Do you have a sweet tooth? Sicily may be your spiritual home. Sicilian desserts are one of the highlights of a trip to Sicily so I suggest you prepare to indulge before you arrive.
The food of Sicily is unique and differs from that of mainland Italy. It draws inspiration and techniques from cultures that have inhabited the island over many centuries. Ingredients such as lemons, almonds and pistachios were brought by the Arabs of North Africa and chocolate was later introduced by the Spanish.
Savoury Sicilian food is simple and delicious – think fresh seafood and citrus salads – but their desserts require more technique and skill. The results are simply incredible.
I have an ongoing obsession with gelato, so I was especially keen to try the Sicilian version – granita. Much more icy than its mainland counterpart, granite is served in a glass with a spoon and is a bit like a frozen thick shake. Made by hand, the texture of granita can differ from region to region due to the method used in the freezing process.
Granita is made with freshest local ingredients and I’m sure the taste would be hard to replicate elsewhere for that reason. We tasted lemon, pistachio, almond and gelsi – a Sicilian variety of mulberry. The tartness of the lemon was offset by sugar and I was surprised overall that the granite we tried were not too sweet.
One bite. That’s all it took to know that all cannoli that had come before were a mere shadow of this treat. Cannoli are a delicious Sicilian dessert that have been exported around the world, but I’m here to tell you that you haven’t tasted them properly until you’ve tried cannoli in Sicily.
What’s the difference? The cream inside Sicilian cannoli isn’t cream but freshly made whipped ricotta flavoured with a little sugar and lemon. The ricotta filling is made daily and piped fresh to order which means the fried pastry casing stays crisp and crunchy. So apart from looking, smelling and tasting out of this world, you experience the sensory delight of the different textures of this dessert.
Fancy making cannoli yourself – here’s a recipe for cannoli that looks delicious but not quite the same
Granita with brioche
“Do you eat this often?” I asked my husband’s cousins in Messina. “Oh, yes, most days in summer,” they smiled. Yikes. The granite from Messina is an extreme dessert if you ask me and the people of this city eat it for breakfast!The granite from Messina is an extreme dessert if you ask me and the people of this city eat it for breakfast!Click To Tweet
The granite comes in different flavours – coffee, chocolate and strawberry. It is topped with chantilly cream and served with brioche, fresh out of the oven. You break pieces off the warm brioche and dip it into the granite and cream. It is one of the most incredible and decadent breakfasts I’ve ever eaten.
You can try the granite with brioche at Pasticceria Freni in Messina.
I thought cassata was an ice cream dessert that we have sometimes in Australia. Actually, it is a delicious cake that inspired the ice cream dessert. The original beats the spin-off hands down.
Cassata Siciliana has its origins in the 17th century and it is a dessert with distinct baroque overtones. There is nothing simple about this layered cake and I’m sure a lot of patience and technique is required to make it.
A layer of sponge dipped in liqueur is topped with fresh ricotta sometimes mixed with chocolate chips. The cake and ricotta are then covered by a marzipan shell, followed by green icing. Usually, the cake is topped with glace fruit such as cherries. You can find the cake in small or large sizes throughout Sicily but it is said to originate in Palermo.
Marzipan Easter lambs or Agneddu Pasquali
This long running tradition in Sicily represents the Easter story and if you visit Sicily over Easter you will see these marzipan lambs everywhere in many different sizes. Made from marzipan, they are often stuffed with dried fruits, nuts and even marmalade made from local lemons and oranges.
I’m not a big fan of marzipan but the one I tried did not have an overwhelmingly strong bitter almond taste. It was very rich though!
Chocolate from Modica
The Spanish, having conquered Latin America, brought chocolate to Sicily. In Modica chocolate is made using traditional Mexican cold processing techniques. Cocoa beans are manually ground and processed in a bowl with sugar and then left to set in special moulds. The result is a thick and grainy bar that is sometimes flavoured with cinnamon or vanilla.
Traditionally Modican chocolate was melted in water to make hot chocolate but it can also be eater on its own. The best place to try this unique Sicilian chocolate is at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto – the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily.
Savouring the desserts of Sicily
In a world seemingly obsessed with franken-donuts and unicorn lattes, the desserts of Sicily more than hold their own. Centuries of tradition, technique and perfecting the balance of flavour and texture cannot be beaten.
What I love about Sicilian food and sweet treats is the passion and use of local ingredients. Almost all the Sicilian food we tasted used the locally grown lemons, pistachios and almonds that are found in abundance on this Mediterranean island.
There is no rushing about and eating on the go either. People savour their food and are quite happy to wait ten minutes for fresh brioche to be pulled from the oven or ricotta filling to be piped fresh into cannoli. And believe me, it’s worth the wait.
Have you tried these Sicilian desserts? What did I miss?
As seen in:
Subscribe to Untold Morsels
Subscribe to receive our monthly newsletter full of inspirational ideas for memorable trips.
As a thank you we will send you a FREE checklist for booking the best holiday accommodation rental apartments and villas on Booking.com, AirBnB etc