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The REAL street food in Palermo: cannolo ancient recipe

Either you are leisure or business travelers, or foodies going around the city on a food tour, you can’t leave without tasting the famous Sicilian cannolo, known all around the globe in many different versions as a symbol of Palermo street food.

Cannolo is indeed among the top cheap eats in Palermo, and although it is common to find it as dessert after the notorious Sunday lunches locals arrange with family and friends, its shape allows anyone to take it away and have it while discovering the beauty of the city. Cannolo recipe, anyway, it’s not well known.

 

CANNOLO, THE KING OF SICILIAN STREET FOOD

Even if, today, Sicilian cannolo have become a specialty of the Sicilian capital, few people know their history. In fact, their origins are mainly a mystery. It is said that the most ancient form of the cannolo recipe dates back to the Saracen domination, consisting in a tube-shaped flour «shell» filled with a milk cream. It seems that the recipe was spread by the nuns of a convent nearby Caltanissetta, who learnt it by former Harem ladies retreated in the church after the fall of the Arab kingdom in Sicily.

Nowadays, home-made cannolo is not so easy to find, especially thanks to the industrial production that provides you with ready-made wafers, candy zest and chocolate chips. Moreover, the traditional stick used to give them the shape for frying the «shell», once found along the rivers, was replaced with steel tubes, and the long procedure of sifting and stirring the ricotta cheese to make it soft and well mixed with the other ingredients was made easier by modern technology.

It is said that every Sicilian family owns its personal version of the traditional cannolo recipe. 

As often when it comes to popular culture, such precious treasures are inherited generation after generation, mainly orally, studying and asking about each and every step of your grandma and recording it in your «food memory». But in few, lucky cases, the nana spent her time writing her secrets down.

Following, as a present from the past, you’ll find the recipe of the Sicilian cannolo by Maria Scozzari, grown up in Misilmeri, a little village close to Palermo, in the late XIX century. 

If you want to make the original Sicilian cannolo, you have to have a look at the following instructions.

INGREDIENTS FOR 60/70 CANNOLO SHELLS

  • 1 kg of flour
  • 60 g of lard
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • Black wine (red wine)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING CANNOLO SHELLS

Make a well in the middle of the flour where you’ll melt with the palm of your hand the sugar, the eggs and the lard.
Then, mix all the ingredients with the wine, adding it slowly until you have a homogeneous dough, a bit hard (as the one for the tagliatelle). Then cover the river sticks with a thin layer of the dough and fry them in lard.

INGREDIENTS FOR 60/70 CANNOLI FILLINGS

  • 9 «once» of sheep’s milk ricotta (the «oncia» is an ancient Sicilian measure. 9 «once» are approx. 600 g)
  • ½ «rotolo» of sugar (also an ancient measure, approximately 800 g)
  • ½ «quartuccio» of milk (ancient measure, 0.4 liters approx.)
  • ½ «oncia» of starch (approx. 30 g)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING CANNOLO FILLINGS

Sift the ricotta, then mix the milk with the starch and, when melted, add it to the cheese and the sugar.
Boil the mix for 4 or 5 minutes, without stopping stirring, then let it get cold in a bowl. The day after, sift the obtained cream, then add chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and «zuccata» (candied pumpkin). 

Note for the reader: fill the cannoli just before you’ll eat them, so that the dough will stay crunchy!

 

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PAOLA

PAOLA

Paola is a translator, an interpreter and a food tour guide. Born and raised in Palermo, she loves good books, movies, music and travelling. One of her passions is food history, how food culture develops, the way people are influenced by what they eat over time, and how food becomes a mirror of a place and its population.

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