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Mount Etna is a small universe apart, which produces animal and plant life and which changes almost completely each season. Its fertile soil allows the growth of numerous delicacies such as mushrooms, chestnuts, pistachios, citrus fruits and the inevitable prickly pears. The best time to enjoy these products is autumn. Between October and January, in fairs, markets and culinary events, each village on the slopes of the great volcano offers visitors typical specialties, which are even more delicious if enjoyed in front of the fireplace, while it is raining or snowing outside. Let’s discover the autumn tradition’s sweet recipes of Etna.

Tea leaves

The town of Zafferana Etnea has specialized in the production of these small delicacies. The “tea leaves”, or small biscuits as thin as leaves, flavoured with dried fruit (hazelnuts, pistachios and above all almonds), which must accompany a nice cup of steaming tea. The ingredients are not difficult to find: butter, flour, sugar, egg white and all the dried fruit you want. Excellent together with creams, such as pastry cream or nutella, with jams, perfect even on their own, they can also be enjoyed dipped in milk or coffee.

Almond and pistachio sweets

etna autumn sweets2To create these sweets the procedure is very similar. Almond pastries, typical of Acireale and Catania, are prepared with almond flour, sugar, egg whites and aromas. The result is a thick biscuit, crunchy on the outside and very soft inside. It is perfect when soaked in bitter coffee but also goes well with cappuccino or tea. The pistachio pastries, very common sweets in Bronte, require the same ingredients except for the almond flour, which is replaced by very fine shredded pistachios. The result is, here too, a soft pastry whose interior has an inviting bright green colour. Divine, if associated with a good strong coffee.


Etna wines are a brand of which the entire country is proud. Mustards also derive from those same grapes that produce these red and white jewels. These are sweets that arrived in Sicily from the north, but have been part of the local culinary tradition for centuries now. The difference with the continental ones is given by the rule of using almost only the red must and the addition of strong aromas on the cold mustard: cinnamon, cloves and the inevitable pieces of dried fruit inside them.

The “desserts of the Dead”

Dried fruit and nuts from Etna, along with Zafferana’s honey, are still the protagonists of the preparation of the “desserts of the Dead”. These are local pastry delicacies that are prepared and consumed mainly between October 30th and November 4th, the days dedicated to the Memory of the Dear Souls. The nucatole, biscuits made with pine nuts and hazelnuts, the nsudde – hard almond cookies, the mostazzola made with must, are very common together with the Rame (in Catania known as Rame of Naples). The goodness of this last dessert is difficult to describe in words: imagine a softness of chocolate and pumpkin jam, covered with cocoa icing sprinkled with chopped pistachio or hazelnut pieces. Sugar and honey also make the funny “Dead’s Bone” sweet.

Sweet prickly pears

Ask the ladies who live at the foot of Mount Etna and they will be proud to do it for you. “It” is the prickly pear pie, which enhances the flavour of these fruits, beautiful, good and difficult to prepare. But once the pulp is reduced to cream they will be just a delicacy not to be forgotten! With prickly pears you also make a special mustard and dozens of delicious jams, to taste … why not? … with the tea leaves mentioned above. (photo: tea leaves from “E ‘Tipico”, Zafferana Etnea – pistachio pastry from Amazon)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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