Sicilian Food Scampi

21 Traditional Sicilian Food Faves Not to Miss in Sicily

It’s not just the sea that separates Sicily from the mainland. Traditional Sicilian food is in a class by itself in Italy. Why? Because Sicilian food reflects the history of Sicily. Perhaps better than any other element of Sicilian culture.

We’re sharing our 21 favorite traditional Sicilian food ingredients and dishes, along with the stories behind them. Plus, find out where to try them in Sicily. Finally, if a trip to Italy is not in the cards (what are you waiting for!), there are recipe videos and links below so you can try a taste of Sicily at home.

For ease, you can jump to different traditional Sicilian food sections with the links below.

Think you already know Sicilian food? Try our quick 15-question Sicilian food quiz for fun!

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Traditional Sicilian Food

Sicilian food at heart is Italian. Right? Take a dish like Pasta alla Norma for example. It sings with classic Italian ingredients like pasta, tomato, eggplant, and cheese. What’s interesting is that each of those ingredients comes from a different phase in Sicilian history.

I’ll break down this iconic Sicilian food to illustrate.

Firstly, there’s durum wheat pasta. Seafaring traders from Lebanon, known as Phoenicians, brought durum wheat, grapes, and figs to Sicily.

Secondly, grated cheese. Italian right? Well, yes and no. The Greeks didn’t just leave behind the Valley of the Temples when they set up their coastal colonies in Sicily. Sicilian Pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese dates back to 500 B.C. when the Ancient Greeks invented it in Sicily.

Thirdly, the star of the dish, is the eggplant. The Arabs brought eggplant to Sicily from India in the 15th century. Last but not least, the tomato. Iconic Italian ingredient. Right? Sicily became a Spanish viceroyalty in 1503, and history tells us the Spanish brought the tomato to Europe.

All of this to say, because of its location, Sicily has long attracted the great trading powers of the Western world. Sicilian cuisine is a vibrant mix of ingredients the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Germans, and Spanish loved so much they couldn’t leave home without them. Consequently, they became a part of traditional Sicilian food.

Each of the iconic dishes below is an example of the fusion of cultures in Sicilian cuisine. Now let’s dig in for a taste of Sicily.

Traditional Sicilian Food Video Playlist

While we try to curate as many videos as possible in English, there are times when only an Italian video will do. Still, food somehow always translates. However, if you want an actual translation, there is a YouTube trick you can use.

YouTube has closed captions in multiple languages. Here is how to get them working. Hit play. Then click the CC bottom to turn on the closed captions. Next, click the settings button (gear-looking wheel) and select Italian auto-generated. After the window automatically closes, click the settings button again. Then click auto-translate and your preferred language. Fair warning, you’re about to be very hungry!

Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Sicilian Food Video Playlist

Busciata a Traditional Sicilian Pasta

Have you ever seen the long twisted pasta that looks like a telephone cord? That’s Busciata! One of the cool things about Busciata is that it’s uniquely Sicilian. In fact, even in Italy, it’s not easy to find on menus outside of Sicily.

Wondering where you can try Busciata in Sicily? Busciate originated in the province of Trapani. Consequently, we found it in Catania at Me Cumpari Turiddu, one of the restaurants Stanley Tucci featured on Searching for Italy in Sicily.

Sicilian Food Quiz: Busciate Pasta
Busciate Pasta

Lucky enough to find Busciata pasta, but not sure what to do with it? Try one of these recipes.

Sicilian Food Video Playlist

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Cous Cous di Pesce a Surprisingly Traditional Sicilian Dish

Sicilian Food Quiz: Cous Cous di Pesce
Cous Cous di Pesce from Capper Bistro in Modica, Sicily

Believe it or not, couscous is eaten widely across Sicily. Arabs brought couscous from Africa to Sicily in 827 B.C. While it remained a staple in northwestern Sicily, it wasn’t until the 1998 Cous Cous Festival in San Vito Lo Capo shined a spotlight on Couscous that it grew in popularity across Sicily. Today, couscous dishes like cous cous di Pesce (fish couscous) are popular from Palermo to Modica where we found an elevated version of it seen above at Cappero Bistro.

Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Cous Cous di Pesce Video

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Bronte Pistachio

Pistachios were introduced to Italy from Syria as far back as 30 A.D. Although initially cultivated in Campania, Pistachios began to thrive in eastern Sicily. Now over 90% of Italian pistachio production is from Sicily.

Sicilian pistachios in Bronte grow on the slopes of Mt. Etna. Because the topsoil is rich in minerals, Bronte Pistachios develop a deep emerald color and unbeatable flavor.

Despite being less than 1% of global pistachio production, Bronte pistachios are famous. Not surprisingly, Sicilians refer to Bronte pistachios as “green gold” due to the wealth they bring to the region.

Pistachios are perfect for making gelato, creams, and spreads or topping Cannoli, our next Sicilian Food on the list.

Sicilian Food Video Playlist

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Cannoli, The Goodfather of Sicilian Food

“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” — The Godfather. The TV series Your Honor starring Bryan Cranston, just gave us a brilliant twist on the most famous film quote about cannoli. Hope Davis plays Gina Baxter, the daughter of a fictional Italian mob Father in the series. 

There’s a scene where she makes cannoli for her husband’s birthday. None too happy with her husband, whom she constantly emasculates, Gina says, “Now eat your f*ing cannoli.” The reason why that scene is worth mentioning here? Because it encapsulates the difference between cannoli as Americans and Sicilians know it in just five words.

While Gina makes the cannoli correctly by creating a deep-fried cylindrical pastry shell filled with sweetened whipped ricotta and grated chocolate, she should have said, “Eat your F*cking cannolo.” 

In Italian, cannolo is the singular form, while cannoli is plural. As Americans familiar with this famous pastry know, in America, it’s always cannoli. 

Sicilian Food Video Playlist

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Ricotta Salata a Traditional Sicilian Cheese

Fresh ricotta is ubiquitous across Italy and works equally well in sweets like cannoli and savory dishes. The distinctly Sicilian ricotta salata cheese, however, is different. Ricotta Salata (or salty ricotta in English) is a saltier sheep’s milk ricotta aged for three months. Unlike fresh ricotta, it’s firm in texture and perfect for grating over dishes like Pasta alla Norma. If you can’t find it, the best ricotta salata substitution is a mild feta. Unfortunately, what feta often lacks that ricotta salata lends is a nutty note perfect to balance out the bright acidity of tomato-based sauces.

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Sicilian Food Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma with Grated Ricotta Salata Cheese

Pasta alla Norma, Sicilian Comfort Food Pasta

A classic primi on menus across Italy, Pasta alla Norma is from Catania, Sicily. What makes Pasta alla Norma so popular is the decadent star ingredient, fried eggplant slices. Traditionally few other ingredients grace this dish, including a bright tomato sauce, sweet basil, and salted ricotta. The result is a Sicilian pasta dish as comforting as a hug from Nonna.

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Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Pasta alla Norma Recipe video

Caponata, a Vegetarian Sicilian Food

Although each region and home has a different recipe, caponata is an iconic Sicilian food. Fried eggplant, tomatoes, and pinenuts are the most common ingredients in this sweet-and-sour dish. Hence caponata is rooted in cucina povera. What does that mean?

Sicilian Food Quiz Caponata

Cucina povera loosely translates into “the kitchen of the poor.” In other words, cucina povera is the Italian way of taking humble ingredients like those found in caponata and transforming them into something unforgettable. Not surprisingly, these recipes originated from Italy’s rural peasant populations.

Although the origin of caponata is lost to time, the name comes from the Spanish word “caponada.” Remember that Sicily was occupied by the Spanish in 1718? Caponada or what would become caponata was derived from capone aka mahi-mahi in parts of Sicily. Because aristocrats loved this fish, it became too pricey for local peasants. Thus eggplant became a more economical substitute in the same sweet-and-sour sauce and so caponata as Sicily knows it today was born.

To find caponata look under the antipasti or contorni sections of Italian menus because it’s most often served as a side with fish or meat dishes. Here is a quick explainer of contorni meaning, plus examples.

To try your hand at making caponata at home, try these recipes.

