Savory Sicily: Busiate, Arancini, and Fish Cous Cous

Travel & Exploration

Savory specialties in Sicily excite the taste buds and leave you wondering what you will eat next. A typical meal is more of a marathon with a starter or antipasto, first course or pasta, main course generally consisting of meat or fish of the day, and of course a sweet with an expresso (no milk in coffee after 1100!)


Sicilian cuisine is based on local foods (think seafood, eggplant, citrus fruit, tomatoes, pistachios, almonds, grapes, and olives) but the preparation methods and dynamic flavors are based on the many cultural influences due to the islands’ proximity to Greece, Africa, Spain, and France. While there are many foods similar to that of main Italy, many unique dishes Sicily is known for are actually inspired by the Arab, Greek, and Spanish conquers and colonists.


The following are some of our favorites! But first, a quick video!


Michael and I were sharing a sandwich and giving Shiloh pieces of the bread, meat, and cheese… until she started crying for the sandwich. Watch for Shiloh’s hand holding onto the panino!


Busiate alla Trapanese

Shiloh and my first meal when we landed! Freshly made busiate pasta with the fish of the day! It was perfection.

What is it?

Busiate is a fresh, thin, hollow tubes of twisted pasta made from durum wheat flour and water only, no eggs. The sauce “alla Trapanese” refers to the way it is prepared in the Trapani region. Often referred to as a pesto, pesto alla Trapanese, is not made with the traditional basil and pine nuts we are accustomed to in the US, the sauce consists of tomatoes, garlic, and almond.

What does it taste like?

The texture of the pasta is tender yet hearty and the sauce, is flavorful and light – a perfect dinner on a late summer evening. I plan to try and make this dish at home but I have a sneaking suspicion that the chef added his own secret ingredients because the subtle yet complex flavors from the sauce had me wondering what was in it bite after bite!




The first thing my hubby asked me when he landed was “did you try an arancini yet?” He then proceeded to tell me that his Italian friends rave about the arancini and make it a priority food for their visits to Sicily.







Shiloh and I both loved arancini!


 What is it?

A typical Sicilian street food, arancini (named for the similar appearance to the orange or arancia), are breaded and fried, stuffed rice balls. When my hubby explained this dish to me, I knew I had to try it but I did not anticipate liking it. Breaded and fried rice was not on the top of my list… until I tried the arancini.

What does it taste like?

There are numerous combinations of arancini fillings from the typical ragu meat sauce, to pistachio with speck and mozzarella, to mushroom and eggplant. The outside is crisp and the inside is flavorful, soft, and delicious! A MUST try in Sicily!


Fish Cous Cous

What is it?

Exactly what it sounds like! Fish, muscles, shrimp, or any catch of the day cooked in a light garlic tomato broth, then mixed with cous cous.

What does it taste like?

Heaven! There is something spicy and sweet with a hint of cinnamon in each bite. I waited till my second to last night to try the fish cous cous because I do not like fishy foods and again I was not anticipating liking this dish. I was wrong. The cous cous is bursting with flavor and the textures of the different bite sizes pieces of seafood is making me crave this dish while I am writing about it!

Sicilian Pizza

Traditional Sicilian pizza

What is it?

Sicilian pizza is a thick crusted rectangular pizza cut into smaller rectangles and traditionally topped with anchovies, onions, herbs, cheese, and tomato sauce.

What does it taste like?

Similar to a focaccia bread pizza, the crust is lightly crisp on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle, and topped with intoxicating, fresh ingredients. So good!


Antipasto includes a variety of meats, cheeses, seafood, and salads

What is it?

The first course of an Italian meal, antipasto is a bunch of different appetizers including cured meats, cheeses, seafood, salads, olives, and veggies in vinegar.

What does it taste like?

There are so many different varieties and options but here are a few of my favorite, more unusual options!

Back left is octopus salad, back middle is a fried fish ball, back right is fried calamari and muscles, middle is an arancini, front left is shrimp cocktail, front middle is bruschetta with fresh anchovies, front right is caponata

Octopus salad, Sicily

Typically octopus salad has the octopus cut up into small pieces but on one occasion the tentacles were served whole!

Octopus salad, also known as Insalata di Polipo: boiled octopus, lemon juice and olive oil make this one of my very favorite guilty pleasures… why guilty? Because I want to eat it at every meal. Until last year I didn’t even know I liked octopus. I do not care for its appearance but there is something about the meaty texture and light, fresh flavor that I simply cannot get enough!

Caponata: this sweet and sour stewed eggplant (or aubergine as it is known in Europe) dish has varied flavors and ingredients from chef to chef but generally includes anything local and in season such as tomatoes, onions, celery, zucchini, and fennel. The sweetness is generally from sugar, raisins and sultans; the salty flavor is achieved with capers, anchovies or olives; and the sour taste is from red wine vinegar or lemon juice. I absolutely loved one caponata and equally disliked another. I would   order it again and again just to taste the variations.

Just pop the whole fish in your mouth!

Fresh fried fish: today’s catch, lightly battered and fried whole. You can pop the whole thing in your mouth and appreciate the crunch with extra calcium from the small bones or pop off the head, open the fish from the belly, remove the backbone, and enjoy the tender flesh.





My favorite parts of traveling are spending time with family and friends, exploring new places, learning about different parts of the world, and experiencing local life through food. Sicily is among the best places the travel if you like to eat. Shiloh is wondering when we can go back for more Sicilian delicacies!



p.s. hotdog and fries on a pizza is a thing in Sicily!


Find more in the hashtag #adventuresinfood

dani of kid food explorers

Hi there! I’m Dani.

Mama of three, pediatric dietitian, and founder of Kid Food Explorers, a resource hub and learning platform that empowers families on their journey to raising confident, adventurous eaters. We’re on a mission to make food fun, with interactive food play and STEAM activities that help kids learn about food in a playful, pressure-free way.

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