At The International Kitchen we like to say “If you haven’t been to Sicily, you haven’t been to Italy.” Why? What makes it so unique in our minds, and so worth visiting? Part of it is the authenticity. Sicily feels Italian in a way that much of the mainland does not: the increasing homogeneity of a global world brings us all closer, but it can also soften the edges of what makes us unique.
But one of the reasons we love Sicily is, quite simply, its amazingly rich cuisine. The history of conquests (Greek! Spanish! Arab! French!) have left their mark in the art, architecture, and people, but also in the food, just as surely as the salty Mediterranean air and volcanic soil leave their traces in the vegetables (and grapes) grown there. This is why you will find couscous, saffron, raisins, pistachios, cocoa, tomatoes, olives, almonds, meat, and of course a lot of fish and seafood: Sicily is, after all, an island!
So what are some of our favorite Sicilian dishes, and what wines pair best with them? The first thing to understand about Sicilian cuisine: pair like to like. Nothing tastes as good with a Sicilian dish as a Sicilian wine, perhaps because the terroir is so distinctive. For your next dinner party or special evening at home, try out this Sicilian menu and let us know what you think:
Caponata – the classic sweet and sour eggplant relish, served hot or cold
Panelle – fritters made from chickpea flour
Serve with a dry Marsala, such as a De Bartoli Vecchio Samperi, much like you would pair Spanish tapas with a dry Fino sherry.
Bucatini con sarde (Bucatini pasta with sardines) – this classic mixes sweet and sour by incorporating fennel, pine nuts, raisins and bread crumbs with the pasta and sardines
Couscous alla Trapani (Trapani-style couscous) – seafood couscous made with a rich fish stock
Serve with a light blended white using a combination of the Catarratto, Grecanico, and Inzolia grape varieties. (Corvo Duca di Salaparuta is one of our favorites)
Piscispata a’ Missinisa (Messina-style Swordfish) – swordfish with a tomato-olive-caper sauce and potatoes
Farsumagru – a large roll of veal or beef, stuffed with a combination of bacon, sausage, prosciutto, beef, cheese, egg, and peas
For the fish, one of the many find Sicilian Chardonnays works well, such as a Donnafugata “La Fuga” Chardonnay. For the meat, a rich Nero d’Avola from the southeastern part of the Island.
Cannoli – probably Sicily’s most famous dessert, fried, crispy cookie tubes stuffed with a ricotta, chocolate, and pistachio filling
You could pair the cannoli with a sweet Marsala, but since you had a dry Marsala with the antipasti, try one of the Island’s other sweet wine, such as the rich and sweet Passito, or a wonderfully bright and apricot-y Malvasia from Lipari.
As always, let us know what you think! And if you are interested in learning more about Sicily first-hand, give us a call. We’d love to help arrange your trip.
By Peg Kern
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