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Cannolis are one of my favorite Italian dessert recipes! My homemade cannolis start with a scratch made shell filled with the best creamy filling!
This heavenly treat definitely takes time and patience, but every ounce is worth it!
Why this recipe works:
A cannoli is an Italian pastries in the form of hard tubular shells filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and often containing nuts, citron, or chocolate bits.
- The wonderful flavor and texture of a good cannoli is so hard to describe. It’s something you should really experience.
- The shell is a pastry that you fry. It is only slightly sweet. I suppose it’s taste is similar to an unfrosted donut, but the texture is crisp and thin.
- The filling isn’t overly sweet either. Some people might have a hard time with a pure ricotta filling. I wanted mine lighter and creamier, so I also used heavy cream and mascarpone cheese.
- Since I think every cannoli needs a good crunch, inside and out, I used mini chocolate chips and crushed pistachios. YUM!
Making homemade cannolis isn’t exactly difficult, but there’s some equipment needed in order to make the process easy and consistent. It takes a bit of time, too, since you have to make the cannoli shells and the cannoli filling.
I highly recommend grabbing a friend and making an experience of the process!
There are two main components: the cream and the shells.
My filling recipe consists of:
- heavy cream
- mascarpone cheese (I prefer the Trader Joe’s brand and use it for my mascarpone frosting)
- ricotta cheese
- confectioners sugar
- pure vanilla extract
- lemon zest and orange zest
- pistachio flavor – optional but highly recommended
My shell recipe consists of:
- flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon
- an egg plus an egg yolk
- sweet Marsala wine – it ain’t a cannoli if you don’t use this ingredient!
- vinegar and water
How to make them:
I’ll try to simplify the process of how I make my Italian cannoli and give you a good summary, since the recipe below is super thorough and I included a ton of process photos.
- Start by making the filling. I like to use the stand mixer to get it light and fluffy. The filling needs to chill at least a couple hours or over night before it gets stuffed into the shells.
- Next you’ll make the dough for the shells. This dough will need to be kneaded for about 10 minutes. You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer with a dough hook. You’ll want to wrap the dough and let it rest for about an hour, refrigerated, until you’re ready to make the shells.
- The dough must be rolled out extremely thin. The thinner the dough, the crisper and lighter the shells will cook. I like to use my pasta roller, but if you’re talented you can roll by hand.
- To cook the shells, you must first wrap the dough around cannoli tubes. Then, you’ll deep fry the dough while wrapped around the tubes for only about a minute. Once they’re removed from the oil and cool enough to handle, you’ll slide the tube out and repeat, repeat, repeat. This is why it’s best to make the shells with a friend.
- Now you can finally fill the shells with the cream filling. Add as many chocolate chips and nuts to the filling and then dip the ends in the chocolate to make them extra pretty.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour unsifted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
- 3 Tbs unsalted butter cold and cut into small pieces
- 1 egg slightly beaten
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
- 1 Tbsp vinegar
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1 egg white slightly beaten
- Oil for deep frying (about 1 quart)
- 10 ounces mini chocolate chips less if you don’t add them to the filling
- 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
To make the Ricotta filling:
- Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip heavy cream using whisk attachment until peaks form. This takes just a few minutes. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add mascarpone cheese to stand mixer bowl and blend until light and fluffy, just for a minute or two. Transfer mascarpone to the bowl with the whipped cream.
- Add ricotta to the stand mixer bowl and blend ricotta cheese until smooth. Mix in powdered sugar, vanilla, and zest. Fold in previously whipped heavy cream and mascarpone cheese along with pistachio flavor (if using).
- Cover and chill several hours or chill overnight.
To make the cannoli shells:
- Whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter. Make a well in the center and add the egg and and the egg yolk, wine, vinegar, and water. Mix with a fork to combine or use your hands to mix, if needed. Knead by hand or with a dough hook in your stand mixer for about 10 minutes. Form into a ball, wrap dough with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about an hour.
- Roll out a rounded tablespoon of dough, press flat into a disk shape, and coat both sides with flour. You can try to roll it by hand, but I find it ideal to run through my pasta roller. The goal is to create flat ovals that are about 4-6 inches long, and the thinner and more uniform, the better they will cook.
- Using an Atlas pasta roller, I processed the dough starting at setting 1.
- Then I continued to increase the setting through to level 6.
- Lightly oil the outside of a tube (oil spray works great).
- Lay the tube on one end of the disc and roll the tube.
- When you reach the end dab egg white on the flap and finish rolling.
- Lightly press the the end with the egg white to seal.
To cook the cannoli shells:
- Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Fry 2-3 at a time (while still wrapped around cannoli form) until golden, about a minute. Remove with tongs and place on paper towels to drain. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, gently slip the form out of the shell. Cool completely before filling. Note: this process is SOOOO much easier if you have one person rolling the cannoli shells and the other person is cooking them.
To fill cannoli:
- Remove ricotta filling from refrigerator. If it appears too liquid to stuff into the shells, whip with a whisk attachment on a stand mixer for about a minute on high speed. That should thicken it up. If you want chocolate chips mixed in with the filling, add about half to the filling and stir.
- Add ricotta filling to piping bag with a wide tube fitting and pipe into each shell. Insert at each end, start filling at the middle of the cannoli and work your way out. To serve, dust with powdered sugar and garnish ends with mini chocolate chips and crushed pistachios.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.