They are one of the most beloved desserts. Crispy and flaky on the outside, soft and satisfying on the inside. Holy cannoli!
But what are cannoli?
They are sweet pastries originating in Sicily, Italy, which are popular and beloved worldwide.
They are cream-filled pastry shells or tubes, usually 3.5 inches long. However, some cities make them extra-large, up to 7.5 inches long.
The name derives from the singular form of the Italian word “cannolo” meaning “little tube”. However, in English-speaking countries usually, the plural form “cannoli” is used to describe this dish. Therefore, it’s not unusual to hear the colloquial term “cannolis”, too.
In fact, this dessert is so popular in the US nowadays, it has its own National day on the 16th of June!
The origin of this dessert is uncertain, though there are few stories connected to it.
There are records of Roman’s great orator Cicero mentioning a “sweet edible tube filled with milk cream” from 70 BC. Sounds familiar, right?
However, many believe that cannoli were first invented in Sicily, in the years under Arab domination. The exact city was Caltanissetta, and the period was between 827 and 1091 AD.
At that time, an Arab prince had a harem in Caltanissetta (then Qal’at al-Nisa or Fort of the women). He resided there with many of his concubines who created this dessert.
Through the years they were making many luscious meals and desserts, and this one was inspired by the prince himself. Many historians agree with this story, mostly because some of the ingredients (sugar cane, almonds) were used only by the Muslims at that time.
However, another story claims it was the nuns at the convent in Caltanissetta who invented the dessert. During the middle ages, they wanted to create something special for the Carnevale. The result was a treat with a shape of a faucet, as a symbol of fertility.
Moreover, many sources believe in a combination of both stories. Thus, at the end of Arab domination of Sicily many concubines stayed there. In the search for a new life, many of them ended in a place where they were accepted – in a convent.
There they shared the recipe with the nuns, and the dessert became a mix of Arab and Roman culinary traditions.
The dessert was made primarily for festivities, but it soon became customary throughout the whole year. With migration, it got following in other countries and shortly became beloved worldwide.
In the US it was brought with the Italian immigrants in the 1900s. Moreover, it was modified to suit local taste and was made with local ingredients.
Speaking of ingredients, they can be divided into two sections:
Local chefs make the shells with cold butter at a high temperature to ensure their crispiness and flakiness.
Furthermore, some recipes include crushed pistachios, almonds, crackers, cocoa, or even sprinkles into the filling. Others suggest dipping one side of the shell in melted chocolate.
Rather than a pastry, this dessert can be made as a cake. It has the same ingredients as the pastry, but on two, three, or more tiers. It is a light, moist cake with mascarpone and ricotta filling.
Regarding the size and the filling ingredients, there can be from 150 (for a mini version) to 380 calories in one serving. Furthermore, there are 17g of fat, 44 g of carbs, 10 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fiber in a single pastry.
Looking for delicious, crispy, and flavorful cannoli near you? Get them from New York’s Libretto’s Pizzeria. In Baltimore? Satisfy your sugar cravings in Filippo’s Pizzeria. Both available for pickup and delivery through the Slice app.
Great pizza and cannolis!
Q: What is cannoli filling made of?
Q: Are cannoli made with ricotta or mascarpone?