Sicily has been invaded for centuries, with a variety of rulers leaving their legacy. The French, Arabs, and Greeks have left their mark in Sicily, which has resulted in a unique cuisine. Add to this the Sicilian climate, and there is a fabulous foodie heritage combining cultures and flavors. Here, Rory Brown, Lifestyle and Food Writer, recommends just a few of the food highlights to look out for when visiting Sicily.
Palermo’s Street Food
The capital of Sicily, Palermo, is renowned for its distinctive street food. It is a fusion of flavors and reflects the heritage of the city. Arancini are delicious balls of minced meat coated in breadcrumbs- and shaped like an orange. In Palermo, they also contain saffron as a legacy of the Arab era in Sicily. Panelle are fried chickpeas in a sandwich and the staple street food of Sicily. They are a cheap and popular snack. There is one delicacy that everyone visiting Palermo has to try once, and that’s a spleen sandwich or Pani ca’ Meusa, freshly fried on the street. People love it, and it’s a specialty of the city.
Sicily’s West Coast is famous for salt panning, an industry that has been in existence since the Phoenicians came to the island. At Trapani, the sea salt is prepared in the ancient traditional way, with windmills harvesting the product from the water. Pyramid-shaped piles of salt dry in the sun, forming a distinctive landscape. The end product is 100% natural and highly sought after by cooks.
Markets in Sicily
Sicilians visit the market more or less daily to buy fresh ingredients for their meals. The markets are full of life and have a vibrant atmosphere. You’ll need to be up at 6 a.m. in Syracuse when the market is at its best to see the displays of freshly caught fish. Check out small family run delis in between the traditional market stalls laden with fruit and vegetables. In Palermo, the Capo Market and Ballaro Market are the best places to go to see Sicilian food.
Sicily is famous for its wine production, with many vineyards located on the slopes of Mount Etna. They are renowned for their red and white wines. Marsala is famous for its fortified sweet wines produced in and around the region. Grillo is a dry Marsala wine variety that is a superb accompaniment to fish. The area around Taormina is famed for its almond wine production.
Pasta and Fish
The Arabs brought pasta to Sicily, and it is used in everyday cooking all over the island. One of the most famous Sicilian dishes is Pasta alla Norma, reputed to have been inspired by the Bellini opera. Another is spaghetti alle vongole or pasta with clams and chili. Seafood dominates a lot of Sicilian menus. Sardines and tuna are popular, along with the fritto misto or mixed fried fish.
Many Sicilian desserts are fund in pastry shops or passticcerie. The most popular are cannoli, deep-fried tubes of pastry with ricotta cheese, and chocolate. Frutta alla Martorana are marzipan fruits that look surprisingly realistic. The sorbet-like granita is very refreshing. In Notto, almond granite is a specialty. Ice cream is famous everywhere with a wide range of flavors.
Sicilian food has a rich heritage and tradition. The climate and abundance of fresh food add to the quality and visits Sicily irresistible, especially for foodies.
About Rory Brown (Charleston, SC): After spending the first 40 years of his life in the United States, Rory Brown decided to focus on the quality of life and began living internationally. He now spends his time in Lake Como, Italy, Sydney, Australia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Kauai, Hawaii. His appreciation for simple health food that embraces local traditions of excellence has earned him credit among farm-to-table communities everywhere he goes.
Brown began his career as a technologist and has always focused on healthy lifestyle choices. His well-researched lifestyle writing has increasingly focused on living life to the fullest each day throughout the world.