What are the best traditional foods you should try in Sicily?
Here is the ‘good oil’ about our favourite foods that we look forward to indulging in every year when we arrive in Sicily!
The first thing Nino does when he lands in Sicily is race to the café for Granita and Brioche.
(I kid you not I have a photo every year for 14 years of his first annual granita). Anyhow, granita is a famous Sicilian breakfast or afternoon delight on a hot day. Granita is like a slushy or icy mix with lots of unique Sicilian flavours to choose from such as local almonds, strawberries, coffee, pistachio, lemon and so on. You can get some whipped cream on top if you wish and it is served with a brioche bun, usually still warm from the baker, that you break apart and dip into the granita. It is total bliss.
The seafood in Sicily is to die for. There are so many types of fish to choose from and Sicily is well known for its delicious Swordfish which grilled like a steak. Seafood risotto and ‘fritto misto frutti di mare’ (fried mixed seafood) are specialties you can get in most local restaurants around Sicily.
The prawns in Sicily are different to our Aussie prawns – smaller and the meat is very tender. Many places have a special type of red prawn that can be eaten raw – they are soooo delicious. I love them.
Talking of raw seafood, I am always looking for tuna carpaccio or tartare on the menu when I go to restaurants. Look out for Swordfish carpaccio too! One of my favourite restaurants in Trapani serves a divine trio of red prawn, tuna and calamari tartare. Oh - I dream of it!
If you visit the Palermo area, arancini, which is a big rice ball or cone shaped food, crumbed and fried with an assortment of cheeses, Bolognese, spinach and other yummy fillings inside, is a must to try. These are a great snack food or cheap lunch if you are on the run. You can get them all over Sicily, but Palermo is most famous for arancini and you will find whole shops devoted to arancini only!
Caponata is different in each town and traditionally people use what grow locally. It typically contains a mix of tomatoes, onions, capers, capsicum, sometimes olives and eggplant. It is usually served with crusty sourdough bread as an aperitivo or entrée.
Bruschetta of course is famous all over Italy, but Sicily has it’s own unique versions of bruschetta. (FYI – it’s pronounced brusketta, not brushetta) There are so many different types in Sicily, not just the usual tomato version. Although, Sicilian tomatoes are like no other tomato you have ever tasted! You will also find bruschetta with eggplant, capsicum and my absolute favourite is with anchovies! Reach out to me and I will give you the name of the best place to get bruschetta in Taormina!
So, moving on to local pastas…. Of course, you know each region in Italy has its own kind of special pasta it is known for. Both the type of pasta and the sauces.
Our favourite Sicilian pastas are:
· ‘Busiate’ is a local pasta from the Trapani and Erice area on the western coast of Sicily. It is often served with basil or tomato pesto or ragu (meat sauce).
· ‘Pasta norma’ is a short pasta served with eggplant and local baked hard ricotta cheese grated through and over it. (I have this cheese on everything!)
· Another Sicilian specialty ‘pasta con le sarde’ which is a pasta with sardines and breadcrumbs and well worth a try.
· ‘Pasta con pesce spada’ is usually a long fettucine type pasta with swordfish, cherry tomatoes, chilli and garlic.
· ‘Pasta con olio e pepperoncino’ is simple and easy to make but so very tasty made with olive oil, garlic, chilli and parsley.
If you haven’t tried green Sicilian olives, then you must. Sicily is also known for its capers especially on the western side of the island where the salt flats are. You will often be served local olive oil, olives and balsamic vinegar before or with your meal at restaurants to dip the home baked bread into.
I hope this whets your appetite for Sicilian food….I could go on and on….there’s so much more. I’ll write about the sweets and desserts another day.