Sicilian Recipe for Couscous alla Trapanese

November 16, 2020  |  By Peg Kern
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If you head to Sicily on our Best of the West culinary tour, you are sure to run into couscous. Yes, couscous! Many people don’t realize that there are North African influences in Sicilian cuisine, particularly on the western coast near Trapani.

You don’t have to wait for a cooking vacation in Sicily, though. You can try an authentic Italian recipe for Couscous alla trapanese easily enough at home!

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A windmill in Marsala, visiting on a cooking vacation in SicilyCouscous alla trapanese (Trapani-Style Couscous)

Serves: 4
Prep time: 60 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cook method: Sauté, Boil

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  • 200-300 gr fish heads or bones, from white fish only
  • 500 gr white fish fillets (halibut, haddock, cod, sea bass), cubed
  • 500 gr. shellfish and seafood (any mixture of shrimp*, calamari, mussels, lobster)
  • 1/2 c. wine
  • 1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T minced Italian parsely
  • 1/8 t saffron
  • 1 c. tomato puree (passata di pomodoro), preferably homemade
  • 300 gr couscous (preferably handmade Sicilian couscous if you can find it)
  • 10 gr. sliced almonds
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • salt
  • peppercorns

*If using shrimp buy it raw, head and shell on, then add the heads and shells to the fish broth.

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Buying fish in Italy at the market during an authentic cooking vacationInstructions to make the broth:

1. Sauté the celery, carrot, and onion in olive oil until soft but not browned.

2. Add the tomato puree and cook down for 4-5 minutes. Add the wine and 1.5 liters of water, along with the shells of the shrimp and fish heads/bones, saffron, a pinch of salt, a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Cook 40 minutes, and strain.

You can use the broth for a seafood paella as well!

Instructions to make the couscous:

3. Cook the couscous according to the package instructions using the broth instead of water. Let sit for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

4. Sauté the garlic and parsely for 1-2 minutes in olive oil. Add the pinch of cinnamon, then add the fish and shellfish, cooking quickly.

5. Put the couscous in a large serving dish, then pour the fish and seafood mixture on top (being sure to add the liquid as well). Pour more of the broth over the couscous (making it wet but not soupy). Sprinkle the almonds on top.

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To serve:

Couscous alla trapanese is traditional served with more fish broth on the side – either in a small bowl for each diner, or in a small picture to be passed around.

Bona manciata!

Try these other wonderful recipes from Sicily:

By Peg Kern

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