I love Sicilian cannoli: crispy shells filled with a sweet ricotta cream cheese. They come from a traditional southern Italian cuisine where the best ones are from Sicily.
Several combinations of ingredients make this a delicious dessert. Like ice cream, Sicilian cannoli is a kind of street food where it is filled and eaten immediately.
According to my recipe, making the filling is easier than preparing the crispy shell, so if you can’t make the shells, I will suggest a few substitutes which work well with the filling.
The best ones I have ever eaten
Two places in Sicily come to mind when I think of the best cannoli I have ever eaten. One is in Taormina where a pastry chef filled fresh cannoli in his street stall. The second is a wonderful pastry shop in Ortigia called “I Cannoli del Re,” where the shell is a kind of cone filled with a soft ricotta cream cheese.
What are the cannoli filled with?
All the ingredients can be easily found in any supermarket, but go the extra mile if you can buy good sheep ricotta at a local farm. Ideally, cannoli should be filled with sheep ricotta because it is softer and sweeter. If you can’t find sheep ricotta, use cow’s milk ricotta, but it must be fresh. Ricotta cheese must be consistent, so if it is too runny, the cream will leak out of the cannoli.
Can you replace ricotta with mascarpone?
Definitely not! Mascarpone and any other creamy cheeses are too fat. Only a little heavy cream may be added in order to make the ricotta denser and richer. Nothing more!
- 2 cups (500g) of sheep or cow’s milk ricotta
- ¾ cup (150g) of sugar
- A few drops of orange blossom water or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
- ¼ cup (40g) of dark chocolate chips
Mix together the ricotta, 4 or 5 drops of orange blossom water, the sugar, and the chocolate chips. Chill the filling in the fridge for about 30 minutes; then pipe it with a pastry bag into the shells and dust the tops with powdered sugar. You may replace the orange blossom water with some cinnamon and some candied fruit if you do not like chocolate chips.
What can you do if you have any filling left?
It is the perfect afternoon snack for children who play sports and use up a lot of energy or for a cold cheesecake. The filling is a delicious snack on its own, so get ready with a spoon.
Do not freeze the filling because the liquid will separate from the solid part and spoil the cream. Store the cannoli in the fridge for a couple of days. If it turns yellow, it has gone bad.
- 2.5 cups (300g) of all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
- A pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons (40g) of sugar
- ¼ cup (60g) of butter
- 2 shot glasses of white wine or Marsala
- Place the flour on a pastry board in the shape of a volcano. Put all the ingredients, except the butter, in the middle of the crater and start kneading vigorously;
- When the dough is partially formed, add the softened butter; knead until all the ingredients are well combined, cover in plastic wrap, and set aside in the fridge to rest;
- Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and fold it in three parts; roll it out again in a very thin sheet; Cut 4-inch (10cm) circles and roll them around a cannolo form (tubes which give the cannoli their traditional shape). The sides should overlap. Brush the seams with lightly beaten egg to seal them;
- Deep fry them in oil;
- Slide the cannoli shell off the form and fry until golden;
- Place the shells on a paper towel to absorb the oil;
Assemble the cannoli
You have prepared the filling, and the cannoli are ready to be put together. Do this just before eating or serving them; otherwise, the shells will get soggy. Put the ricotta mixture into a pastry bag and fill the shells. Now, set your imagination free, and garnish them with pistachio or hazelnut pieces, mini-chocolate chips, or pieces of candied orange or cherry. Sprinkle on some powdered sugar, and enjoy your masterpiece!
And if you can’t make the shell?
Don’t worry; you may put together a ‘dismantled’ cannolo. In a cup mix the ricotta cheese cream, the chocolate chips or the candied fruit, and top with a crushed ice cream sugar cone you buy at the supermarket.