Cannoli: An Italian Dessert

Cannoli is an important dessert in an Italian household. The historical significance of the dessert and the current role it has in culture is crucial to the Italian heritage. Not only does it have significance within culture, it is the perfect addition to a traditional Sunday dinner.

A cannoli is a fried, tube shaped pastry filled with a ricotta cheese based cream. The ricotta is blended with vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, Marsala wine, rosewater, or any other assorted flavors.(Devine) Chocolate chips are added on the ends to give it the extra sweetness. Traditionally, chefs have a bowl of chocolate chips set aside, and then they dip the ends of the cannoli into the bowl so that the chocolate chips stick, but do not ruin the look of the cream. Chefs prepare the dessert in order for it to appear elegant. They work very carefully so that the cream looks like icing on a cake, while paying close attention to the amount of cream that is being put in the tube. Cannoli’s can be difficult to prepare because the presentation is crucial. If the chefs put too much cream or too little cream, it will not balance well with the fried tube. On the other hand, the amount of chocolate chips must also be considered for the perfect tasting cannoli. If there are too little of the morsels, the cannoli will not be sweet. If there are too many morsels, the cannoli will be an overload. For Americans, it tastes like a waffle cone that is shaped like a tube, filled with a sweet cream on the inside. Ricotta is a cheese that is used in many dishes in an Italian cuisine, so it is not surprising that it is the base for this dessert. (Parasecoli) There are many dishes in an Italian cuisine that deal with cheese, and most involve ricotta. (Carole) Cannoli also comes in different sizes: the traditional large tube which is about 4 inches long and 1.5 inches thick, or the finger sized cannoli that is perfect for small get-togethers.

The history behind the cannoli is very traditional and the island of Sicily is famous for this gourmet Italian dessert. The cannoli first became popular in Italy because of the Carnevale festival that is held every single year. It is Italy’s version of Mardi Gras, which is their celebration of Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras celebrates the days leading up to Lent, and so Italians love to eat as many pastries as possible. The cannoli is offered around the country, in bakeries and in households gearing up for the holiday. (Parasecoli) Cultural ties also involve the cannoli. The phrase “holy cannoli!” was coined after this special dessert. Also, in the movie The Godfather, there is a famous scene where Pete Clemenza grabs a cannoli on his way out of the door. These miniscule ties to culture show that this special Italian dessert has come a long way since it was first discovered in Sicily.

The current role of the cannoli is major not only in Italy, but also within Italian-American households and bakeries. Cannoli’s can be catered to certain events, such as graduation parties, weddings, or just a small treat at a house warming party. The presentation of this dessert, as mentioned earlier, is essential. People tend to buy the cannoli because it looks so elegant and petite, rather than taste-testing it prior. The average Italian-American family usually has Sunday dinners every single week. (Lothrup) The size of the family is also considered when bringing the cannoli. Weekly Sunday dinners are paramount to the community surrounding family members, and so is the food that is brought. Cannolis are brought to dinners not just as a sweet treat, but also as a dish that fosters the relationships in the family. An example of this is my family: whenever my dad makes a cannoli, people flock to the kitchen rather than doing their own thing. The cannoli brings people together, while serving as a great tasting dessert.

In conclusion, the cannoli is a dessert that has been around for ages, and is still being eaten today. Whether someone is munching on one during Carnevale, or they are eating it around the dinner table, cannolis have withstood the test of time. Next time you need to bring a dish to pass, consider bringing this traditional Italian dessert to the table.


Works Cited

Carole, Counihan. Food and Culture: A Reader. N.p.: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Devine, Joseph. “The History Of Cannoli.” History and Women. N.p., 10 May 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

Lothrup, Gloria R. “Italians of Los Angeles: An Historical Overview.” Southern California Quarterly 85.3: 249-300. Print.

Holy Cannoli Wednesday. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.

Parasecoli, Fabio. Food Culture in Italy. London, England: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.