Sicily Food & Recipes

This is an excerpt from the book “Sicily”.

Marzapane candy fruit - Photo © Luciana Coletti -*Elle*
Marzapane candy fruit – Photo © Luciana Coletti -*Elle*

On any given night, Sicilian families can be found passing around a heaping plate of caponata, a traditional antipasto made of eggplant, tomatoes, celery, olives, and capers.  Fisherman used to devour this dish with seafood at the end of a long fishing day, but caponata has evolved into one of the most popular Sicilian dishes. The recipe varies and sometimes includes artichokes and even chocolate.

No contemporary Italian kitchen would be complete without a bottle of Marsala wine.  But centuries ago, this cooking staple was created in the western Sicilian town of Marsala to challenge the Portuguese and Spanish monopoly on fortified wines such as Madeira and sherry. Today, marsala is used all over the world to enhance the flavor of a dish, create a sauce, or to be enjoyed as a dessert wine.

Produced in the province of Ragusa and several towns near Syracuse, Caciocavallo Ragusano (Cosacavaddu Rausanu in Sicilian dialect) is a traditional Sicilian cheese made by curdling cow’s milk inside a wooden container called a “tina,” cooking the curds, and then kneading or pulling them by hand. The name was inspired by the practice of tying cheese (cacio in Italian) two-by-two and hanging them so that they straddle (a cavallo in Italian) a wooden beam to age. The seasoned variety is used in many traditional Sicilian recipes, especially pasta and bean dishes.

Melagrana - Photo © Bianca Gualandi
Melagrana – Photo © Bianca Gualandi

It’s impossible to resist the spell of a Sicilian pastry shop window with its explosion of tantalizing colors and aromas. Among the vast array of Sicilian pastry products, the place of honor definitely goes to the cassata. Made of a tantalizing mixture of sponge cake, chocolate, sweetened ricotta, candied fruit, and nuts, the cassata is usually decorated with thick icing or marzipan and covered with brightly colored candied fruits.

The ever-popular cannoli, fried pastry rolls with a delicious filling made from sweet ricotta, chocolate and candied fruits, were once a treat only at Carnival time, but now are enjoyed year-round. And no festival in Sicily would be complete without torrone, the mouthwatering honey-and-nuts nougat that is made in a wide range of varieties across the island.

Palermo Vucciria market

Sicily Food: Sicilian specialty recipes

Agghiotta di pesce spada – Swordfish cooked with tomato, pine nuts, raisins, olives and herbs.
Arancini di riso – Fried rice balls with a core of cheese, peas, chopped meats and tomatoes
Bottarga – Tuna roe
Braccioli di pesce spada – Grilled swordfish fillets wrapped around a cheese-vegetable filling.
Bruschetta ai Capperi di Pantelleria – Pantelleria Capers Bruschetta
Cannoli con ricotta – Ricotta-stuffed Rolls
Caponata siciliana – Eggplant and Tomato Stew
Carciofi ripieni – Artichokes stuffed with sausage, sardines and cheese and baked.
Cassata alla siciliana – Sicilian Cassata
Cotognata – Quince Preserve
Couscous con pesce – Fish Stew Couscous
Crispeddi – Anchovy and Dill Fritters
Fravioli di Carnevale – Fried sweet ravioli filled with ricotta and cinnamon.
Falsomagro – Stuffed Beef Roll
Gnocculli – semolino gnocchi with ricotta and meat sauce.
Gnocculli di San Giuseppe – semolino gnocchi with eggs, cinnamon and sugar.
Involtini di pesce spada – Swordfish Rolls
Melanzane alla siciliana – Eggplant fried and then baked with mozzarella and tomato sauce.
Panizza – Chickpea Polenta
Pasta alla Norma – spaghetti with a sauce of eggplant and tomato
Pasta con le sarde – Bucatini with Sardines
Peperonata: bell peppers stewed with onion, tomato and olives, often served cold.
Pesce spada a’sammorigghu – Grilled Swordfish
Pesto ericino – Pesto from Erice
Pignolata or pignulata – Confection of sweet fried dumplings (sometimes chocolate coated).
Polpettone siciliano – meatball of ground beef, breadcrumbs, grated cheese and eggs, fried in olive oil and served with tomato sauce.
Salmoriglio – Olive Oil, Lemon and Garlic Sauce
Sarde a beccafico – Stuffed Sardines
Scorzette di arance candite – Candied orange peels.
Sfincioni or sfinciuni – Thick focacce with tomato and cheese, specialty of Palermo
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Testina di capretto al forno – Baked Spring Kid’s Head
Zite al pomodoro e tonno – Short pasta tubes with tomato and tuna sauce.


This is an excerpt from the book “Sicily”. Get the ebook for the complete content.