Like many areas of Europe Sicily has endured invasions by many other cultures including the Phoenicians, the Moors, the Greeks, Romans, Normans and Spanish. This has resulted in a rich culinary heritage that incorporates aspects of African, Italian and Arabic dishes among others. Olives, capers, eggplant, tomatoes, saffron, pasta, raisins, and pine nuts are some of the various ingredients essential to Sicilian cuisine. In this article, we dive into some of most famous dishes including arancini, pasta alla Norma, pasta con le sarde, caponata, stuffed eggplant, cannoli and granita.
Arancini are breaded, fried balls of rice with a center filled with various ingredients, mozzarella or ricotta cheese and ragu being the most common. When cooked, they resemble an orange, thus the name which comes from “aranciu” or orange in Sicilian.
Pasta alla Norma is a dish of pasta, fried eggplant, tomato sauce and ricotta salata. It is named in honor of Vincenzo Bellini (a native of Catania) who composed the opera “Norma.”
Pasta con le sarde is derived from a combination of Italian and Arabic flavors resulting in a pasta with a sweet and savory taste incorporating ingredients such as raisins, sardines, anchovies, saffron and pine nuts.
Stuffed eggplant | Photo Source: Matador Network
Caponata is another dish that probably originates from the period of Arabic conquests in the 9th century. It combines sweet and sour flavors, using chopped fried eggplant, capers, celery, olives, tomato sauce and other vegetables according to individual taste.
Stuffed eggplant is a dish that can be found in many countries among which are Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Greece, Palestine and Spain. The eggplant is stuffed with caciocavallo cheese (a Sicilian cheese) or mozzarella and simmered in a tomato sauce until very soft. Other ingredients such as pine nuts and anchovies may also be used.
The most famous sweet dish from Sicily is cannoli. This dessert consists of a fried pastry tube filled with a creamy paste usually made with ricotta.
Another popular dish is Sicilian granita. This is a mix of water, sugar and fresh fruit juice that is frozen and scraped until set. Originating in the Middle Ages when people would gather snow in the mountains and add lemon juice or fruit, the dessert has become a popular staple in Sicily. Sicilians enjoy granita at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Lemon is the most traditional flavor and makes the ideal dessert or palate cleanser.
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