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Typical Dishes

History of Sicilian Food
Sicilian Food Today
Sicilian Pantry
Typical Sicilian Dishes


Tom Musco

Pasta con le sarde: Fresh sardines, sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil, deglazed with white wine, dressed with golden raisins, pine nuts and almonds, and lots of chopped finocchietto, then tossed with pasta. The finished dish is garnished with toasted bread crumbs.

Pasta alla norma: Widely found all over Sicily, this dish consists of slowly-cooked eggplant chunks tossed into a basic tomato sauce with thyme, dried oregano, and grated pecorino, then tossed with pasta and garnished with grated ricotta salata.

Involtini di Pesce Spada:
Involtini: (Sweet-and-sour stuffed grilled swordfish) Little rolls of thinly sliced swordfish are stuffed with pine nuts, raisins, bread crumbs, anchovy filets, orange juice and lemon juice, eggs and grated pecorino. The rolls are then dipped in an egg-olive oil mixture and coated with breadcrumbs. They are then put on skewers with bay leaves and onion slices and grilled.

Impanata di Pesce Spada:
(Swordfish pie) This pie is undoubtedly a legacy of the Spanish invaders. It is an elegant package bursting with all the wonderful tastes of Sicily: swordfish, olives, raisins, pine nuts, capers, and cheese.

Involtini di Melanzane: (Stuffed eggplant rolls) Slices of eggplant are stuffed with a mixture of cheeses, eggs, bread crumbs, and tomato sauce.
Fagioli alla Menta: (Marinated white bean salad with mint) Cannelini beans are cooked with garlic and celery until tender. They are drained and tossed with olive oil, vinegar, mint and salt and pepper.

Arancine: (Little oranges) Arancine are balls of saffron rice filled with tomato ragout, or meat or cheese or a combination of these. The rice balls are then rolled in flour, coated with beaten egg and rolled in bread crumbs. They are deep-fried until golden brown, and resemble an orange (arancine).

Panelle di Ciciri: A fritter made with chickpea flour and parsley and then deep-fried in olive oil. In Palermo the fritters are sprinkled with a few drops of lemon juice and often used as a filling for bread rolls.

Maccu di Favi: This very old recipe is known all over southern Italy and is the oldest of all Mediterranean soups. It was served for centuries as the midday meal of peasants, who carried it with them when they went to work in the fields. The soup is made with dried fava beans, wild fennel, and chili pepper. Toasted bread is placed in soup bowls and drizzled with olive oil, and the soup is ladled on top. The name comes from maccare which means "to crush." The Sicilian touch is to add wild fennel.

Caponata: A slow-cooked ratatouille-like mix of eggplants, onions, tomato, olives, pine nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil, caponata is usually served cold or at room temperature. Most Sicilians think caponata is a Spanish dish.

Spaghetti alla Siracusana: Fresh anchovies sautéed with garlic and pepperoncini in olive oil, deglazed with white wine, then tossed with spaghetti, diced cherry tomatoes and lots of chopped parsley, and topped with toasted bread crumbs.

Sarde alla Beccafico alla Palermitana:
Whole fresh sardines rolled around a stuffing of pine nuts, raisins, capers, and parsley all mashed together into a paste and then mixed with bread crumbs and olive oil, arranged in a baking pan with bay leaves, bread crumbs, sugar and lemon juice, and baked. The dish is named for the beccafico, a bird that eats ripe figs and is therefore considered a gourmand.

Sarde a Beccafico alla Catanese:
This deep-fried version has practically nothing to do with the baked Palermitan dish that goes by the same name. The sardines are split open, marinated in vinegar, pressed together in pairs to form "sandwiches" filled with a bread crumbs-cheese mixture and deep fried.

Tonno e Spada Affumicata:
Smoked tuna and swordfish shaved paper thin, and layered on a plate. These can be accented with shaved fennel and oranges, or olives and sun-dried tomatoes, or can be served with just a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and some good crusty bread.

Cuscusu: The apex of Arab-Sicilian cuisine; its successful preparation is considered the height of culinary art. The starting point for all couscous recipes is the same. Semolina grains are slowly poured into a large, round terra-cotta dish with sloping sides called a mafaradda and formed into small pellets by hand. The process of raking, rolling, aerating, and forming the pellets is called incocciata by the Sicilians. When the couscous pellets are formed they are then steamed over boiling fish broth in a couscoussiere. The fish broth is made using a three-to-one ratio of white fish to oily fish. The fish used to make the broth is not eaten. Small fish or shrimp are cooked up and eaten with the cuscusu.

Frittedda: (Sicilian sweet and sour vegetables) Artichokes which have been cooked in water and lemon juice are sautéed with onions and sprinkled with nutmeg and salt and pepper. Fava beans and peas are added to this mixture until tender. The mixture is tossed with sugar and vinegar and served cool.

Sciuscieddu: (Egg-bread crumb soup) this is a thicker version of the Roman egg-drop soup called stracciatella. Garlic and parsley are chopped together to create a mince, and added to a mixture of eggs, grated pecorino cheese, and bread crumbs. This mixture is dropped by spoonfuls into boiling chicken or beef broth and served immediately.

Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino:
(Spaghetti with garlic, oil, and hot pepper) Garlic and hot peppers or pepper flakes are sautéed in olive oil until the garlic is pale gold. This sauce is stirred into al dente spaghetti; parsley is added and served immediately.

Pasta con I broccoli di rabe: (Pasta with broccoli rabe) The vegetable and pasta are boiled together in the same pot and seasoned with sautéed garlic and anchovies.

Spiedini alla Siciliana: (Grilled scaloppine Sicilian style) these veal rolls are stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, cheese, pine nuts, raisins, and salt and pepper. The rolls are threaded on a skewer with bay leaves and onion slices. They are grilled or broiled until brown on all sides.
Polpette all’Agrodolce: (Sweet and sour meatballs) Meatballs are made by mixing together beef, eggs, pine nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and amaretti cookies that have been soaked in milk, along with salt and pepper. They are sautéed in oil until cooked and finished by adding a sugar-vinegar sauce to the pan.

Farsumagru: (Stuffed beef roll) This is Sicily’s undisputed premier meat dish. It originated as a humble and economical dish: a thin slice of meat rolled around stuffing of breadcrumbs to feed many more people than the meat alone would satisfy. The name means "false lean," because it is a simple-looking meat roll whose insides bulge with a rich stuffing of eggs, cheese, prosciutto, salami, and peas. It can be eaten hot or at room temperature.

Pollo all’Arancia alla Catanese:
(Orange chicken Catania style) Chicken is not very popular in Sicily, presumably because the hens are kept for the eggs they produce. The cooks of Catania have taken advantage of the fragrant orange groves that cover their hillsides to come up with this unusual chicken dish. Chicken pieces are rubbed with garlic, rosemary, mint and nutmeg. The chicken is then sautéed with onion in olive oil until brown. Orange juice is added and the chicken is roasted in a covered skillet until tender.

Pasticcio diMohammed ibn Itmnah: (The Emir of Catania’s chicken casserole) Sicilians pride themselves on this thousand-year-old chicken dish. This recipe for chicken with exotic nuts encased in a round bread loaf really is nearly a thousand years old; it dates back to the days when the Arabs still held Sicily and the Emir Mohammed ibn Itmnah ruled Catania.
Coniglio alla Siciliana: (Rabbit Sicilian style) the rabbit is marinated in wine and herbs, sautéed, and then braised in the marinade.
Pasta con alici e piselli: (Pasta with anchovies and peas) A sauce of sliced onion, chopped parsley, peas, and anchovies is served over "al dente" pasta.

Gatto di sarde e carciofi: (Sardine d artichoke pie) Sardines rolled in bread crumbs, thinly sliced artichokes, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper, and primosale cheese are layered in a baking dish and topped with bread crumbs and olive oil and baked.

Ditalini con favuzze e ricotta:
(Pasta with broad beans and ricotta cheese) Broad beans cooked in olive oil with scallions is served on pasta with ricotta cheese.

Scaloppine al Marsala: (Veal Marsala) In restaurants in the United States, this dish is often heavy and cloying. As prepared in Sicily, however, it consists of thin, tender scaloppine with a delicate Marsala wine glaze.

Tummala: (Rice Timbale) This is an elaborate casserole from eastern Sicily, which is said to derive its name from that of Mohammed Ibn Thummah, an emir of Catania during the Arab occupation. The casserole includes chicken, celery, onion, tomatoes, carrots, bread crumbs, veal meatballs, cheese, sausage, rice, and eggs in layers as follows: a layer of rice, a layer of meatballs and chicken, a layer of cheese, a layer of rice, a layer of sausage and meatballs, and a layer of rice and chicken topped by beaten eggs and cheese.

Pesce Spada alla Ghiotta: Swordfish cooked in onion and tomato sauce with potatoes, olives, capers, celery and black pepper. A Messina speciality.

Pasta al Nero di Seppia: Spaghetti served with a sauce made from the ink sacs of cuttlefish with salted ricotta cheese.

Pasta ‘ncasciata: A pasta dish containing meat sauce, meat balls, caciocavallo cheese, sausage, hard-boiled eggs, eggplant or peas.

Tonno al Forno: (Baked Tuna) Sliced tuna is marinated in oil, vinegar, onion, parsley, and red pper and baked.

Braciole alla Siciliana: Marinated pork chops grilled with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and vinegar added at the last minute.

Cannoli: Fried pastry tubes filled with ricotta, sugar, candied orange peel, pistachios, chocolate bits and grated orange peel.

Cassata: A sponge cake doused with sweet liqueur and filled with ricotta, sugar, cinnamon, candied fruit and chocolate. It is covered with marzipan icing and decorated with candied fruits and slices of citron twisted into bows.

Sfingi or Zeppole di San Giuseppe: a fried dough delicacy resembling a holeless doughnut prepared for the feast of San Guiseppe (St. Joseph) on March 19.

Cuccia: a sweet wheat dish prepared after soaking the wheat grains overnight. It is connected with the festival of Santa Lucia on December 13, the patronness of Syracuse.

Sorbetto and Gelato: the Arabs mixed the summer unmelted snows of Mt. Etna with fruit-flavored syrups to produce a cooling confection which later developed into sherbet and, with the addition of milk and/or cream, gelato.

Granita: simple ices made by pouring flavors like lemon, coffee and almond milk over granulated ice.


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