Street Food in Palermo is one of the city's proudest traditions. Exploring the buzzing markets such as Ballarò and Vuccerìa, you'll find countless stalls of vendors serving up simple, delicious, and sometimes unusual treats. Today we'll learn to make Arancine and Panelle, fried delights that are surprisingly easy to make yourself!
From sfinciuni, the deep onion-topped pizza, to ancient fare such as stigghiola (grilled intestine skewers) and pani 'ca meusa (spleen and ricotta sandwiches). Every day, you'll encounter vibrant specialities that are proudly sold by dedicated locals.
If you can't get on to a plane to Palermo right now, try making some street food at home. It's the next best thing.
The name “arancina” literally means ‘little orange’. Arancia is the Italian for “orange”, and “-ina” means small. Just one look at the shape, colour and texture explains everything! However, in many places outside Palermo, it has somehow chanced to “arancino” over time.
There are two traditional types of arancina: one is ‘con carne’ (with meat sauce) and the other is ‘al burro’ (with butter), but it is possible to find a whole range of other less conventional stuffings available when travelling around Sicily.
Both recipes are very popular all year round, but especially on Santa Lucia, December 13th. This is a special feast day in which Sicilians (particularly in Palermo and Syracuse) do not eat flour-based foods. You can read about Santa Lucia traditions here.
As you’ll see from the recipe, the arancina ‘al burro’ isn’t actually made with butter, but instead has a centre filled with ham and cheese. That’s just the name! So, flour-free but covered in breadcrumbs… “al burro”, but actually ham and cheese… The important thing is that they’re delicious.
Panelle are harder to find outside Palermo, but are at the very heart of the city's street food. These crispy, moreish fritters are usually served in a panino, soft bread filled with panelle, a squeeze of lemon and a crack of black pepper. Fast, delicous and easy to make, everyone loves panelle!
The sauce for arancine al burro is a more ‘compact’ version of the usual béchamel that you'll find in dishes such as lasagne.
1. In a large pan, stir the chickpea flour into the cold water until combined.
2. Add salt and pepper and beat with a whisk until smooth.
3. Heat the mixture over a low-medium heat, until the mixture solidifies and no longer sticks to the sides of the pan. Be careful not to let it burn! While the mixture is cooking, finely chop a handful of parsley and stir it in.
5. When the mixture is ready, remove from the heat. Then, pour it directly onto a sheet of baking parchment, and cover completely with a second sheet.
6. Now, with a rolling pin, roll the mixture out between the sheets of baking parchment. When it is about 1⁄4 inch thick, put it into 2 inch squares.
7. Heat a pan of oil to about 170°C/340°F. Make sure it is a pan with enough room for several panelle. Carefully lower the panelle squares into the oil and fry until golden a couple at a time. Once golden and crispy, remove the panelle from the oil and leave to rest on a plate lined with kitchen roll.
8. Serve when piping hot, with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon.
Panelle are best enjoyed in a soft sandwich bun known as 'malafada', which are topped with sesame seeds. They are also a typical part of the Palermitan 'rosticceria', which are trays of fast food including potato 'crocchè', arancine, calzoni, pizzette, rollò... and many more.
If you go to Palermo, you can't miss these delicious treats!