Easter desserts to try in Sicily
The renowned Sicilian desserts tastes best on special occasions. At Easter, on the feast that coincides with spring, on the tables set to celebrate and in the windows of the bars, sweet delicacies show up everywhere!
Most of the Easter desserts in Sicily come from the ancient tradition of making cakes and biscuits in monasteries and convents, the result of the skill and imagination of the nuns. These are traditions that are handed down and that are still alive today.
In Favara, in the province of Agrigento, the local traditional dessert is Agnello Pasquale. This is marzipan filled with fresh chopped pistachios, covered with “velata” (dark sugar) and richly decorated with bells, silver beads, ribbons and red flags.
The dessert dates back to the early twentieth century, when it was prepared by the nuns of the Collegio di Maria in the “Batia” district of Favara, to remember Jesus as the Lamb of God. You can watch the dessert being prepared, and of course taste it, at the Castello Chiaramonte during the Sagra dell’Agnello Pasquale festival which takes place every year during the holiday period.
The Picureddi, which are easy to find throughout the region, are marzipan sheep lying on their sides, placed on a green lawn strewn with colourful sugared almonds.
In Erice, in the province of Trapani, at the convento San Carlo, they still package Ericini today, made with finely decorated marzipan and stuffed with cedar jam.
If you’re in Agira, in the province of Enna at Easter, you’ll find Cassatelle di Agira, which have nothing to do with the famous ricotta cassata. They are elegant and exquisite pasticciotti made with thin sheets, filled with cocoa and toasted almonds.
Another typical Easter dessert known throughout Sicily, especially in the province of Modica, is the Cassatella di ricotta or Tuma cheese: a loaf stuffed with ricotta, pieces of chocolate and candied fruit. Instead of ricotta you can find a filling of Tuma cheese, a very fresh unsalted cheese, worked in together with sugar. The cake is decorated with vanilla icing sugar or chocolate powder.
Lenten biscuits, which are traditional in Sicilian pastry, are made as votive dishes for Lent. Eating them was a perfect solution to the Catholic custom of fasting in the days leading up to Easter. Lenten biscuits are prepared throughout Sicily, from Enna to Syracuse, from Catania to Palermo, but what they have in common is the use of almonds.
We call it u Pupu ccu l’ovu and it means “puppet with egg”, but it has different names depending where it comes from: “campanaru” or “cannatuni” in Trapani, “pupu ccù l’ovu” in Palermo, “cannileri” in the Enna area, “panaredda” in Agrigento and Syracuse, “cuddura cull’ovu“, “aceddu cull’ovu” or “ciciliu” a Catania, “palummedda” in the south-western part of the island.
It’s a typical Easter biscuit that comes in various shapes (baskets, doves, horses, hearts) that used to be exchanged between lovers, family and friends on Easter Sunday instead of Easter Eggs.
Traditionally, u pupu is prepared at home: the biscuit dough is adorned with hard-boiled eggs left in their shell and finally decorated with sprinkles or coloured sugar balls. The hard-boiled eggs, inserted as decoration, once had to be odd in number and preferably numbered twenty-one, to recall the day when spring begins.
Finally, the queen of all Sicilian desserts that must be tried at Easter is the famous Cassata siciliana, so much so that an ancient proverb says: “If you don’t eat cassata on Easter morning, you’re poor“.
In addition to the desserts from the ancient Sicilian tradition, you’ll find this holiday’s great classics: chocolate eggs, a symbol of life and renewal, and artisanal doves to try, stuffed with Avola almonds, Bronte pistachios or Modica chocolate.
Find out about the unmissable rites of Holy Week in Sicily!