The challenge of what to eat in Sicily, says World TravelingMom, is the temptation to eat it all. Food in Sicily is irresistible. Sicily travel has to include arancini, granita, cannoli, and other foods at the core of Sicilian identity. La RosaWorks Sicily Tours and Travel brought her to street carts, vineyards, open air markets, and restaurants where food in Sicily was always fresh, local, and memorable.

What to eat in Sicily, when it’s tempting to eat it all? World TravelingMom says Sicily travel has to include arancini, granita, cannoli, and more.

Fresh ingredients, like at this open air market, are a key reason food tastes so good in Sicily. (Photo credit World TravelingMom Sarah Ricks)

9 Foods You Must Try in Sicily, Italy

1. Arancini
2. Pasta alla norma
3. Granita
4. Cannoli
5. Crusty bread with olive oil
6. Pesce spada alla siciliana
7. Ricotta with honey
8. Fresh squeezed orange juice
9. Wine

My husband and I spent a delicious week exploring food, wine, and what to eat in Sicily, Italy. Some foods are the essence of Sicily and have to be part of Sicily travel. And other food in Sicily, even if available elsewhere, is so fresh and good that we had to try it in Sicily.

Food in Sicily: Food culture

Sicilians take pleasure in food and that pleasure is contagious. From the colors of the vegetables and fruit in the Catania open air fish market, to freshly prepared street foods in Palermo, to a 4-course lunch at a vineyard to accompany a wine tasting, Sicily invited us to slow down. And appreciate the tastes, textures, and colors of food, and the sociability of eating.

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Portions are smaller than in American restaurants. And that’s a good thing. Because a sitdown Sicilian lunch might start with an appetizer, followed by a first course of pasta (primo), followed by a second course of meat or fish (secondo). And if there’s room, dessert.

What to eat in Sicily, when it’s tempting to eat it all? World TravelingMom says Sicily travel has to include arancini, granita, cannoli, and more.

Pasta alla Norma. While I eat low carb at home, my first visit to Sicily was no time to skip pasta. Photo credit: Sarah Ricks / World TravelingMom

Food in Sicily: Greek, Arab and other influences

Sicily is strategically placed in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. So Sicily has been invaded, a lot. And each invader influenced Sicily’s food. Now, Sicily’s delicious food reflects influences from its Greek, Arab, Norman, Spanish and other invaders.

1. Arancini

Arancini are classic Sicilian street food we ate with our hands. Imagine stuffing a ball of risotto with meat or cheese. Then rolling the ball in breadcrumbs, frying until it is toasted on the outside. The resulting orange balls are arancini, which means “little oranges.” We tried arancini stuffed with mushrooms, and with beef and cheese. But arancini also can also be stuffed with meat sauce (ragu), green peas, pistachio – and other things. Arabs dominated Sicily from the 9th  to 11thcenturies, and brought rice to Sicily. And Sicily began making arancini during that time.

2. Pasta alla norma

Sicilian pasta was so delectable, my husband and I ate it twice a day. We enjoyed a pasta course in each of our luxurious 4-course lunches and dinners during our week in Sicily, all organized by La RosaWorks Sicily Tours and Travel. Sicily makes its pasta with a hearty wheat and served al dente, never mushy.

Pasta Alla Norma is chunks of fried eggplant in a tomato and basil sauce, sprinkled with the Sicilian specialty ricotta salata, salted ricotta cheese, and served over pasta. But we enjoyed pasta every which way in Sicily: topped with calamari, layered with tomatoes and cheese, tossed with pistachio pesto. All fresh, all local, all delicious.

What to eat in Sicily, when it’s tempting to eat it all? World TravelingMom says Sicily travel has to include arancini, granita, cannoli, and more.

We enjoyed a formal dinner in the palazzo of a Sicilian aristocrat. Photo credit: Sarah Ricks / World TravelingMom

3. Granita

Around the year 800, Arabs introduced oranges, lemons, pistachio and sugar to Sicily. Today, Sicilians mix those and other flavors with crushed ice to make granita, a refreshing sweet treat. It’s similar to but lighter than sorbet. My husband and I happily sipped almond granita to cool off while exploring Ortigia, Siracusa.

In Palermo, we used spoons to eat the smoothest pistachio granita I’ve tasted. But for breakfast, Sicilians eat a granita with a brioche for dipping. (Curiously, Sicilians also eat gelato stuffed into a brioche, which we did not try.)

