(CNN) — Making a visit to Sicily with out indulging in a scrumptious cannolo pastry is akin to visiting Naples with out tucking into an genuine pizza. Practically unheard of.
These deliciously crispy tube-shaped shells crammed with contemporary ricotta are close to unattainable to withstand. And as soon as you have had one, you will greater than possible be craving one other.
While there are variations of cannolo (or cannoli) elsewhere on this planet, the one solution to style the true factor is to journey to the Italian island. There’s no acceptable substitution in some other place, not even the remaining of Italy.
But what’s it that makes this delectable pastry, usually dotted with candied fruit, chocolate or smashed pistachio items, so addictive?
Locals from the Sicilian city of Caltanissetta declare there is a very raunchy secret behind its tempting qualities.
Cannolo, a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough crammed with contemporary ricotta, is one of Sicily’s most well-known pastries
Cathy Scola/Moment Open/Getty Images
Located deep in central Sicily, Caltanissetta is usually claimed because the “birthplace” of cannolo. Here, the mouthwatering deal with is typically known as the “Rod of Moses” or the “King’s Scepter,” in reference to its supposed erotic origins.
According to legend, cannolo was first made by the concubines of an Arab emir to honor the sexual efficiency of their grasp, and its phallic type was no accident.
Confined throughout the pink partitions of the Pietrarossa Castle, the ladies are mentioned to have whiled away the hours concocting candy recipes collectively.
“The origins of this delicious cake are imbued with legend and myth but there are a few real historic elements that push us to support the paternity of it,” Roberto Gambino, mayor of Caltanissetta, tells CNN.
“Caltanissetta was founded by the Arabs and it is likely there was a harem here that the emir kept packed with women who created cannolo.”
“The name ‘Caltanissetta’ comes from the Arabic ‘qal-at-nisa’, which translates to the “metropolis of ladies.”
Some Latin writers have also mentioned the existence of such a “metropolis of ladies,” apparently referring to it as “castro feminarum.”
‘City of women’
Many consider the Sicilian town of Caltanissetta to be the birthplace of cannolo.
According to local professor and researcher Rosanna Zaffuto, Caltanissetta was once a strategic outpost, as well as one of the greatest Arab centers in Sicily.
One of the most important castles in Sicily, Pietrarossa Castle is thought to have been built in the 9th century as a military lookout.
Its position, overlooking the Salso river, allowed conquerors to enter with their ships from the sea, says Zaffuto. The town of Caltanissetta would eventually grow around the castle.
Today, Pietrarossa, which means “pink rock” in Italian, is essentially a ruin with a convent at its feet.
Situated in a quiet spot outside the town center overlooking pristine fields with grazing sheep, it has managed to maintain its allure, feeding into the cannolo myth.
Sicily was under Arab rule for hundreds of years, leaving behind a rich heritage, including culinary traditions and iconic foods such as the famous pastry, which became part of Sicilian culture.
Although there are traces of a “primeval” cannolo dating back to ancient Roman times, the recipe that exists today is of Arab origin.
One of the myths surrounding the pastry states that the “ladies contained in the fortress” came up with the idea of filling the pastry dough with ricotta in order to welcome their beloved when he visited from Palermo in the north of Sicily. Cannolo was apparently considered an ideal treat that could be quickly prepared for his arrival.
Its empty shell was created by wrapping dough around the imported and cultivated thick sugar canes that grew in the surrounding fields, forming tube-like biscuits with a rough, crunchy and bubbly surface resembling tiny popped volcano craters.
Harem to convent?
There are many myths surrounding cannolo. Some say it was first made as a deal with for an Arab emir.
Giuseppe Greco/Moment RF/Getty Images
The exhausting “scorza,” or the outer shell, which stayed fresh for days, was filled with fresh sheep ricotta cheese at the last minute right before being served — just as it is in Sicily today — so that it stayed solid. Cannolo shells are typically wrapped around steel tubes and fried in lard nowadays.
In a rather unlikely twist, another myth suggest that cannolo moved from the harem into the nearby convents built in the years that followed, and became popular with the local nuns.
The nuns apparently prepared it as a typical pastry that could be served during carnival, when chaos ruled and Christian, moral laws were momentarily overhauled with pagan rituals.
Worshiping phallic-shaped objects and cakes was considered a way to celebrate fertility and life.
“When the Arab rule led to 1086 with the rise of the Norman empire, the Arabs residing in qal-at-nisa weren’t expelled nor did they flee.
“They were converted to Christianity and assimilated within society,” says Zaffuto, earlier than suggesting that the daughters or descendants of the emir’s mistresses could have even taken spiritual vows.
“The Arabs and their traditions live on in Caltanissetta, our dialect has many Arab-sounding words such as ‘tabbutu’ meaning ‘coffin’ while the name of our old neighborhood ‘saccara’ is identical to that of a district in Cairo.”
According to native grasp pastry chef Lillo Defraia, who has spent 25 years researching the origins of cannolo, the “women in the castle” would ultimately hand down their recipe to the nuns, who cherished a longstanding custom of pastry making.
He strongly believes that cannolo was born in Caltanissetta and the salacious tales round its origin are way over only a delusion.
Local pastry chef Lillo Defraia has spent round 25 years researching the origins of cannolo.
Alessio Abate Carlo Bolzoni
One of the important thing causes for his resolve is because of the particular sort of flour traditionally used to make the outer shell of the pastry, which Defraia has recreated by asking city elders and farmers.
“Our ancestors grew the maiorca wheat flour variety which is soft, versatile and ideal to make cakes and pastries,” he explains.
“This was the first type of flour used to make the cannolo, which was initially filled with ricotta mixed with honey.”
Today, an historical stone mill is used to make maiorca flour in Caltanissetta.
Defraia hails the “teamwork” of the concubines and the nuns in seemingly creating and honing a elegant delicacy, utilizing prime components from the Sicilian city all these centuries in the past.
It’s instructed that the nuns improved the unique Arab recipe by including a extra grainy, strong ricotta to the pastry, which was being bought across the Italian island by the 1800s.
However, some tales trace that it was in reality the nuns who dreamed up the pastry within the first place. Whatever the reality is, cannolo stays one of Sicily’s most liked, and most well-known, pastries in the present day.
Defraia makes his personal cannolo with a mixture of goat and sheep ricotta, which he says ensures they’re tastier and extra digestible, including vanilla, bits of pumpkin, chocolate and pistachio.
He’s very proud of having beforehand created variations weighing as much as 180 kilograms, and goals to beat his personal file sooner or later.
For him, cannolo stays a timeless, spectacular deal with, with simply the correct mix of sacred and profane.
“Cannolo stands as the supreme expression of our ‘Sicilianness,’ a melting pot of different cultures and beliefs,” he provides.
“It’s our Easter Sunday cake.”