Sicilian Christmas Sweets: curiosities for the festive season | West of Sicily
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16 Dicembre 2022

Sicilian Christmas Sweets: Curiosities and Recipes for the Holidays

The most anticipated time of the year has arrived for both adults and children! And not just for the enchanting atmosphere, the gifts under the tree, the evenings spent with loved ones… Here in Sicily, the true protagonists are the Christmas sweets. From Sicilian cassata to almond paste, every family has its own traditions and secret recipes, often passed down through generations: it’s the perfect occasion to bring to the table all the flavor of Christmas in Western Sicily.
That’s why in this article, we want to tell you about some of the Sicilian delicacies that you absolutely must try at least once in your life (or prepare in your kitchen, wherever you are) to make the Christmas holidays even more special. 

Shall we start this journey?


Sicilian Christmas Sweets: All the Delights of Tradition


As it is known, one of the most widespread Christmas sweets throughout Italy is the panettone, the bell-shaped dessert originating from Milan. Starting from its classic recipe, characterized by raisins and candied fruit, over time, Sicilian pastry chefs have also distinguished themselves with many delicious variations of panettone: from those with icing and sugar (very similar to Easter colomba) to those covered with chocolate, almonds, or pistachios and filled with pistachio cream, orange, and even prickly pear or pears and chocolate. Its preparation requires time and patience, but the final result is always surprising!

Among the numerous Christmas specialties of Western Sicily, the most beloved are undoubtedly the cassata (sponge cake filled with sweet ricotta, decorated with almond paste and candied fruit) and the frutta di martorana (colorful almond paste sweets, shaped like fruits and vegetables, and hand-decorated).

Speaking of Sicilian delicacies, how can we not mention the typical and timeless sweet of the island: the cannolo! A fried cylinder-shaped shell, filled with sweet ricotta cream flavored with cinnamon, decorated with powdered sugar, orange zest, or chocolate chips.


I dolci di Natale Siciliani

Starting from December 8th, for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, it is customary in the Trapani area to prepare the typical ‘spincia,’ a dessert of Arab origin made with simple ingredients. It consists of soft fritters made with milk, flour, and potatoes, adorned with honey.

In the Mazara del Vallo area, on the other hand, a place of honor is reserved for ‘muccunetti‘: small morsels made with almonds, sugar, eggs, and ‘zuccata’ (Sicilian candied pumpkin). In addition to their exquisite taste, their charm is also attributed to the tradition that characterizes them. Indeed, these splendid sweets are crafted by the Benedictine nuns of the enclosed convent of San Michele, whose pastry art has been renowned for centuries.

On the festive table, throughout Sicily, fig cookies and ‘mustazzoli‘ are a must: also known as ‘mostaccioli’ or ‘mustaccioli,’ these are cookies flavored with cooked wine and orange and then decorated with sesame seeds, with numerous variations containing candied orange pieces, cocoa, honey, almonds, pistachios, and more.

Lastly, let’s not forget the indispensable Sicilian nougat. The Sicilian recipe distinguishes itself from the classic one (known as Cremona nougat) with its base of egg whites, honey, sugar, hazelnuts, almonds, and usually covered with a thin layer of wafer.
The local version, indeed, features toasted almonds and their intense flavor, joined together by a sweet sugar glaze.

At this point, besides having your mouth watering, you are surely wondering how to pair all these delights. Naturally, they go well with the typical wines and liquors of the region!
Western Sicily offers an incredible variety of grape varieties that give rise to excellences worth savoring. For your Christmas sweets, we can only recommend pairing them with Marsala, Zibibbo, or Damaschino!

But the sweet tradition in Sicily doesn’t stop here. We’ve kept warm for you one of the Christmas specialties par excellence and want to reveal how to prepare it.
Keep reading to discover the recipe for ‘buccellato‘!


Dolci di Natale siciliani - La ricetta del bucellato

Sicilian Buccellato: The Original Recipe


Sicilian Buccellato is a typical sweet from Sicily, characterized by a filling of dried figs, raisins, and almonds. During the Christmas season, it is often given as a gift to friends and family, but, much to the delight of all the sweet tooths, it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Made in the shape of a ring or as small stuffed sweets (also known by the name “cosi duci” or “cosi di ficu“), its name originates from Latin: buccellatum, meaning “bread to be transformed into bites,” or small morsels.

The recipe for Buccellato varies depending on family tradition or the region of Sicily where it is prepared. In general, however, the recipe involves using ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, lard (or butter), raisins, chopped almonds, grated lemon zest, and fennel or anise seeds. Here’s how to make it at home!

Ingredients for Buccellato:

  • 300g flour
  • 125g butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
  • Honey, to taste
  • 300g dried figs
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 30g candied orange peel
  • 50g candied citron
  • 30g dark chocolate
  • 200g raisins
  • 100g sultana raisins
  • 50g shelled walnuts

Start by mixing flour, sugar, and butter with the Marsala wine using a spoon and let it rest for an hour. Meanwhile, prepare the filling with dried figs, raisins, sultana raisins, orange zest, dark chocolate, walnuts, and pine nuts, all finely chopped, and add some sugar.
After an hour, roll out the dough with a rolling pin and place the filling inside, creating the shape of a filled ring. With a knife, make small decorative cuts that allow you to see the filling! Grease a baking pan and sprinkle with flour, then place the Buccellato inside. Brush the surface with some beaten egg and bake in a preheated oven for about twenty minutes at 180°C. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of honey to spread on the surface of the Buccellato. Before serving, don’t forget to decorate with candied fruit!

Now that you know all about Sicilian Christmas sweets, you’ll understand that the month of December is not only a charming time of the year but also crucial for gastronomic tradition. The delicacies of Western Sicily are a true treasure appreciated worldwide. After all, every recipe is the result of the perfect union between genuine ingredients and a long culinary tradition.

The Christmas holidays are a truly magical time to visit the cities and small villages, animated by markets, lights, concerts, and performances, letting yourself be captivated by the scents of the countless specialties that fill the alleys and homes. Let yourself be enchanted by all this and much more – we await you in Western Sicily!