Cannolis are revered far and wide as one of the tastiest Italian desserts. Often topped with chocolate chips and chocolate drizzle, cannolis are hands-down one of the most delicious culinary concoctions in the world. Here’s a quick look at the story behind the cannoli.
The cannoli started out as a dessert enjoyed by the Sicilians. Culinary historians believe the cannoli was first made in Italy’s Messina and Palmero regions. The Sicilians chose the word “cannoli” as it means “little tube” in the Sicilian language. Cannolis are still quite popular in Sicily to this day with full-size cannolis available to locals and visitors. In fact, plenty of Italians judge bakeries by the quality of their cannolis.
Historians who have studied Italy’s culinary development insist cannolis originated in the Palermo, Sicily commune of Piana Degli Albanesi. However, some are adamant that this unique dessert has roots stemming all the way back to the point in time when the Arabs ruled the island. Those who are inclined to believe myths, tales, and legends will find it interesting to learn Italian story-tellers say the cannoli’s origins date all the way back to an Arab prince’s concubine that made tasty desserts including a pastry shaped like a tube, filled with ricotta cheese, honey and almonds. The other tale relating to the origin of the cannoli is centered on a convent positioned by a castle where nuns made a unique new pastry consisting of a shell known as “scoria” along with ricotta cheese, chocolate, sugar, and almonds in celebration of Carnevale. Carnevale is the countrywide Italian celebration that takes place each year prior to the start of Lent.
Which of these legends is true? No one is quite certain. However, Italian historians insist each legend has elements of truth. Historians typically agree the cannoli was created in or near the Italian city of Caltanissetta at some point between 827 and 1091. There is also universal agreement that this amazing dessert was originally made by women. Furthermore, even the most prideful of Italy’s culinary experts are willing to admit cannolis have Arabic roots.
Though cannoli recipes have evolved as time has progressed, there is no arguing the elements of the traditional cannoli recipe. The traditional cannoli consists of a fried pastry dough shell shaped like a tube that is filled with creamy ricotta cheese, chocolate filling, and candied fruit. The ricotta cheese is essential to traditional cannolis as it imparts a creamy, sweet, and tangy flavor infusion into the cannoli. This flavor is perfectly balanced with that of chocolate and sugar, ultimately creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.