7 must-try (little-known) traditional sicilian dishes you have to taste
Want to try a taste of Sicily without leaving your kitchen? From fresh pasta dishes to traditional desserts, explore the flavorful world of Sicilian cuisine with these seven forgotten but surprising Sicilian recipes. With a little effort, you can bring a breath of Sicilian culinary history right into your home!
Exploring the rich culinary traditions of Sicily is a great way to experience and taste something new. From hearty pasta dishes to fresh fish recipes and mouth-watering desserts, there are plenty of traditional Sicilian dishes to try.
In this article we will show you seven of the little-known sicilian dishes that pay homage to the true soul of Sicilian cuisine.
1. U ripiddu nivicatu
Some of these names sound like something new and, often, even we Sicilians forget they exist! Let’s start with first from the Sicilian culinary tradition that represents Etna cuisine and is still a classic in Catania: u ripiddu nivicatu.
U ripiddu nivicatu is not only original in name, but also in appearance and ingredients. Aesthetically it immediately recalls the famous volcano Etna, but in flavor we can say that it is a decidedly modern dish despite its origins, because it combines ingrdients that we would never dream of putting together such as fish and cheese!
This Etnean dish is prepared with rice, cuttlefish (and squid ink), ricotta cheese, wild fennel, garlic and chili pepper. Can’t imagine how it tastes? Well, just try it!
2. U sciusceddu
“Blow, it’s hot!” This is what we exclaim when a dish is so hot that it is better to blow before putting a bite in our mouth. In Sicily, we would say “Sciuscia!” (“Blow!”).
Hence the name Sciusceddu, or ciusceddu, that was given to this traditional Sicilian dish. This time, we move to the northeastern part of the island, specifically to Messina.
U sciuscieddu, which literally translates as “little puff”, was originally named so precisely because it was served very hot and was impossible to eat as soon as it was served on the table.
But what does it look like? It is a dish of meatballs cooked and flavored in broth, covered with a fluffy layer of ricotta, cheese and eggs. At one time, it was prepared mainly for Easter lunch and the original recipe called for the addition of maiorchino (now a Slow Food Presidia), the cheese that is the star of the famous tournament held every year in Novara di Sicilia.
Let’s stay in the East and go to the beautiful village of Modica, in the province of Ragusa. Modica is famous for Aztec chocolate, the “raw chocolate” with its grainy texture due to the unique method of preparation.
Although Modica is known for its delicious Modican chocolate, it is here that an unusual “salty dessert” was created, still much appreciated by those lucky enough to pass by this little gem listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
We are talking about the ‘mpanatigghi, small shortbread panzerotti filled with meat and chocolate. Yes, you got it right. Meat and chocolate.
One anecdote says they were invented by nuns in a monastery who had disguised minced meat inside a chocolate cake during the days of Lent to help the brethren during lean times.
More reliable sources, refer the origin of ‘mpanatigghi to the Spanish domination that took place in the Kingdom of Sicily in the 16th century. There, this may immediately bring to mind the famous Spanish empanadas, and indeed, the crescent shape is similar to that of empanadas as is the combination of the sweet notes of chocolate and the savory notes of beef.
4. Spaghetti con le patelle
No, it’s not “panelle” if that’s what you’re thinking about! “Patelle” (limpets), with “t”, in Sicilian dialect are gastropod mollusks that inhabit the mesolittoral shelf throughout the Mediterranean Basin and various oceanic areas. Ok. Simply put, the seafood attached to the rocks!
Limpets are found in many coastal areas and also in the Etnean coast, where thanks to the lava rocks their flesh acquires a very unique flavor.
How to savor limpets? Well, some people eat them raw, just off the rocks, but we prefer to recommend that you prepare a dressing made with limpets (you can prepare it exactly as you would prepare a seafood dressing) and accompany it with spaghetti. You will feel all the flavor and scent of the Sicilian sea.
5. Sparici i liara
Let’s discover another traditional Sicilian dish by moving a little further west, specifically to Cesarò. Cesarò is a pretty mountain village, in the heart of the Nebrodi Mountains, which gave rise to a simple but very tasty recipe: sparacogni or “sparici i liara“.
This is a typical spontaneous mountain plant that grows wild between Etna and the Nebrodi Mountains. The shoots, thin and long, similar to asparagus but with a more bitter and wild flavor, are sold in bunches. But how are they prepared once purchased?
Traditionally, only the apical parts are pulled off, which are subsequently blanched for a few minutes to retain their typical bitter flavor. Sparacogni are used in the preparation of pasta dishes, but also as the main ingredient in omelettes or to flavor pizzas.
To cook them simply sauté garlic, then deglaze with white wine and add a tomato sauce that gives a sweeter note to the dish. Next, plenty of ricotta salata is added to give that salty note that makes the dish truly unique and perfectly balanced. Try it to believe.
6. Bianculidda ‘nta fogghia
You are wondering what this bianculidda is, aren’t you? This funny name, in Sicilian dialect, refers to the newborn blue fish (also called neonata) with which some traditional Sicilian recipes used to be prepared that, nowadays, also because of the new European fishing regulations, have been somewhat put aside.
In fact, we know nothing about the origins of the so-called bianculidda n’ta fogghia, but we do know that it is a very simple dish made with neonata, the juvenile blue fish (bianchetti) that in Sicily is usually used to make delicious meatballs, omelettes or to season pasta.
To prepare bianculidda n’ta fogghia you just need to get fresh neonata, some wide lemon leaves, lemon juice, a little salt and pepper. You need to wash and drain both the lemon leaves and the neonata well.
Once ready, just take a little at a time with a spoon and place it on the lemon leaves, squeeze out some juice and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Then, simply cover them with the other leaves and grill them for a few minutes. A word of advice: serve them piping hot.
7. Pasta ‘ca pastigghia
We are at the end of this review of seven lesser-known Sicilian dishes, and last but not least on our list is Pasta ca’ Pastigghia.
This is an ancient popular Sicilian recipe now almost forgotten, a soup made with dried chestnuts that has nothing to envy to the more famous caldarroste (chestnuts cooked slowly over the fire).
Did you know that chestnuts were a very important ingredient in the island’s diet? Chestnuts were the perfect alternative to bread because they were rich, nutritious and hearty.
If you like chestnuts and know them to be sweet, this is a dish to try and include in your fall menu. It is very simple to prepare and has a very special flavor, and its ancient origins will surprise you because it could easily be included in more contemporary menus.
To prepare Pasta cà Pastigghia, well, you will need chestnuts: dried or fresh. If you use dried chestnuts, you will need to soak them several hours beforehand to soften them, just as you do with dried legumes. On the other hand, if you prepare this dish during the fall season, you can use fresh chestnuts and avoid soaking. You can use either chopped spaghetti or rice for the soup, depending on your taste.
Seven forgotten Sicilian recipes: your turn
In this small review we have taken you on a discovery of seven traditional dishes that will transport your taste buds to the oldest and most authentic Sicily.
Tantalizing, little-known flavors and unusual combinations that tell the true story of the island and reveal the identity of our island. Ready to prepare and savor them?
How many of these dishes did you already know? Let us know in the comments!