule.

Considered one of the most famous desserts in the world, they harmoniously blend the taste of chocolate with that of sheep’s milk cheese, offering a daring and exquisite taste experience.

Panelle

panelle

Shutterstock – Valerio Pardi

Panelle are delicious savoury fritters made from chickpea flour. Carefully prepared, they are made by mixing chickpea flour with water, salt, pepper, olive oil and chopped parsley to form a thick dough. Once rolled out into a thin layer, the dough is cut into small pieces and fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy.

Panelle are often eaten as a snack or as an accompaniment to other dishes. You can enjoy them on their own to fully appreciate their authentic taste, or in a generously filled sandwich. Their origins date back to the Arab domination of Sicily, between the 9th and 11th centuries.

Brioche ice cream cone

Glace sicilienne dans une brioche

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Imagine a light, fluffy brioche, ready for a delicious scoop of artisanal ice cream. The perfect combination of the sweetness of Sicilian brioche and the freshness of ice cream is a true delight to be enjoyed at any time of day. Whether you opt for vanilla, chocolate or fruit ice cream, you won’t be disappointed. This typical Sicilian specialty will seduce you with its simplicity and unique taste.

So, are you ready to discover the Sicilian specialities that will make your taste buds travel? Don’t hesitate to share your own suggestions in the comments, as we’re sure there’s so much more to discover. So, what are you waiting for to embark on this unforgettable culinary experience in Sicily?