Sicily… the land where lemons blossom outside and vegan recipes blossom in the kitchen
Welcome to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands, a paradise of Mediterranean aromas and scents – especially for vegan cuisine!
Mount Stromboli, the omnipresent Mount Etna and many other volcanoes have crafted beautiful landscapes out of the sea and brought about some of the most fertile ground there is. Let’s take a closer look at these picturesque islands, and dive into their multi-faceted cuisine!
Sicily, a cultural melting pot and Italy’s kitchen garden
The geographical location of Sicily and the Aeolian Islands makes them very special: Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and is located to the southeast of Italy, almost on the same latitude as Africa. The Aeolian Islands, sometimes referred to as the Lipari Islands, are a group of seven small islands to the north of Sicily, in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The archipelago includes the seven main islands of Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Stromboli. The whole region is known for its mild climate and the rich diversity of plants which flourish there, such as juicy fruit and crunchy vegetables. These are our favorite ingredients that are found there:
They are renowned the world over for their extraordinary quality.
At the same time, this Italian paradise garden was fought over for hundreds of years. Situated at the intersection between Europe and Africa, Sicily served as a base for seafarers and traders over the centuries, and attracted a very varied range of people wanting to gain power over the island. As such, the island was conquered many times: Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, the Hohenstaufen dynasty, French, Spanish and Habsburg rulers all occupied Sicily and mixed with the local population. They left behind their cultural heritage, which we can now admire in the form of countless sights. This long, rich history is reflected in the art and architecture all over the island.
Sicily’s tumultuous history has also meant that its language has been shaped by many different influences. Sicilian is one of the most scintillating examples of Italy’s dialects, and, thanks to the Sicilian School of poets, it developed to become Italy’s first literary language. Even if Sicilian is not officially recognized as a language, it is a significant part of Italy’s intangible cultural heritage.
Cucina siciliana – Sicily’s edible treasures
As is the case with the language, Sicily’s cuisine has also held on to the best elements of each of the many cultures with which it has come into contact. And these cultures left behind fantastic ingredients for vegan dishes: from Arab spices and rice dishes to sweet Sicilian cannoli, there is something here to cater for every taste. Even if you’ve walked through the streets of Palermo, Catania, or Syracuse many times before, you will always find new foods to try.
Olives, pistachios and capers of the highest quality categories are the trademark ingredients of the Aeolian Islands. The islands’ scenic bays are home to many small restaurants where you can enjoy dishes which are simple but sublime. The islands’ inhabitants often eat fruits and vegetables they have grown in their own gardens, and which they are more than happy to share with curious visitors. The fact that so few people here – especially the older generation – suffer from heart disease may be linked to the healthy and, very often, naturally vegan food they eat. Everything you’ll find on your plate here has basked in plenty of sunshine – and you can taste it!
Culinary forays for vegan fans of Sicily
Let’s take a sneak peek at a few of the plant-based culinary highlights which are typical for this beautiful part of the world, and which might inspire you to try out the recipes in your own kitchen!
Let’s start with a specialty from the island of Salina: pesto al pistacchio – this savory pistachio pesto is an absolute delicacy, and extremely versatile. On all of the Aeolian Islands, pistachios are to be found in many imaginative forms – from pesto to classic pistachio ice cream.
One of Sicily’s best known vegan dishes is caponata, a type of veg dish cooked in a pan, consisting of eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, olives and capers. This aromatic dish can be found in numerous variations all over Sicily, cooked according to a multitude of family recipes. As is the case with melanzane alla parmigiana from the Aeolian Islands, many restaurants offer vegan variations on these wonderful dishes, with vegan cheese.
Another specialty from the Aeolian Islands and Sicily is granita, a type of sorbet made from frozen fruit juice and sugar or, in its classic form, from almond syrup. There are many different flavors to try, including lemon, raspberry and watermelon. Granita is often served for breakfast or as an afternoon refreshment, and is a great way of cooling off on hot summer days – a welcome must-try for all visitors!
What Sicilian gastronomy has to offer in terms of vegan cuisine
Sicilian cities, in particular, with their narrow lanes and marketplaces, have always been home to what we would now call street food. Arancini di riso are a typical example of this: the crispy balls of rice are a popular snack in Sicily, and are usually filled with meat or cheese. But don’t worry – even as a vegan, you don’t have to go without this snack! Nowadays, there are many vegan variations filled with tofu or vegetables. For a really delicious filling, why not try arancini di riso with spinach and a soy alternative to ricotta?