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Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Sicilian caponata recipe video

Pasta Con Le Sarde, Traditional Sicilian Pasta With Sardines

Another iconic cucina povera Sicilian dish is pasta con le sarde (or pasta with sardines in English). Pasta con le sarde is one of Paolo’s favorite Sicilian foods because he loves the rustic taste of sardines. It’s also mine because I’m a sucker for any pasta dish with saffron or fennel. Pasta con le sarde has it all! In Sicily, it’s easy to find in Palermo. However, because pasta con le sarde is inexpensive and easy to make, it is a favorite all over Sicily. Want to try making it at home? Here are a few of my favorite recipes.

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Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Pasta With Sardines Video Recipe

Bottarga, a Strangely Delicious Sicilian Food

My mother-in-law and I have always seen eye to eye on two things. One Paolo’s the best, and two the best gifts are food. I’m always excited when she gives me bottarga because it’s one classy gift for Sicilian food lovers. What is it? Bottarga is a salted, cured fish roe pouch seen here.


Want to gift someone something special? Look for Sicilian Bottarga from bluefin tuna. It is the best!

Bottarga tastes like an intense anchovy. For that reason, a little goes a long way. A good thing because at €178 a Kilogram bottarga is a delicacy.

So how do you use bottarga? Grate, slice, or in the case of bottarga powder, sprinkle it for a culinary powerhouse of umami-rich flavor. Classic dishes with bottarga in Sicily include pasta, fried eggs, and crostini.

Since it can be a little intimidating to cook with for the first time, here is a quick recipe video showing how quickly and easy a flavorful dish can come together with bottarga.

Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Sicilian bottarga recipe video

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Eggplant Parmesan, an Indulgent Sicilian Dish

Italians from Sicily, Naples, and Parma all claim parmigiana di melanzane (or eggplant parmesan in English) origins rights. With such a heated debate, why include it on our Sicilian food list? Because the origin of the word parmigiana is most likely Sicilian.

In the Sicilian dialect, “parmiciana” refers to the strips that form a wood shutter. It’s believed this is where the name Parmigiana is from. In the second place, eggplants came to Italy in the 15th century when the Arabs brought them from India. Hence no Sicilian food list would be complete without parmigiana di melanzane.

One thing agreed on across Italy is eggplant is the undisputed queen of the dish. Eggplant is sliced thin, fried, and then layered into a baking dish with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmigiano cheese, and basil.

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Sicilian Food Video Playlist

Panelle, Traditional Sicilian Snack Food

There is Sicilian food better than French fries, Panelle! Originally from Palermo, these fried chickpea flour fritters are popular street food in Sicily. The batter is simple. Just Chickpea flour, water, salt, pepper, and parsley. Consequently, Panelle are an inexpensive, easy way for you to get a taste of Sicilian food at home. Still don’t believe anything could be better than fries? Try my quick and easy Panelle recipe and see for yourself.

Panelle a Classic Sicilian Snack
Panelle a Classic Sicilian Snack

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Blood Oranges Originated in Sicily

Prized for their red flesh and cancer-fighting properties, blood oranges originated in Sicily near Mt. Etna. After the sun heats the plains during the day, cold Mediterranean winds cool the land off at night. In response, orange plants produce Anthocyanins to protect themselves from temperature fluctuations. Next, the Ruby gene is triggered, thus turning the fruit red. Hence blood oranges!

Blood oranges are lower in acid than navel oranges. Plus, the perfect balance of sweet and tart brings new life to orange juice and savory Sicilian foods.

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Blood Oranges Sicilian Red Color Flesh
Sicilian Blood Oranges

Fennel & Blood Orange Salad

Speaking of savory Sicilian food made with blood oranges, check out my Fennel & Blood Orange Salad recipe. Perfect on its own or as a side dish for grilled fish and meats, this salad is a staple on menus in Sicily.

Shaved fennel is the grounded base and crunch of the salad, while a bright burst of blood orange shines through. In Syracuse, look for fennel and blood orange salad with anchovies! I’ll be the first to admit I was skeptical. However, it only took one bite, and I have added anchovies ever since in our house.

Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Sicilian Fennel & Orange Salad Recipe

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Cassata, A Traditional Sweet Sicilian Dessert

Hands down, cassata is one of the sweetest desserts in Sicily. That’s saying something because among all Italian sweets, Sicilian take the cake!

