Cannoli are Sicilian pastry desserts. The singular is cannolo (or in the Sicilian language cannolu), meaning "little tube", with the etymology stemming from the Latin "canna", or reed. Cannoli originated in Sicily and are an essential part of Sicilian cuisine. They are also popular in Italian American cuisine and in the United States are known as a general Italian pastry, while they are specifically Sicilian in origin (in Italy, they're commonly known as "cannoli siciliani", Sicilian cannoli).
Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta cheese and chopped succade. They range in size from "cannulicchi", no bigger than a finger, to the fist-sized proportions typically found in Piana degli Albanesi, south of Palermo, Sicily.
Originating in the Palermo area, cannoli were historically prepared as a treat during Carnevale season, possibly as a fertility symbol; one legend assigns their origin to the harem of Caltanissetta. The dessert eventually became a year-round staple throughout what is now Italy. Cannoli are sometimes called cannolis, however this is not the correct term. Cannolo is the correct terminology for a single pastry and cannoli is the name given to two or more pastries.
The versions with which Americans are most familiar tend to involve variations on the original concept. This is possibly due to adaptations made by Italians who emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s and discovered limited availability of certain ingredients. The cannoli sold in Italian-American bakeries today usually still contain ricotta, but mascarpone is a less common alternative. Sometimes the filling is a simple custard of sugar, milk, and cornstarch. In either case, the cream is often flavored with vanilla or orange flower water and a light amount of cinnamon. Chopped pistachios, semi-sweet chocolate bits, and candied citrus peel or cherries are often still included, dotting the open ends of the pastry. Pink sprinkles are sometimes used as a garnish for cannoli in the United States. As an indication of how popular they are, there is a famous scene from the 1972 film The Godfather, after which Peter Clemenza, says, to Rocco, who has killed Paulie in the car: "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." More recently, the HBO T.V. mafia saga The Sopranos regularly saw cannoli gifted from one character to another.
Making the cannoli
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