Monday, June 11, 2012

The Foods of South-Eastern Sicily

We spent almost two weeks in the beautiful southeast of Sicily visiting some of the dazzlingly beautiful Baroque towns of the Val di Noto: Catania, Ragusa Ibla, Modica, Noto and Scicli. The breathtaking architecture charmed us just as much as the exotic new foods that we tried there. The Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans have all influenced Sicily’s architecture as well as its cuisine and this is what makes it so different from the rest of Italy.

Here are my 10 favourite Sicilian foods:

1. Sicilian antipasti – they are full of contrasting flavours: caponata – a ratatouille of vegetables (usually aubergines, green olives and peppers) in a sweet and sour sauce, stuffed sardines, herring, salumi and a variety of cheeses.

Antipasti from Trattoria Iblantica in Ragusa Ibla

Antipasti from Trattoria  De Fiore in Catania
2. Pesce Spada (Swordfish) cubed and mixed with zucchini and ‘cavatelli’ handmade pasta.

Cavatelli, pesce spada e zucchine
3. Cassata Siciliana – a rich dessert made of sponge cake sprinkled with Marsala wine and filled with ricotta and chocolate chips. The sides are covered with marzipan and the top with fondant icing and then it is decorated with candied fruits.

4. Sicilian cheeses – especially Caciocavallo – a firm cow’s milk cheese, Pecorino – a sheep’s milk cheese flavoured with peppercorns and Provola dei Nebrodi - an aged cow’s milk cheese.

Caciocavallo Ragusano

5. Pasta dishes: Pasta alla Norma – fried aubergines (melanzane) with sweet Pachino tomatoes, basil, garlic, onion and ricotta salata tossed in pasta.

Pasta alla Norma
from Ristorante il Barocco - Ragusa Ibla

Another delicious pasta dish is Ravioli al pesto di pistacchi - ravioli filled with fresh ricotta and covered with a pesto made of pistachios from Bronte, then dusted with cocoa powder.
Ravioli ricotta al Pesto di Pistacchi

6. Gelato – Gelati DiVini in Ragusa Ibla serve wine-flavoured ice-creams. I had an unforgettable Brachetto d’Acqui along with mandorle tostate (toasted almonds).

7. Arancini - the much-loved street food called ‘little oranges’ are delightful golden balls of deep-fried saffron rice, stuffed with tomato ragu, peas and mozzarella cheese. The rice balls are rolled in flour, coated with beaten egg and covered in breadcrumbs and are best eaten hot. In Palermo they’re shaped like oranges and in Catania they're more pear-shaped. They make a quick, satisfying lunch.

Arancino from Catania
8. Cannoli – Sicily’s most famous dessert – fried pastry tubes filled with sweetened ricotta and chocolate chips then dipped in chopped pistachio nuts and a candied cherry is added to both ends. In Catania we found a pasticceria where we could watch them being filled at the last moment (preparati sul momento) so that the pastry didn’t have time to go soggy.
Cannolo Siciliano

9. Warm brioche buns filled with gelato made an indulgent breakfast treat – a Sicilian specialty.

Brioche Calde con Gelato

10. Risotto ai frutti di mare – with mussels, shrimp, squid and clams - the best risotto I’ve ever had!

Risotto from Trattoria Vecchi Sapori in Catania
This is just a small selection of the variety of sumptuous foods that you can find in Southeastern Sicily. No doubt I've  left out many more popular dishes that are worth mentioning. Which Sicilian foods would you recommend?

Here is a clickable link to reader Paul's great recommendations for food in Sicily - in particular the use of wild foods such as fennel, asparagus, prickly pears, capers, sweet chestnuts and mushrooms.


  1. Great post, Nora! Very tasty. My mouth is watering. you should start a foodblog!

  2. Grazie Tatiana! The culinary experience is a big part of life in Italy. I may include more food posts in the future...

  3. Thank you for sharing your photos and food memories. I am dying to go to Sicily!

  4. When you get to Sicily Janie (and I know that you will one day) you will feel that you have arrived in heaven! It has everything that you love and more.

  5. I love Sicily! Love Sicilians!! Love Sicilian food!!! Been two years since I was there and I miss it! Really love how in touch Sicilians are with their Wild food too! Check out this post.

    Pasta con Sarde.... MMMmmmmmmm!

  6. Thank you Paul for this link to your great information about Sicilian Wild Foods! I have added a clickable link at the end of my post for readers interested in finding out more. You are right about Pasta con le Sarde (pasta with sardines) - absolutely delicious!