What makes it so sweet? Cassata brings marzipan, liqueur-soaked sponge cake, ricotta cheese, and candied fruit into one dessert! A typical Easter dessert, “Tintu è cu nun mancia a cassata a matina ri Pasqua” means, “Sad is the one who does not eat cassata on Easter morning.” in the Sicilian dialect.

While Italians typically opt for a small sweet with coffee for breakfast, be forewarned. Eating cassata for breakfast in Palermo, where it originated, will leave you with a sugar high till lunch.

Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Cassata Siciliana video Recipe

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Sfincione, the Traditional Pizza of Sicily

In Sicily, you must try the Sicilian Pizza known as Sfincione. This Sicilian pizza is named for its rustic double-leavened, focaccia-style dough because it’s tall, soft, and sponge-like. While it might look humble, Sfincione is available in bakeries across Siciliy for a reason. It’s delicious! Once you smell it walking through the streets of Palermo, you won’t be able to resist it anyway. My advice? Plan to eat it at least once a day while in Sicily. A little slice never hurt anyone, right?!

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Sicilian Food Video Playlist

Raw Red Prawns, the Traditional Sicilian Delicasy

Being an island, one of the best Sicilian foods is naturally seafood! Specifically the famous red prawns of Mazara del Vallo.

Red prawns are a delicacy in Sicily, best eaten raw. Aja Mola is in the historic heart of Palermo, where I first tasted raw red prawns. Coral red, they taste as sweet as Sicilian honey.

Sicilian food raw red prawn
Brandy with Raw Red Prawns at Aja Mola in Palermo, Sicily

Honestly, it’s a shame to cook them since Mazara red prawns are among the most expensive in the world! On the other hand, what’s unique about these Sicilian red prawns is that their deep red color barely changes when cooked. Hence chefs love to use them because they look as gorgeous as they taste.

Sicilian Food Video Playlist
Red Prawns of Mazara del Vallo Video

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Arancini, Traditional Sicilian Rice Ball

In Italian, arancia is the word for orange, both the fruit and the color. Arancini are named after the fruit, most likely because both are round, hand-held snacks in Sicily. What’s inside arancini? Regional ragus and cheese. While arancini are a typical Sicilian food in Messina and Palermo, you can find them throughout Sicily. Near Palermo, you’ll find arancini are mostly round. However, near Catania, look for cone-shaped arancini that mirror Mt. Etna.

If I had to guess, I’d say arancini are the most popular Sicilian food outside of Sicily. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Sicilian Food Video Playlist

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Panino con la Milza, Traditional Sicilian Spleen Sandwich

This next Sicilian food is a mouthful, literally. Pane con la milza or in the Sicilian dialect pani câ mèusa (or in English bread with spleen). For the more adventurous eaters who make it to Sicily, Italians swear this is a must. Of course, that means we tried it! By we, I mean Paolo.

While in Mondello Paolo spotted it on the menu and ordered it immediately. What arrived was a messy bun-style sandwich stuffed with boiled then fried cow’s spleen and lungs. Just one more example of how Paolo is a more adventurous eater than I am! Although you can find it across Sicily, spleen sandwiches are a street food staple in Palermo.

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Arancini, Spleen Sandwich Sicilian Food Classics
Paolo’s “lite lunch” of arancini and spleen sandwich (behind the wine) in Modello, Sicily

Sicilian Honey, A Sicilian Tradition Dating Back to 300 B.C.

Apis Mellifera Ligustica (the Italian bee) has made honey in Sicily for thousands of years. Historically that honey was millefiori honey. In Italian mille means thousands, and fiori means flowers. In other words, millefiori is honey from thousands of wildflowers. Nowadays, the best Sicilian honey is varietal. That is to say, made exclusively from one kind of flower.

If you can get your hands on orange or lemon blossom honey from Sicily, you’ll see what I mean! My favorite producer is Segreti di Sicilia (Secrets of Sicily). Their lemon blossom honey has such an intense lemon flavor it has become a pantry must-have in our home. In fact, this article has to wait because I need tea with this honey stat! 

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Sicilian Food Ingredients, Honey from Segreti di Sicilia
Sicilian Honey, Lemon Blossom from Segreti di Sicilia

Sicilian Olive Oil

Sicily produces 34,000 tons of olive oil a year. That makes it the third-largest olive oil-producing region in Italy. What makes Sicilian olive oil special? Ranging in color from deep yellow to dark green, Sicilian olive oil is one of the most fragrant, intense olive oils available.

