Sicilian sweets are the best in the world because there is always a story to tell, there are typical local ingredients that perhaps came to us through previous dominations and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. What we eat today is the union of cultures and peoples : Sicans, Siculians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French, Spanish.
The roots of Sicily’s pastries go back to sacred rituals. The first were dedicated to the great Mother Goddess. It was the Greeks who brought the almond tree to the island, the Roman rule that introduced the cannolo that the cassata, nougat, on the other hand, would be a specialty of the Hebrew-Sicilians in Roman times.
With the transition to Christianity, then, some typical recipes were born, such as “cuccia,” made from wheat and milk, which is prepared on December 13, the feast day of Saint Lucy. In gastronomy, Arab-Sicilian dishes are those that use essences such as jasmine and cinnamon. With Spanish rule, Sicilian confectionery saw the refinement of many recipes. The art of confectionery became increasingly popular in convents.
The forerunners of modern Sicilian pastries were, in fact, cloistered convents. The money given by the noble families of the young cloistered nuns was not always enough to maintain a high lifestyle within the convents. That is why the nuns began to bake cakes, to earn money but also to keep themselves engaged in more pleasant activities than prayer and silence.
Each convent specialized in preparing a particular dessert. The monastery of Badia Nuova specialized in the preparation of cannoli; the monastery of Martorana specialized in martorana fruit; the monastery of Valverde specialized in the preparation of baked cassata; and the monastery of the Virgins specialized in the preparation of “minne di vergine”.
It is surely the most famous Sicilian sweet in the world, considered by all to be the queen of pastry! Elegant, richly adorned, sumptuous, with intense flavors. The present cake made of sponge cake, ricotta, royal pastry, zuccata and candied fruit is said to have originated in convents during the Easter season.
One legend has it that Sicilian cassata was invented by the Arabs. The story goes that one day an Arab shepherd was mixing inside a round container, “quas’at” some fresh cheese with honey. Whether it is merely a legend is not known, but there is always a thread of truth.
Also world-famous, they are a riot of goodness, a must after a Sunday lunch. A ricotta filling wrapped in a crispy fried wafer, enriched with candied fruit, chocolate chips, and pistachio nuts. It is one of the oldest desserts in Italian pastry making and is part of Italy’s traditional food products (P.A.T)
Today there are a variety of versions of this dessert. In Palermo, for example, cannolicchi, or cannoli in a reduced form, were born. On the contrary, in the area of Piana degli Albanesi, giant cannoli were born, and in the area of Trapani there are cannoli, always large but with coarser ricotta, and with less sugar.
Another fundamental ingredient in Sicilian pastries is almond. Here we are talking precisely about almond paste, also called pasta reale or martorana after the name of the church where it originated. During the Feast of the Dead, sweets are created in the shape of various kinds of fruit. All decorated and painted by hand.
Internally, Martorana fruit is similar to marzipan but considerably sweeter and tastier. The basis of its recipe is exclusively almond flour and sugar. From there almond pastries are also born, which are now prepared throughout the year. We give you the recipe so you can make them at home.
Biancomangiare is a dessert made with almond milk and flavored with lemon zest and chopped dried fruit. A very delicate and elegant dessert, capable of pleasing the most refined palates. It is a spoon dessert, white in color, with a texture so soft that it melts in the mouth. It can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack accompanied by cookies and at dinner as a dessert.
Sicilian Buccellato (in sicilian “cucciddatu”) is a rich, particularly spicy and fragrant biscuit. The name comes from the Latin word “buccellatum,” which is a doughnut-shaped bread that the ancient Romans prepared during festive periods. Apparently, however, the Sicilian cake would have much in common with a traditional Tuscan dessert. Of course, in Sicily the cake was influenced by the Arabs and enriched with new ingredients, such as citrons, oranges, almonds, dried figs and cinnamon.
In the Sicilian culinary tradition there is a beloved Christmas dessert that cannot be missing from all our tables. Buccellati are a confectionery product made from a unique Sicilian food: figs. The short pastry contains a filling of dried figs, zuccata, chocolate, dried fruit, candied fruit and raisins. A real treat!
Cubbaita is a Sicilian crisp made of honey, sugar, whole almonds and, most importantly, sesame that is shaped into a rhombus or rectangle. Its name comes from an Arabic word meaning “almond,” and in the Sicilian dialect it is also often used as a synonym for nougat.
Cubbaita is consumed at Christmas time, especially after meals. If you want to make this sweet at home follow our recipe!
Regina biscuits are simple and very popular; they are generally bakery cookies rather than pastry cookies and have the characteristic of being very crumbly, not very sweet with intense fragrance given the toasted sesame. Reginelle cookies can be eaten doused in milk, tea or a sweet wine such as marsala or zibibbo.