Can cannolis be brunch?

June 16, 2019 (Last Updated: June 18, 2019)
italian ricotta filled cannoli with chocolate chips

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Cannolis deserve their own food group. Yes, they are simply dessert, but sometimes they have fruit. That makes it good enough for breakfast in my opinion… Think of how great they would pair with a refreshing mimosa.

Honestly, if we get to have pastries at breakfast, cannolis should be included. So, flashback to Rome in the year of 2015 when I made it my mission to eat and judge all the cannolis the eternal city had to offer.

History of the Cannoli

Cannolis have been around since the medieval era. In that time people delighted in the sweet dessert during the Carnevale season (similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans with festivities of parades and masquerades). Some claim that the cannoli was used as a joke during the festivities. People would fill the open ends with the ricotta and place a cotton ball in the middle as a trick on the poor guy that simply wanted to enjoy dessert. (Rude!)

A more legitimate reason is that the grass is greener in the spring during the season of Carnevale, which gives the sheep’s milk a better taste for the ricotta filling.

In Sicily, traditional ricotta is made with strictly sheep’s milk and hardly any sugar to sweeten it because the cream is perfect on its own. The taste of the tangy cheese should be detectable and not covered by the sweetness of sugar.

With the classic traditional cannoli, there are usually only a few types of toppings. In the western region of Sicily, candied fruit is added; whereas in the eastern region, pistachio shavings are the topping of choice.

Cannoli with a candied cherry and a candied orange from La Cannoleria Siciliana
Cannoli with a candied cherry and a candied orange from La Cannoleria Siciliana

Nowadays the tube is found year-round and found with more than just sheep’s ricotta and sugar stuffed inside. When Italians immigrated to the U.S., they had to work with new ingredients leading to the large variety of cannolis we know and love today. Cow’s milk is used a lot because the taste is milder than the tangy flavor of sheep ricotta, but some bakeries are even using Nutella and peanut butter fillings in the wrapped shell! Yum!

One untraditional version is custard, which I Dolci di Vincenza carries. It has an interesting jelly-like texture compared to the smooth creaminess of ricotta filling. The custard is an opaque shade of yellow…it almost looks like the fat off of a steak. The shell is a tad soggy, which could be from the different filling; however, the shell can also become soggy if the filling sits in fried pastry for too long because it absorbs the liquid.

The custard wasn’t my cup of tea but I Dolci di Vincenza is one of the best in Rome and offers chocolate, lemon, orange, and pistachio fillings.

Custard filled cannolo from I Dolci di Vincenza.
Custard filled cannolo from I Dolci di Vincenza. (Please excuse my chipped nails!)

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