One of the things I love about Sicilians is the pride they share with tourists over local ingredients. It’s just because Sicily produces world-class ingredients, and Sicilian olive oil is no exception.

In Palermo, the owner of CiCala restaurant proudly shared a bottle of late harvested Olive Oil from Incuso with us. It was hands down the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted. I nearly cried when I dripped some on my placemat.

Incuso late harvest Olive Oil
Incuso late harvest Olive Oil at CiCala restaurant

Hand to heart, I stopped writing this article again! Only this time, to order a bottle of this olive oil for Paolo and my anniversary coming up in June.

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Etna Rosso, Sicilian Wine Produced Near Mt. Etna

Unlike spleen sandwiches, I share Paolo’s enthusiasm for Italian wine equally. In Sicily, Etna Rosso became our favorite. A ruby gem of red wine, Etna Rosso vineyards surround Mt. Etna. An Etna Rosso DOC must have a minimum of 80% of the Nerello Mascalese grape with an alcohol content volume of at least 12.5%. The mineral-rich volcanic soil lends playful mineral notes to an intense aroma with hints of red fruit and spices like clove, rounded by notes of vanilla. Etna Rosso is a dry wine with a delightfully soft mouthfeel. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan of this well-balanced varietal!

Tornatore Etna Rosso Wine in Taormina
Tornatore Etna Rosso Wine at Osteria De Gustibus in Taormina, Sicily

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Traditional Sicilian Food in Summary

To sum it all up, thirteen empires brought ingredients to Sicily. Hence the eclectic patchwork of dishes on our list of traditional Sicilian food faves. As a result, Sicilian food is comfort food like Pasta alla Norma and eggplant parmesan. In addition, from panelle and arancini to cassata and cannoli, Sicilian food is rich with guilty pleasures, both savory and sweet. Finally, traditional Sicilian food is about excellence, illustrated by Sicilian ingredients like olive oil, pistachios, honey, and wines like Etna Rossa.

Traditional Sicilian food shows traces of all cultural inhabitants in Sicily over the last two millennia. So while Sicilian food is technically an ingredient, dish, or cooking style that originated in Sicily, it is much more. Primarily traditional Sicilian food is an easy-to-digest, unforgettable history lesson of Sicily.

PS: There are no product placements in this list. As Paolo and I looked back at our time in Sicily, the items on this list were the most memorable. Many of which like Sicilian honey and olive oil, are not staples in our home.

Related Articles

Traditional Sicilian Food Photo Gallery

To conclude, a photo gallery with candids from our favorite meals in Sicily. Plus, a giant thank you to Paolo for organizing our month-long road trip to Sicily!

  • Brandy trying Sicilian Sweets in Palermo
  • Sicilian Seafood Stew at Aja Mola in Palermo, Sicily
  • Incuso late harvest Olive Oil
  • Arancini, Spleen Sandwich Sicilian Food Classics
  • Seafood in Trapani Sicily
  • Sicilian Food Favorites
  • Sicilian Olive Oil
  • Classic Summer Sicilian Food Polpo and Potato Salad
  • Sicilian Pistachios
  • Brandy Shearer eating in Catania, Sicily
  • Brandy & Paolo toasting in Sicily
  • Busciata Siclian Food Pasta
  • Sicilian Food Cous Cous di Pesce
  • Tornatore Etna Rosso Wine in Taormina
  • Sicilian Frappato Wine
  • Sicilian food bottarga
  • Sicilian Food Icon Pasta alla Norma
  • Cheese and Sandwich plates in Catania, Sicily
  • Most epic cheese & charcuterie plate ever on a windy day at the Syracuse Food Market in Syracuse, Sicily
  • Sicilian Pizza Diavola at Le Boccerie in Agrigento, Sicily
  • Tagliere in Ragusa, Sicily
  • Brandy Shearer eating Italian Pizza in Sicily
  • Photographer Paolo Ferraris eating Italian Pizza in Sicily
  • Brandy Shearer Eating Sicilian Pizza in Scopello, Sicily
  • Brandy Shearer eating Sfincione Sicilian Pizza in Palermo, Sicily

Sicilian Food History References

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