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Cannoli, the sweet history of a Sicilian treat

Cannoli are probably the most famous Sicilian pastries. If Naples is famous for its pizza and Rome for its cacio e pepe, Sicily is renowned for its cannoli. Proudly displayed in almost every Sicilian cafe and pasticceria, cannoli are even featured on the island's official website and immortalized by the Sicilians in The Godfather with the iconic quote "Leave the gun, take the cannoli".

Cannoli, another strong symbol of Italian heritage, has a distinct and long heritage that stretches back to the presence of the Moors in Sicily.

Let's dive into their sweet and savory history!

The Sicilian Cannolo : a unique symbol of Islam and Christianity's union.

While there are indications of a historical cannoli dating back to the Roman Empire, it is believed that today's cannoli were created during the Arab occupation of the city of Caltanissetta. The Saracen Emirs established their harem in Caltanissetta, which is a translation of the ancient arabic name "Kalt El Nissa." Caltanissetta's name translates to "Castle of the Women".

To beguile the time, it is stated that the emir's wives dedicated themselves to the preparation of sumptuous dishes, rewriting and altering the recipe of a previously existent Arabic dessert consisting of ricotta, almonds, and honey, giving birth to a delicacy that would later become widely recognised.

According to this legend, the recipe for Sicilian cannoli was passed down from Muslim women to the Christian nuns of Caltanissetta, who began making the delicacy during the carnival season and then continued to do so throughout the year.

A recipe filled with tradition

The traditional recipe consists of a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough, filled with sweet and creamy ricotta, candied fruit, and a chocolate filling. The sweetness of the sugar and chocolate balances off the ricotta's creamy, slightly sour flavour, while the crispy texture of the fried, light shell completes this magnificent symphony of flavours and textures. This delectable dish also comes in a variety of flavours. Due to the scarcity of some components, like sheep's milk ricotta, Italian immigrants to America in the early 1900s adapted the original cannoli recipe by substituting mascarpone. The original cannoli recipe has numerous variants nowadays, including chocolate, strawberry, and pecan caramel.

Sicily at Italimenti

If you have been on the hunt for an authentic Italian cannoli, then look no further! Visit us and discover this delicious tradition made by our Italian chefs.

One bite will suffice to make you experience the Sicilian way of life.

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