Cannoli are a classic Sicilian dessert. This Italian pasty consists of tube-shaped pastry shells filled with cream and ricotta cheese filling with its edges dipped in nuts, candied fruits, or chocolates to complete the Italian flavor profile and mouthfeel.
Enjoying the flavors of Cannoli is a beautiful and complex experience. Making Cannoli is a delicate process. The pastry dough should be rolled thinly and wrapped around the famous Cannoli tubes. Perfect timing is essential to fry the dough for only a minute and drain it in a paper towel to give it a dry and crispy texture.
Ricotta has always been the classic Cannoli filling, although you can opt for Mascarpone cheese for a non-traditional recipe.
- Giulio Pistolesi & Scott Wilkinson from the Cake Bin bakery made the world’s largest Cannoli weighing 123 pounds.
- Celebrity Chef Buddy Valastro is credited as one of the people who popularized Cannoli through his reality TV show “Cake Boss.”
- The world’s most expensive Cannoli is made with rich dark chocolate, ricotta filling, candied lemons, sumptuous chocolate, and some lemon peels. It’s covered with gold leaf and costs a whopping $26,010.
Cannoli Buying Guide
In Italy, Sicilians prefer to make or eat Cannoli during Spring and Autumn seasons as the milk from the sheep is richer because of the young and fresh grass they consume between October and May.
It’s best to buy freshly fried Cannoli to enjoy the full crispiness of the Cannoli shells. The filling should not be too runny so it’s best to look for a thick and creamy cheese filling.
If you don’t want to eat freshly made Cannoli but don’t have time to make it yourself, you have the option to buy pre-made Cannoli shells and ready to pipe Cannoli Cream filling.
Cannoli Production & Farming in Texas
Texans love Italian desserts and Cannoli are no exception! The Lone Star State’s love affair with Cannoli is due to the strong presence of Italian cafés. Family-owned joints are keeping Italian cooking traditions alive with the pastries and cuisine in their menu.
People do not associate cheese production when they think of Texas. However, both artisan and commercial cheese production are bustling. These cheesemakers specialize in soft and hard cheese using milk from cows and goats to produce organic, healthy, and flavorful cheeses.
Preservatives and Chemicals
Cannoli are meant to be eaten fresh so they rarely contain preservatives and chemicals such as dough conditioners and extenders. However, the filling is a different story. Creams, cheeses, and other dairy products contain chemical preservatives such as benzoate, sorbate, and natamycin to prevent mold and bacterial growth.
Homemade Cannoli are ideally packed in paper boxes to preserve their appearance and prevent their filling from leaking. Pre-made Cannoli shells must be packaged in food-grade, vacuum-sealed plastic bags to maintain crispness and freshness.
Although you can eat Cannoli all-year-round, Cannoli purists from Sicily know that the best Cannoli are available during Spring because the freshness of the grass impacts the quality of goat’s milk which then affects the quality of cheese used in the Cannoli.
Anytime is a good time to eat Cannoli. Be it for a breakfast or brunch snack, for afternoon tea, as an after-dinner dessert, or even just a casual accompaniment to coffee or tea. There are no specific rules to this dessert! As long as it’s delicious and pleasurable, we’re in for the experience.
Eating freshly made Cannoli is a heavenly experience, but you can make some Cannoli in advance. Fried Cannoli shells do well at room temperature, just don’t forget to store them in an airtight container. You can also freeze fried Cannoli shells and defrost them to room temperature for later use. Never fill your Cannoli in advance to prevent soggy shells.
Classic Cannoli Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably whole milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup small semisweet chocolate chips
1 quart canola oil, for frying
Flour, for rolling
1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
Powdered sugar, for dusting
For the shell dough:
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Work the butter pieces into the flour with your fingers until the mixture becomes coarse and sandy. Add the egg yolk and the white wine and mix until it becomes a smooth dough. Spread a piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface and place the dough in the center. Wrap the plastic loosely around it and press the dough to fill the gap. Flattening the dough will mean less rolling later. Let it rest in the fridge for a few minutes while you make the filling.
For the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta until smooth. Sift in the powdered sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Mix to blend. In a separate bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), beat the heavy cream until fairly stiff. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cream into the ricotta mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Lightly zest the exterior of the lemon and stir it into the ricotta. Refrigerate for a half hour to an hour.
To roll and fry the shells:
In a medium pot with a heavy bottom, heat the canola oil to 360 degrees F. Meanwhile, sift an even layer of flour on a flat surface. Flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough until it is very thin (about 1/8-inch thick). Cut the dough into fourths and work in small batches. Use any glass or small bowl that has a 3-to-4-inch diameter. Cut rounds, tracing around each one to assure the dough has been fully cut. You should have about 24 circles. Wrap each circle around a cannoli mold. Use a little of the egg wash on the edge of each round to seal it shut and to assure it won’t slide or fall off the mold before pressing it closed over the mold. Flare the edges out slightly from the mold. Flaring will allow the oil to penetrate each cannoli shell as they fry. Use a pair of tongs to hold the edge of the mold as you submerge and fry the shell in the oil until crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oil, and holding the mold in one had with your tongs, gently grip the shell in your other hand with a kitchen towel and carefully slide it off the mold. Set aside to cool. Repeat with all of the circles.
To fill the Cannoli:
Just before serving, use a pastry bag without a tip to pipe the ricotta into the cannoli molds. Fill the cannoli shells from both ends so the cream runs through the whole shell. Dust with powdered sugar. Powdered sugar gives that little extra sweetness and added texture to the exterior. It also makes me feel like I have a professional bakery touch in my own home. Serve immediately.
If the ricotta has an excess of liquid, drain it over a strainer for at least a half an hour before making the filling. Make and fry the shells and the filling. Don’t fill the shells with the cream until you are ready to eat them. Everyone loves a crispy cannoli.