Sicilian food shows elements of all the cultures of Sicily in the last 2,000 years. Although this cuisine has a lot of similarities with Italian cuisine, it also displays Greek, Arab, French, and Spanish influences. The amazing thing about Sicilian cuisine is that characterizing it is next to impossible. It differs completely from the east to the west and to the center of Sicily. Even the cuisine varies from town to town.
However, one characteristic distinguishes all of Sicily’s cuisine – it is always a fusion. If one were to ask how to make Sicilian food, the answer would be, “Sicilian food uses the best catch from the sea and the freshest produce from the farms. It is an amalgam of the best facet of each conquering culture.” Thus, it became the beautiful and delicious medley that people know today.
Sicilian starters are rich and flavorful. Sicilians often have them as main dishes. Antipasti, as the Sicilians call them, are an important part of their cuisine. These include gatò de patate (potato and cheese pie), caponata, and arancini with butter or meat sauce.
Sicilian food is never complete without mentioning maccu. This thick traditional soup uses dried fava beans as the main ingredient. These are soaked overnight, peeled and cooked slowly with onions, fennel, and chopped greens. Seasoning is usually added after everything is cooked through. Pasta can also be added. A slight drizzle of olive oil before serving is the final touch.
Sicily holds the distinction of being the first and oldest location where pasta is recorded. The first reference dates back to 1154 where pasta was already part of the local Sicilian cuisine. It is no wonder, then, that there are many delicious pasta dishes in the Sicilian menu. These include pasta alla Norma (a truly Sicilian dish from Catania), pasta con le sarde (with sardines), pasta chi masculina (with anchovies), and spaghetti ai ricci (spaghetti with sea urchin).
In Palermo, pasta con le sarde uses pine nuts, white fennel, currants, tomato sauce, sultanas, and sardines as ingredients. Sultanas are similar to raisins, but the grapes are dipped in vegetable oil and acid prior to drying. On the other side of Sicily, the Catanians usually replace sardines with anchovies, hence the dish pasta chi masculina.
Sicilian main courses are authentic works of art, a celebration of meat and seafood. These include couscous al pesce, pesce spada alla ghiotta (swordfish), Agnello al forno (baked lamb with potatoes), and Salsiccia e qualiceddi (Breaded roast Palermo-style).
Sicilian sweets include frutta maturana, bucellato, grasita, cannoli, Pignolata of Messina, and cassata Siciliana. Other notable sweets include paste di mandorle, arancia candita, bacione di Taormina, and mattonella di cioccolato con fichi (“Little Brick of Chocolate with Figs”). One thing worth noting is the rediscovery of the Sicilian sweet called Crocetta di Caltanissetta.
There are plenty of things to say about Sicilian food. One cannot limit Sicilian food to those found in homes and restaurants. You can also find delicious fare in the streets of Sicily. There one can buy arancini, panelle, frittola, stigghiola, sfincione, pezzi di rosticceria, and pani ca meusa.
Feasting is definitely an essential part of Sicilian life. Sicilians celebrate each milestone and mark this with a substantial feast. Obviously, no one can refuse these kinds of dishes.