4. Cannoli

Sure, growing up in New York and living in Philadelphia, I’ve eaten cannoli. They’re a dessert made of sweetened ricotta cheese stuffed into deep-fried shells, and studded with chocolate bits or candied fruit. But Sicily invented cannoli, and their pride shows.

In Sicily, we learned that a good cannoli place does not pre-fill the shells but only fills to order. And while we were stopping at a Sicilian pasticceria (bakery) for cannoli, of course, we had to try crumbly Sicilian cookies, often made with almonds or pistachios. Another don’t miss food in Sicily.

What to eat in Sicily, when it’s tempting to eat it all? World TravelingMom says Sicily travel has to include arancini, granita, cannoli, and more.

Winetastings at vineyards began with an appetizer and local olive oil. Photo credit: Sarah Ricks / World TravelingMom

5. Crusty bread with olive oil

Is it the quality of the flour? I don’t know, but the thick crusty, chewy bread we had in Sicily was addictive. In fact, fresh bread and local olive oil were so good in Sicily, they were like their own food group. So Sicily travel has to include bread dipped in olive oil. Plus, my husband and I used bread to sop up any leftover pasta sauce. Because every sauce in Sicily was so good, we wanted to savor every drop.

6. Pesce Spada Alla Siciliana

Sicily is an island. And the Sicilian fisherman’s catch depends on the season. For example, in May, we saw clams, sardines, eels in the open air market in Catania. But not sea urchin. And in both Palermo and Catania, we saw fishermen at street stands with whole tunas, cutting and selling off one steak at a time.

While we ate tons of delicious fresh seafood in Sicily, I especially loved swordfish layered with raisins, olives, and pine nuts, Pesce Spada alla Siciliana.

Granted, I ate this dish in the Palermo palazzo of a Sicilian aristocrat, a unique experience arranged for us by La Rosa Works Sicilian Tours and Travel. The setting made it even more special. But the blend of flavors made it seem like a taste of Sicily.

What to eat in Sicily, when it’s tempting to eat it all? World TravelingMom says Sicily travel has to include arancini, granita, cannoli, and more.

Don’t miss cannoli in Sicily. These finished our Vivera wine tasting. Photo credit: Sarah Ricks / World TravelingMom

7. Ricotta with honey

Sicilian cheeses are delicious. We tasted cow, goat, and sheep cheeses at the food market in Palermo, enjoyed a cheese sampling course with a dessert wine in Catania, and of course, ate local Sicilian cheeses as part of pasta dishes.

But one cheese dish we tried seemed to capture the history of food in Sicily. Around 700 BC, Greeks introduced honey and walnuts to Sicily. And Sicilians take their honey seriously.

For example, we visited a beekeeper who flavors honey with orange and lemons, fruits introduced to Sicily by Arabs in the 9thcentury. All this history came together in an appetizer of crisp toasts spread with fresh ricotta and drizzled with honey and walnuts.  Yum.

8. Fresh squeezed orange juice

At street stands and kiosks, we saw vendors selling fresh squeezed orange juice. So fresh, in fact, that I saw my juice squeezed. Even though it was quick and cheap to drink on the street, sipping Sicilian fresh squeezed orange juice felt luxurious.

TravelingMom tip: Another favorite street food in Palermo, also introduced by Arabs, is panelle– chickpea fritters. Because they’re so popular, I wanted to try them. But their charm evaded me. Maybe you’ll have better luck.

What to eat in Sicily, when it’s tempting to eat it all? World TravelingMom says Sicily travel has to include arancini, granita, cannoli, and more. #Sicily #Italy #visitSicily #foodietravel #travelforfood #familytravel

What to eat in Sicily, when it’s tempting to eat it all? World TravelingMom says Sicily travel has to include arancini, granita, cannoli, and more. Photo credit: Sarah Ricks / World TravelingMom

9. Wine

Around 700 BC, Greeks introduced grapes to Sicily. Now, Sicilian wine is well known. But isn’t always easily available in the US. So part of the fun of Sicily travel was trying Sicilian wines. La RosaWorks Sicily Tours and Travel arranged for us to do several wine tastings at vineyards. I especially enjoyed meeting the wine producers, touring the vineyards, and tasting wines paired with elegant 4-course lunches. I was in heaven.

TravelingMom tip: I love learning about a foreign culture by taking a cooking lesson. Like the pasta cooking class, I took in Sardinia when I visited Sardinia, Italy off-season. Or the farm-to-table cooking class my son and I took in France. So I hope to take a class the next time we visit Sicily. And there will be a next time since we loved Sicily.

Does food help you understand a country’s culture and history? Tell us about it in the comments.