Sicilian cuisine holds its own, from palermo to catania

It doesn’t take long after flying into Palermo or Catania, or docking at Messina or one of Sicily’s many other ports, to encounter the ubiquitous pasta alla Norma.

The island’s quintessential dish was invented in 1831 to celebrate the success of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma. Spicy italian sausage soup recipe Bellini was a Catania native and the story has it that a chef invented the dish in his honour, starting with a tomato and onion base and throwing in fried eggplant, salted ricotta and basil, with some variations including capers. Italian sausage with pasta recipe Hey presto, an edible legend was born.

Pork italian sausage recipe Rather like Sicily itself, it’s simple yet piquant, inexpensive yet memorable. Italian sausage penne pasta recipe It’s Sicilian pride in edible form.

If there is a good case for arguing there is no such thing as Italian food, it goes doubly so for Sicily. Italian sausage pasta recipes with alfredo sauce “Italy’’ is, after all, an optimistic geographical expression for what is in reality a culturally divided nation of 20 proud regions, each infused with their own traditions and the unshakable conviction that theirs is superior to all others. Recipe for making italian sausage And geographically speaking at least, Sicily is the most literal manifestation of that sentiment.

The island at the tip of the mainland “boot’’ jutting into the magnificently blue waters of the Mediterranean, home to five million people, has benefited from its mainland exclusion. Easy italian sausage pasta recipe Other “Italian’’ dishes can be subsumed into a general narrative of nation rather than region (pizza, we’re looking at you) but Sicilian food retains a clear identity. Robert’s homemade italian sausage recipe The modern-day tourist has previous waves of invaders to thank for the distinctive Sicilian cuisine. Easy spicy italian sausage pasta recipe The Greeks, of course, and the Arabs for the sweet-and-sour bent exemplified by caponata — the multipurpose union of tomato, eggplant and celery with capers and sweetened vinegar that can be used as an appetiser, main course or side dish.

It’s cucina povera, the cuisine of the peasants: unfussy and truly seasonal (you are as likely to encounter a midwinter mango in the markets of Palermo as a flying pig). Italian turkey sausage recipes dinner Seafood dominates on the coastline, but head inland and all of a sudden the menus are full of rustic pork sausages and grigliata mista (mixed grill).

To get the most of your gastronomic tour of Sicily you need a car. Emeril italian sausage recipe Getting around the island by public transport is ridiculously slow, and by road you can zip from north coast to south in two hours. Spicy italian turkey sausage recipe Even if you don’t want to commit to the lesser-known southwestern coast, for example, it’s well worth a day trip to visit Da Vittorio ( in Porto Palo di Menfi. Recipe italian sausage A seafood temple right on the beach where the local gamberi rossi (red prawns) are eaten with just a lick of oil and vinegar, it’s considered by British-based Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli to be the best restaurant in Sicily. Italian sausage pasta recipe food network Don’t expect frills, just exceptional seafood served simply. Best italian sausage recipe And the location is stunning.

Another culinary curio is found on the northwestern coast about two hours’ drive from Palermo at San Vito Lo Capo, rightfully considered one of Sicily’s best beaches, with the added highlight of the annual week-long couscous festival. Italian sausage recipe with pasta Well worth planning your trip around (it’s held in September, one of the best months weather-wise), endless competitions pit the local Arabic-style couscous cooked in fish stock against other versions from other nations. Homemade mild italian sausage recipe Sample it at one of countless stalls or at dedicated restaurants such as Profumi Di Cous Cous (

Street food hits peak excitement in the bustling regional capital, Palermo. Italian pork sausage recipe Look for warm baked ricotta with tomato sugo, pane con panelle (fried chickpea fritters) and pane con milza, a sesame-seed roll with grilled spleen and caciocavallo cheese. Italian sausage pasta recipes food network You’ll find them all and a dozen more local delicacies in or around the markets (Ballaro seems to be the best, food-wise). Johnsonville mild italian sausage recipes For a more sedate and seated experience, Casa Del Brodo ( serves meat-filled tortellini in broth that is widely credited for its restorative properties.

Two hours’ drive east from Palermo is the stunning medieval walled port town of Cefalu, immortalised in the 1988 Giuseppe Tornatore film Cinema Paradiso. Recipe using italian sausage and pasta Throngs of tourists don’t obscure the fact it’s a living, breathing port town, and while plenty of the restaurants are fairly pedestrian there are some real gems such as Ostaria del Duomo ( in front of the stunning, mosaic-adorned duomo (cathedral). Ground mild italian sausage recipe Order the stunning carpaccio di pesce — locally caught sardines, anchovies, prawns and whitefish — with a squeeze of lemon and a liberal slosh of the local olive oil for one of those transcendent moments.

Cefalu on steroids, Taormina is Sicily’s playground for the wealthy, with nightlife and restaurants to match. Beef italian sausage recipe Watch the evening passeggiata — the leisurely promenade of well-dressed families — from Al Duomo ( on the Piazza Del Duomo, with a menu of classics such as veal saltimbocca with a thick blanket of tuna mayonnaise. Baked italian sausage recipe The unassuming but assured Osteria Rosso Di Vino ( is a Taormina gem, tucked into a quiet square near the arch of Porta Catania, where young owners match their passion for Sicilian wine with a well-priced, seafood-centric menu; if it’s in season, try the exceptional pasta fresca with bottarga and zucchini flowers.

Sicily’s southeast is the epicentre for food lovers, thanks to a symbiosis with the area’s relative wealth and the tourists drawn by the World Heritage-listed baroque towns such as Ragusa, Noto and Modica. Italian sausage soup recipes The hill town of Noto, the Disneyland of baroque architecture, is famed for having the best gelato in Sicily, if not Italy (try the ricotta gelato at Caffe Sicilia on Corso Vittorio Emanuele or Dolcoria Corrado Costanzo on Via Silvio Spaventa). Italian sausage zucchini pasta recipes For a more modern restaurant meal, head uphill to the smart Ristorante Crocifisso (, where well-known chef Marco Baglieri spins a modern take on Sicilian dishes such as pistachio-crusted rare lamb with caponata. Italian turkey sausage recipe The wine list is well worth a look, too.

More vinous good fun can be found on Ortigia, the old town of the World Heritage-listed Syracuse, which was founded by the ancient Greeks. Recipe ground italian sausage Wine bar Enoteca Solaria (, near the Piazza Duomo, is home to a swag of Sicilian wines that owner Enzo is happy to let customers sample. Italian sausage bow tie pasta recipe For great pasta, head to the hip Sicilia in Tavola (, also in the old town, for housemade spaghetti with sea urchins or fish-stuffed ravioli.

Sicily’s most singular restaurant is perhaps the pork-centric Majore ( in the hill town of Chiaramonte Gulfi, just outside of Ragusa. Italian sausage pasta recipes The piggy degustation starts at jellied pork terrine, moves through ragu and stuffed pork cutlet and might take the odd side trip to salami.

Catania doesn’t have a great reputation as a tourist destination, possibly thanks to the unrelenting use of dour grey Etna volcanic stone, but underneath its stern aspect is a lively university town with a livelier fish market. Italian sausage recipes food network Closed-toe shoes are a must for exploring it during the day, and by night it transforms into a glutton’s paradise, with restaurants such as Osteria Antica Marina ( serving the day’s catch.

Make sure you book ahead — it’s a nightly spectator sport watching tourists being turned away thanks to the locals who, in the immortal words of Plato, “eat like they will die tomorrow’’.