History of Sicilian Cannolo


If you taste it once, you’ll never forget it… a crunchy and warm wafer, filled with flavored ricotta, how could you forget such a sweet caress for the palate?? Inserted in the list of Traditional Agri-Food Products (P.A.T.) kept by the Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policies, “cannoli” is one of the most famous specialties of Sicilian pastry art.

Why is it called “cannolo” (in Sicilian dialect “u cannolu”)? There are two hypotheses: the first (more reliable) states that the name derives from the Latin word “cannoleus” or “cane” because once the river reeds were used to roll the wafer or in our dialect “scorza”, instead the second it is linked to a legend according to which, once, during Carnival, the boys, to make fun of a passer-by, let out ricotta cream instead of water from the tap of a fountain (in dialect “cane”).

However, establishing its origins is not very easy as it is believed that they belong to a very distant past. The oldest testimony we have is provided to us by Cicero who around 70 BC. C, when he was police commissioner in Sicily, he tasted a dessert very similar to our cannoli which he defined as “tubus farinarius, dulcissimo, edulio ex lacte factus” (“cylinder prepared with flour, stuffed with a very sweet milk filling”). Although the Ciceronian testimony attributes its birth to the classical era, there are two other hypotheses which, although different, are connected: the first states that the birth of the cannoli occurred at the time of Arab domination from 827 to 1019 AD. C in Caltanissetta (in Arabic “QAL’AT – AN – NISAH” meaning “women’s castle”) which at that time was home to numerous harems of Saracen emirs. In these harems, the sultan’s favorite women, to pass the time, dedicated themselves to the preparation of delicious and tasty dishes (especially sweets) and to experimenting with new ones and one of these experiments led to the invention of the cannoli which was an evident allusion to the sultan’s “talents”. In the second, however, many scholars state that following the expulsion of the Saracens by the Normans, some of the sultan’s concubines escaped from the harem and took refuge in a convent where they converted to Christianity and formed a strong bond with the nuns. If this were the case, the cannoli would be the fruit of the happy encounter between the classical tradition and the Arab tradition. In any case, there is no doubt that his hometown is Caltanissetta.

Although in every part of the island, the cannoli is delicious and the recipe for its “zest” is always the same, covered with icing sugar or cinnamon powder and always filled instantly to maintain its “crunchiness”, the the substantial difference lies in its filling: in fact, apart from the classic filling of cream, chocolate, pistachio cream and Nutella, as per tradition sheep’s ricotta is used, very dense and full-bodied, with a stronger flavor especially in the area Palermo and Catania, unlike the Ragusa area where instead cow’s milk ricotta is preferred, finer and frothier, with a more delicate flavour. Another interesting characteristic of this special dessert can be found in its final decoration, for example in Catania chopped pistachios or hazelnuts are used, while in Palermo candied cherries (in Sicilian dialect “cirasa”) or fillets of zest are used. candied orange.

Which will be the best?? Definitely a matter of taste. Come and taste them and every bite will be like tasting a little piece of Sicily.

We look forward to seeing you in May in Mussomeli (CL) for the ricotta and cannoli festival and in Palermo at the end of April in San Lorenzo Mercato (PA), at the beginning of June in Piana degli Albanesi (PA) and in Favignana (Piazzale Camperia – TP).