Sicilians have a sweet tooth; they’re renowned for it. Their love for desserts, sweets, and pastries has paved the way for their traditional food customs to take over the world.

The fresh granita, the flavorful marzipan treats, the cannoli, they’re all fabulous sweet Sicilian treats, and they’re just the peak of the iceberg.

You know cannoli, they’re the ever-popular ambassadors for Sicilian desserts throughout the globe. Most Italian restaurants offer a version of them, you can find them in every continent, and even in movies, “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli!”

Cannoli are hollow, delicate puff pastry cylinders filled with creamy, sweet ricotta. But how much do you really know about them? And most importantly, could you tell the difference between an authentic cannolo and a cheap, dismerited one?

Canolli are originally from the Sicilian north-coast cities of Palermo and Messina and used to be seasonal specialties prepared during the Carnavale season.

Such a decadent treat eventually became available year-round and soon conquered the world’s palate.

Cannolo means ‘little tube,’ and the reason is clear. For Sicilians, water in fountains comes out from cannoli dell aqua;  water taps.

Artisan cooks gently roll a thin layer of puff pastry around a metal tube and deep-fry it to golden, crisp perfection.

What’s not so obvious is that modern steel or aluminum tubes, used shape cannoli, are a recent invention. Bamboo canes were the device of choice to give the fried treat its form, that was Nonna’s way.


Whatever instrument you choose to make cannoli becomes less relevant compared to the recipe itself, a laborious process around an elaborate list of ingredients that together become a glorious dish.

The dough is more intricate than you think: flour, sugar, coffee, orange zest, and a kiss of the famous Sicilian fortified wine Marsala makes it fragrant and pleasant.

The filling is special too. Only fresh sheep’s milk can make a great ricotta, impossible to replicate with lower quality dairy. Sweetened with sugar, there’s no comparison for the unctuous flavor of cannoli filling.

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Coffee
  • Orange Zest
  • Sicilian wine Marsala
  • Fresh sheep ricotta

Making cannoli’s dough and filling is an act of love and serving them, the display of skill.

Authentic cooks fill each cannolo right before plating, to keep the crunchy crust from getting moist — Timing is essential, and so is patience.

Dusting icing sugar over the cannoli is the final touch for a perfect treat.

Not everyone respects the traditions behind the beloved dessert, especially outside the island, but there are still classic Sicilian cooks that take the time to make them and put their hearts to it.

If you wish to enjoy real cannoli; if you’d love to share them with your cherished ones, forget about frozen or commercial renditions. Find passionate cooks like Simone Usenato and Vincenzo Patti, from Vicio il Mastro Pastaio in Amsterdam, Sicilian cooks that get cannoli’s essence.