Vegan restaurants have been a permanent feature of the restaurant scene here for some time now, especially in the cities. Parts of the population are very young, and they very quickly made clear that they needed contemporary nutrition – this ensured a very colorful vegan food scene in Sicily. One example of this is the wonderful MOON restaurant in Ortigia, Syracuse’s old town. The restaurant celebrates the finest vegan cuisine with a great sense of beauty and taste. Ortigia itself, and Syracuse, are absolutely great hidden gems for anyone who loves aesthetics and culture. This is where ancient and modern collide in an incredibly fascinating way. Why not follow in the footsteps of the town’s most famous inhabitant, Archimedes, and let yourself be enchanted by this (almost car-free!) town. Trust us, we speak from experience!
Sicily’s sweet temptation – naturally vegan
Any conversation about Sicily and food has to mention one thing: cannoli. These sweet, deep-fried rolls of dough are some of Sicily’s best known desserts, and are filled with ricotta or other sweet treats. Many vegan variations on these exist, too, which are filled with things like whipped almond drink or tofu. Why not try cannoli with chopped nuts and dried fruits for an extra crunchy filling?
Did you know that Sicily is also a vegan ice cream mecca? If you’re looking for a sweet vegan treat, you should definitely try the ice cream at Gelateria dei Coltelli. This ice cream parlor in Palermo offers a whole range of vegan ice cream varieties, from chocolate and lemon to pistachio and melon. But watch out: once you’ve tasted this heavenly ice cream, you won’t be able to stop!
Getting a taste for it: Recipes to bring a little piece of Sicily into your kitchen
Cedrata is a delicious, traditional soft drink made from citron fruits which you definitely need to try. Why not enjoy it with traditional Sicilian deep-fried olives (olive all’ascolana) and pane cunzato – a sandwich filled with olives, tomatoes, capers and eggplants? There’s just so much to choose from! These antipasti will make you feel like you’re on holiday, even in the comfort of your own home.
Our chef Roberto, who’s a Sicilian himself, has prepared two recipes for you which are typical for the Aeolian Islands and Sicily: Insalata Eoliana (as a starter) and Fettuccine alla Liparota. You’ll find the recipes below. Why not enjoy a piece of southern Italy by trying the recipes for yourself? Once you get a taste for Sicilian cuisine, it’ll be the start of a Sicilian love story! Wanna bet?
Each and every town and every region in Sicily, as well as each of the small Aeolian Islands, has its very own dishes and ways of preparing them. You could write hundreds of books about the diversity of dishes on offer, and there would still be more to discover! So, what are you waiting for? Go and discover this beautiful, varied region next to Africa for yourself!
The magic of Sicily will give you the travel bug and inspire you to cook
Sicily might be part of Italy, but it’s almost like a country in itself, with many travel destinations to offer:
- The buzzing capital, Palermo, with its breathtaking architecture and culture
- Catania, the wild city in the east
- Peaceful Syracuse, which feels more like Greece than Italy
- Picturesque Taormina on the east coast at the foot of Mount Etna, with its impressive ancient sites with the sea as a backdrop
- Vast expanses with ancient olive trees in the hinterlands which will make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time 100 years
- And the smaller islands in the north, which will make you stand in awe at nature’s power
Sicily and the Aeolian Islands have something for everyone, and are the place to go if you’re looking for vegan delights. Why not choose a dish and bring a little bit of Sicilian magic into your kitchen? Buon appetito e ciao tutti.
The Sicilian cooks
Roberto Careri cooks authentic Sicilian food in his Munich delicatessen, Trinacria. It’s also referred to as Der Sizilianer (The Sicilian) – and that’s him.
Every day in the delicatessen in Balanstrasse, there are two to three different dishes on offer at lunchtime, and there’s almost always something vegetarian. Everyone loves his Sicilian snacks and desserts. The chef de cuisine has taken three of his favorite recipes and given us reinterpreted, veganized versions.
If we’ve whetted your appetite for delicious Sicilian cuisine, why not try Roberto’s three recipe suggestions? They encapsulate the island’s aromas perfectly.