Cous cous siciliano, storia e ricetta originale

Sicilian couscous is a unique dish that originates from nearby Africa and whose original recipe deserves to be prepared at least once in a lifetime. Symbol of conviviality par excellence, it has a place of honor in Sicilian cuisine and, although it exists in different variations, fish is certainly the most typical. Also given the abundance of the latter that this land offers. But how did cous cous arrive in Sicily ? And where do you cook on the island? Let's delve into the subject.

History of Sicilian couscous

It is no secret that Sicily, over the centuries, has been dominated by a succession of populations, not least the Arabs. The earth has therefore undergone, in a natural way, the influences of those who have dominated it or even just of those who have lived there for a long time. It is precisely here that the tradition of couscous in Sicily originates.

It is in fact handed down that couscous arrived here starting from the Arab domination. And that since then it has gradually taken root on the island until it has become an integral part of Trapani cuisine . Thanks also to the workers from Trapani and San Vito lo Capo, who, landing on the coast of Tunisia, began to draw from the local culture and gastronomy.

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Sicilian couscous, history and original recipe

Where is couscous cooked in Sicily?

Although it can be tasted all over the island, the tradition linked to couscous is closely rooted in the Trapani area. It is in Trapani and its province that you can taste the best Sicilian fish couscous . It is no coincidence that every year, in San Vito Lo Capo, the Cous Cous Fest is celebrated, a gastronomic event of international renown that sees the dish as the protagonist.

What is couscous called in Sicily?

In Sicily it is called the same way as in the rest of the world. However, the dialectal term by which it is meant is cùscusu . Whatever its name, one thing is certain: it is one of theSicilian dishes that you absolutely must try .

Sicilian couscous, how to prepare it

Well, having made the necessary premises, let's talk about the dish itself, capable of attracting the attention of diners even in the midst of a variety of courses. The Trapani couscous differs from that of other nationalities in at least two aspects. The first is cooking in fish broth , the second concerns the pot in which it is cooked, or the couscous pot , divided into two parts and in which the couscous practically cooks with steam (released from the broth placed in the underlying part of the same).

Sicilian couscous, history and original recipe

How to make fish broth for couscous?

Indispensable for the success of the Sicilian couscous is, as we have mentioned, the fish broth . To do it with all the crimes, you have to put together different types of fish and shellfish, which will be cooked without having their bones or heads removed to give even more flavor to the dish. Put them to cook in a large saucepan together with the carrots, celery and onions.

Do not miss the saffron, and aromas and herbs such as parsley, garlic and bay leaves. Once cooked for a long time, filter the broth and recover fish, shellfish and vegetables. These will be cleaned, cut into pieces and served over the couscous.

How to cook couscous

Before moving on to the original recipe of cous cous from Trapani , a fundamental operation in its preparation deserves a mention, i.e. the ncocciatura .

How do you mix semolina for couscous ? Let's start from the assumption that couscous means shelling it. It is an operation that is carried out with the fingertips of the hands: the semolina grains, placed in the traditional terracotta container and moistened with a little water, are separated through circular movements of the fingers.

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Cous cous from Trapani, original recipe

Here we are, finally, with the recipe, which is one of the possible variations and which will be very successful once brought to the table.


  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 pinch of red pepper
  • Olive oil to taste
  • 250-300 ml of tomato puree
  • 1.2-1.5 kg of mixed fish and shellfish
  • A few pistils of saffron
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250 g of pre-cooked couscous
  • 1 handful of ground almonds
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg powder
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Start by preparing the fish stock. Brown the chopped onion, carrot, celery, parsley, garlic and chilli pepper in olive oil. Lastly add the tomatoes and just brown them. Alternatively you can use a little tomato puree .
  2. Only now add fish and shellfish and cover them with water. Add bay leaf and saffron and cook for about 30 minutes on a low flame. Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.
  3. Take the fish out of the pot and clean it. Cut it into fillets or pieces according to your preferences. Transfer it to a bowl and set it aside for a moment. Filter the remaining broth and put it back in the pot together with the cleaned fish.
  4. Pour the pre-cooked couscous into a salad bowl and cover it, according to the instructions, with half water and half hot fish stock. Respect the rest time and shell it.
  5. Now pour it into a large flat dish and cover it, in the center, with the pieces of fish and the broth. Sprinkle with the spices and complete with the ground almonds on the surface. Enjoy it hot.
Cucina sicilianaProdotti tipici sicilianiRicette siciliane