Five Sicilian Pastas

Pasta consumption and production is spread out throughout all of Italy, but there’s something magical about pasta in Sicily, from the shapes and their names to the sauces and all ingredients used to make the sauce: starting from the pachino tomato which grows on the southern coast of the island to the equally famous but slightly more expensive gamberi rossi from Mazara del Vallo. During my recent trip to Sicily I was able to taste many different shapes and sauces of pasta – I know, it was as horrible as it sounds! – and round up 5 pasta dishes that simply can’t be missed.  

Pasta #1 Busiate al pesto trapanese 

I had already written a little about this curiously shaped pasta, who’s name derives from the busa, a long dry grass typically found throughout all of Sicily. The best way to taste this delicious shape is when paired with Trapani’s own pesto, made with basil, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and ricotta. My favorite place to gobble up a plate of steaming busiate is at Cantina Siciliana, hidden deep within the city’s narrow streets. 

Pasta #2 Linguine con rana pescatrice, pomodori, mandorle e briciole 

A new discovery for me, this great combination of flavours was simply sensational. Full of different textures, from the al dente linguine to the crunchy toasted almonds and soft, expertly cooked rana pescatrice (monkfish) which balanced each other perfectly in every bite. You can often find a swordfish and aubergine alternative, which I also highly recommend! 

Pasta #3 Rigatoni alla Norma 

Yes—red is a recurring theme in this post. Pasta alla Norma is one of Sicily’s most emblematic dishes, and for a very good reason. Sicilian chefs just have this wonderful ability to fry aubergines in the most spectacular way you’ve ever tasted. They’re full of flavour but not too oily, soft but still with a great bite to them. You can find it pretty much anywhere, but in Palermo I recommend Ferro di Cavallo

Pasta #4 Busiate con pesto di pistacchi e gamberi 

Another wonderful ingredient at the base of the Sicilian food are pistachios. If you think you’ve tasted a good, real pistachio before coming to Sicily. think again. They make everything and put them on anything, and it always tastes sublime. My favourite savoury combination is with shrimps and a handful of pachino tomatoes, mixed into a piping hot pasta. My favorite was at La Tavernetta in the tiny town of Scopello. 

Pasta #5 Pasta c’anciova e ca muddica 

Definitely the hardest one to pronounce, but surprisingly delicious none the less. Probably the hardest one to find as it is traditionally tied to Palermo, these extra long mafalde served with anchovy pasta and sauce, all topped with toasted breadcrumbs are a wonderful discovery. Once again a reminder of how the best things are truly made from a few, simple ingredients! You can taste these at Ferro di Cavallo, in Palermo.