Together with Cassata, Cannoli are the most loved and most popular Sicilian dessert.
A recipe rich in taste, a simple yet challenging preparation, where the quality of its ingredients make the difference between a good cannolo and a GREAT cannolo.
The preparation of the shell can vary: there are Sicilians who use cocoa powder, some who use cinnamon, some who do not use any flavoring and some others who replace lard with butter or Marsala wine with red wine.
Anyway, the main ingredient is ricotta cheese, widely used in Sicilian pastry – remember that it must be made of sheep’s milk, which has a more intense and typical taste.
The Origins of Sicilian Cannoli
These small jewels of pastry art have very ancient origins, reaching the period of Arab domination in Sicily (from 827 to 1091). They were invented by some Muslim women in the harem of Pietrarossa Castle in Caltanissetta, and handed down during the Norman period to a monastery in the same area, where the nuns included them in Carnival’s list of typical fried sweets. Their name is given by the river reeds used in the past during preparation.
Locals know Cannoli are the must-have dessert during the holidays or on Sunday dinner. On the other end, anyone going to visit Sicily can’t miss the chance of tasting these homemade delicacies in a bakery.
But for those who want to try their hand at making cannoli at home, here is a recipe that will meet your highest expectations.
Cannolo Recipe (Approximately 16x Pieces)
Cannoli Shell Ingredients
- 250g flour
- 20g sugar
- 30g lard
- one small egg
- 50ml Marsala wine
- 10ml white wine vinegar
- 5g cocoa powder, unsweetened
- a pinch of salt
- a beaten egg white
- plenty of oil for frying
Cannoli Filling Ingredients
- 1kg sheep’s milk ricotta cheese
- 200g granulated sugar
- 150g dark chocolate chips
Cannoli Decoration Ingredients
- candied cherries
- candied orange peels
- chopped pistachios
- powder sugar
- ground cinnamon
Cannoli Recipe: Step by Step Instructions
1. The evening before
The evening before making your cannoli, put the ricotta in a strainer suspended over a bowl and allow it to drain its water. Keep it in the fridge overnight until it reaches a dry and compact stage
2. Shells dough
- whip together the sugar, lard and a pinch of salt until the mixture is smooth
- lightly beat the egg and combine it with the batter
- sift together the flour and cocoa
- adding the dry ingredients to the mixture a little at a time, as well as some Marsala wine and vinegar.
- mix with a fork until the dough begins to hold together
- transfer the dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth and compact
- wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put to rest in the fridge for at least two hours
- divide the dough into three parts and start rolling each one into a thin sheet, which should be as thin as possible (about 1.5-2 mm). Help yourself with a pasta machine if you can – or use the classic rolling pin
- when the dough is ready, cut round or square shapes (their size depends on your cannoli mold)
- wrap the round/square shapes around the molds, brush one end of the dough with beaten egg white, then pull the dry end over it and press lightly to seal, then put them in the fridge to rest for one hour
- in a large and deep frying pot, heat up enough vegetable oil to submerge a shell and its mold. Fry each shell for about a minute (while frying, the typical bubbles will appear on the shells)
- drain the cannoli and leave them in between paper towels to remove frying oil, then immediately and gently remove the molds by using tongs
3. Ricotta filling
- gently mix ricotta, sugar and chocolate chips with a fork (using a whip would make the cheese too liquid)
- place the ricotta cream in a pastry bag and pipe it in from one side, filling the cannoli halfway, then repeat on the other side
Complete by decorating cannoli according to your personal taste: you can use candied cherries or orange peel as in the Palermo area, chopped pistachios as in eastern Sicily, and finally dust with powdered sugar and a ground cinnamon.
You can now enjoy you homemade Cannoli and store them in the fridge, preferably for no longer than 24 hours. After this time, the stuffed shells will tend to soften, so it is also advisable to fill the shells right before serving.