The Sicilian cannolo. A piece of Sicilian history
A crispy wafer tube and a filling of the freshest ricotta that melts in the mouth. Anyone visiting Sicily should on no account miss the opportunity to try cannoli, the island's most famous - and most delicious - traditional dessert.
Sicilian cannoli, when prepared in the traditional way, are 15-20 centimetres of sweet ecstasy, and could be seen as a summary of the region: the wafer is the land, seared by the sun, and the filling encloses all the island's flavour.
The origins of the cannolo
The cannolo has ancient origins, so old that its story often becomes a legend and is lost in the mists of time. What is true is that initially the pastry was only prepared at carnival time, but people quickly realised that is was a shame to enjoy this delicacy only once a year.
It appears that the cannolo was born in Caltanissetta, and its inspiration was an ancient Roman recipe reinterpreted by the Arabs who once occupied the city. Legend tells that it was the emir's beautiful wives who invented the dessert.
How the genuine Sicilian cannolo is made
Describing a cannolo without having one there to sample is real cruelty. The pastry consists of a crispy wafer tube containing delicious sheep's cheese ricotta, with the addition of various ingredients, such as Bronte pistachios and chocolate chips.
In Palermo, the ends are adorned with two candied cherries and the top garnished with a sliver of orange peel. Meanwhile, in the eastern part of the island, the cannolo is sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts or pistachios. There's also a distinction to be made between the elegant city version, with a light whipped ricotta filling, and the more "authentic" country version, filled with a dense ricotta, far less refined.
Which is better? It's a matter of personal taste, and to find out you need to try them all.
Where to eat cannoli in Sicily?
Everywhere. But if you want to be sure, you need to go to the little village of Piana degli Albanesi in Palermo province, where the Cannolo Festival is held. And while you're in the area, you can also visit the historic Pasticceria Oscar in Palermo. On the island of Lipari, however, there's an equally wonderful cake shop - Pasticceria d'Ambra - where they make excellent cannoli.
Every mouthful is like savouring a little piece of Sicily.
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