The cannoli is a popular Italian dessert that is widely known throughout the world. However, even though millions of people have consumed the delicious treat, not many people know exactly what it is or how it originated. The tube-like dessert is not only made from simple and delicious ingredients, but it also has an interesting history.
The traditional version of the cannoli originated in Palermo. In this time, Sicily was controlled by Arabs and making traditional food stand out was important for the locals. The cannoli was specifically made for Carnivale. This festive season occurs right before lent and consists of parades and masquerades similar to Mardi Gras. At the time, the cannoli was made to be a fertility symbol of the festivities. Nowadays, the cannoli is enjoyed throughout the year and is thought of as the ultimate Sicilian dessert.
Cannolis are made from simple, yet flavorful, ingredients. The outer shell is simply pastry dough that is made into a cone-like shape and fried. The filling is where the cannoli gets most of its flavor. The creamy and sweet filling is usually made from ricotta, but could also be made from marscapone cheese or a combination of both. The cheese is sweetened with sugar or honey and served as is or with other ingredients. Chocolate, pistachios, candied citrus, marsala wine and even rose water are commonly found in traditional cannolis. Traditional cannolis are easy to find however some have been Americanized. This version is made of a simple custard made from sugar, milk and cornstarch and accented by vanilla.
Although you may find cannolis throughout the world, the truly great ones are traditional Sicilian cannolis made from sweetened ricotta. It is a decadent, yet light dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth, while bringing you back to old-world Sicily.