Sicily – home to Don Corleone, never-ending views of the mediterranean….and cannoli. It is no secret that Sicily is a foodie’s MUST visit when touring Italy – but why?
What makes the food so different to mainland Italy? What are the must-eat dishes when visiting?
I had the very difficult task of eating everything I possibly could while recently visiting Taormina, Sicily – all in the name of research.
These Sicilian staples are absolute musts on your next visit:
Pasta alla Norma
Or anything alla norma really. This dish is as traditional as they come. From Catania, the dish is made with fried eggplant, tomatoes, grated ricotta and basil, on top of homemade pasta (or if you’re lucky, pizza!)
I made it my mission to have one of these a day to find the BEST alla norma in Sicily – and not once was I disappointed. Perfectly al dente, the right amount of salty, cheesy and oily – my tastebuds were dancing.
Order it from the terrace at Taormina Restaurant, with a cold rose. Delicious and generous serving, for a small 10 euro…take note, Rome!
You know, those fried rice balls that usually make up fancy canapés at networking events? We have done them a serious injustice. The Sicilian take on arancini sees longer shaped balls formed from risotto, coated in bread crumbs and fried. These babies date back to the 10th century, so you know they have perfected the recipe.
Try the Mezzalane (eggplant) or Ragu (meat) arancini from Strit Fud; or why not have both? For 2 euro, these delicious rice balls of goodness are worth having for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Italians just know how to cook pasta. It’s their thing, obviously. I had the best ravioli of my LIFE in Sicily and I think it came down to the simplicity of the dish.
Ravioli with butter and parmesan – genius. Simple and rich flavours, perfectly al dente, with a mushroom filling. Visit Ristorante Al Giardino in Taormina for the dish, and also the best alla norma pasta of the trip.
This is how good the seafood is in Sicily – I was vegetarian when I arrived. (Notice the past tense?) I just couldn’t say no to fresh seafood marinara, grilled octopus, fish fillets…I could go on and on.
Order the chargrilled octopus from Vineria Modi – served on creamy mashed potato, and followed by slow cooked salmon with cream of zucchini and ricotta mousse. Because it doesn’t have to be all pizza and pasta – fine dining is a very real thing here, and boy do they do it well! (The wine list here is also amazing, a beautiful variety of local wines – the rose was hard to beat!)
If you visit Sicily and you don’t eat cannoli, did you really visit Sicily? Cannoli is a Sicilian staple, and you can find them EVERYWHERE. It is hard to find a bad one, that is how good they are. Flakey, buttery pastry tubes filled with creamy, sweet ricotta and a hint of citrus. Bellisimo!
Yes, yes, yes – obviously you cannot pay a visit to Italy without indulging in a scoop of gelato…or six…on the daily. But gelato in brioche? Totally different ball game. Brioche con Gelato is the Italian ice cream sandwich, and it is everything gelato lovers have dreamed of and more.
Need an excuse to have gelato for breakfast? Here it is. Choose your favourite two scoops of gelato (we had peanut butter and cookies), enveloped in doughy, buttery brioche. Thank me later.
As a gelato lover, I had my suspicions about granita. There was NO WAY I would prefer it over my daily scoop of dark chocolate gelato.
Well, I stand corrected. What sounds pretty simple – basically flavoured shaved ice – became a daily habit for us.
It may be because we were spoiled with one of Sicily’s best – Bam Bar, in Taormina. Flavours range from fruity berry and mandarin, to nutella and coffee – or even a mix! Try the chocolate topped with cream – smooth, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth and perfect towards the end of a hot day.
Sicilians add pistachios to EVERYTHING, and pride themselves on having the best pistachio nuts in the world.
Try them in gelato, on top of pasta, in pizzas or, as we had them, cooked into salami as an appetiser, alongside Sicilian olives, capers and pepper cheese.
For beautiful cocktails and nibbles with a view, visit The Ashby Hotel. Order an espresso martini, sit back and unwind.
After all of that eating, you will need it!
What’s your best Italian food memory?
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