cannolo di ricotta - flickr-neekoh.fi - 620If there’s one thing all travelers end up doing in Italy, it’s eating. And in Sicily, discovering all of the island’s native foods — which are distinct from those in the rest of Italy — is akin to learning a new language: practice is the the only way you’ll ever really gain proficiency. For your next trip to the Mediterranean’s largest and most delicious isle, here’s a crash course on essential dishes that can, and should, only be eaten in Sicily.

Raviolo
This is a a deep-fried pocket of dough filled with sweet ricotta, not to be confused with the smaller savory ravioli most Americans eat with marinara sauce. For whatever reason, the ones in Siracusa, an ancient Greek colony in the island’s southeast corner, are usually the best.


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Tartufo all’ pistacchio
Tartufo
means truffle in Italian, and this seriously rich frozen treat is essentially a big ball of gelato with added toppings and a center filling of liquid chocolate. The original recipe hails from Calabria, but the Sicilian version adds a twist with pistachios, which grow all over the island.


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Scaccia
Sort of like a calzone or a stuffed focaccia, scaccia takes on a flatter form. Having originated in the town of Ragusa in Sicily, this lunchtime snack has tons of variations. The one we tried had anchovies and parsley, two ingredients we usually avoid, but the combination was so delicious that we ate the whole thing.

Latte di Mandorla
Fun fact: Sicily is one of the world’s largest almond exporters, and this nut-based milk is a popular treat in the warmer months. It’s super refreshing, but you can only have a little at a time as it’s typically served very, very sweet. It can also be used as a flavoring agent in granita, an icy, creamy desert that’s Italy’s answer to a basic slush.

Cassata Siciliana
These fondant-covered cakes are practically works of art. You’ll see them in the windows of all the local bakeries, pastel-hued and cherry-topped, and they’re about as Sicilian as you can get. Candied fruits, rum syrup, ricotta…it’s all here.

Biancomangiare
Another traditional almond-based dessert, this one’s hard to find but definitely worth tracking down. It’s bright white (hence the name), and the texture is a bit like Jell-O, but fresh ground almonds add some texture. The mixture sets in a mold, so it can be served in all sorts of interesting shapes.

Cannolo alla Siciliana
This one needs no introduction, considering it’s served in Italian restaurants the world over. But a real cannolo, where the crackly shell remains empty right up to the moment of consumption – and where the ricotta filling is, naturally, mixed fresh that morning – is another thing entirely.

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