True Cannoli

October 11, 2021

If ever there was a more beloved and classic Sicilian pastry, it has got to be cannoli, the plural form of the word cannolo meaning tube and derived from the word canna, plant reeds that were cut and used as round forms to mold the cannoli dough. 

What passes for cannoli outside of Sicily would not be recognizable to a Sicilian. Thick shells sometimes coated in chocolate and housing a filling of anything from a wall paper paste type pudding to some imitation cream concoction with sprinkles and jimmies, does not come close to the real thing.

A true cannoli dough is made from flour, pinch of salt, lard, a tad of sugar and enough wine to bring the ingredients together. The dough is rolled so thin that you can see your hand behind it and after it is formed around a tube and fried, is traditionally filled with sheep’s milk ricotta cheese. Sometimes candied orange rind, bits of chocolate and pistachio nuts are added. The best ones I have ever had were on a sheep farm near Salemi, Sicily where the sheep farmer’s wife churned out cannoli for visitors. Cannoli are never filled ahead of time and left to linger in a pastry shop window. Nope! They are filled just before serving to ensure that that golden tube stays nice and crisp.

To eat these blistered beauties, they are grabbed by the hand and with a stack of napkins, enjoyed! It’s ok if shards of the cannolo shell land on your shirt; that’s when you know it’s a true cannolo!

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