For my cannoli recipe, I start by making the dough for the shells, and the fresh ricotta on the day before I want to eat it or serve it.
The shell is a very simple, wine based, pasta-like dough. After making it, I let it rest in my fridge for 4 hours to overnight, usually overnight. Chilling your dough will make so the gluten formations settle, which makes the dough easier to work with. It also allows time for the moisture to be absorbed better by the flour.
Also, the day before, I make my ricotta from scratch. Making ricotta is so easy. I never bought a container of ricotta again since I’ve made it homemade for the first time. The taste is undeniably better. But that’s just me.
Gotta keep high standards when making my cannoli recipe.
The best shell and the best filling I can come up with is what I want for my precious cannoli. I’ve made it so many times I know my way around it pretty well. But I’ve made my mistakes.
Cannoli are like music (just a quick fyi, someone has corrected me once: cannoli is plural, cannolo is singular). Ahem, as I was saying… music. All the notes come together to form a harmonic melody. The perfect cannoli are harmonic. They are light and not overly sweet. They are the perfect balance of taste, texture. They melt in your mouth.
Ok, so far I’ve made my dough, made my ricotta, made a lame comparison between music and cannoli. Now, we store both dough and ricotta in the fridge overnight. Go to sleep, wake up happy cause it’s cannoli time!
First, you make your coffee.
Then, you take your dough out of the fridge and divide it into 6 pieces. Now, whip out your pasta machine. Don’t have a pasta machine? Make a second cup of coffee and use your elbow grease to roll out those dough pieces into thin layers of dough. Hey, I’ve been there. I was making pasta before I had a pasta machine. I’ve rolled many-a doughs by hand.
Start working on the first piece of dough, while keeping the remaining ones covered. I like to roll out all of my dough into thin sheets (I roll out until number 5 in my pasta machine) and keep them covered with a towel on a floured surface. Don’t stack them together, put a towel between the dough sheets so they don’t stick. Once you are done rolling them out, cut 3″ or 3.5″ circles with a round cookie cutter and keep them covered under a towel so they don’t get dry, and also keeping the scraps of dough under a towel.
Make sure to keep your work surface lightly floured so the dough doesn’t stick.
But don’t go too crazy with the flour either.
Once you’ve cut all the circles, roll out the scraps in your pasta machine. Cut circles from this second set of sheets. Then roll out the second scraps. Cut the third set of circles. And I usually stop there, because after that the dough will be too overworked, so I won’t roll out the third scraps of pasta. Just toss them.
Anyway, once the circles are cut, heat your oil or shortening and start wrapping the circles around the cannoli tubes and frying them. I recommend having more than 8 tubes, otherwise you will take forever, because they fry so fast, while you have a batch frying, you can remove the fried cannoli from their tubes and continue wrapping. Ideally you would have at least 12, because the metal tubes do come out quite hot from the oil and you have to let them rest for a minute before you can remove the fried shell. But 8 tubes is pretty manageable.
I’ve made this quite a few times and I’ve gotten quick at it, so I start frying my cannoli shells after the first set of circles is cut, then I fry, roll out the scraps and cut new circles all at the same time.
Now, once your cannoli shell is fried, wait till it cools down and pipe the filling inside.
You can coat the sides in chocolate chips, ground pistachios, or whatever fancies you. Make sure to only pipe right before you serve, otherwise the shells will get soggy. Store shells in an air-tight container and they will last a few days at room temperature. And store your filling in your fridge.
My advice is for you to pace yourself if you are new to making cannoli. Take your time, clear your schedule and pour some love into what you are making. You aren’t simply cooking, you are creating a masterpiece.
Speaking of masterpieces and complicated desserts, you might want to check out my recipe for Pistachio Donuts. Just don’t try to make both on the same day unless you’re not planning on leaving the kitchen at all.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg yolks slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons butter softened
- 2/3 cup dry white wine or Marsala wine
- 5 cups ricotta cheese store-bought or homemade, recipe for homemade below
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar sifted
- 1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped (Read Note 1)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To make the dough
Mix flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, or any bowl if you plan on kneading by hand. Add butter and yolks to the flour mixture. Mix until incorporated and crumbly, then start adding the wine slowly. Mix with the paddle attachment or with a spoon to form a ball. Switch to dough hook and start kneading until soft and smooth, about 2 minutes, or knead by hand for a few minutes. Add more flour as necessary but try to add as little as possible.
Once the dough is smooth, flatten it out a bit into a disk. Wrap it well with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for a few hours, at least 4, or preferably overnight.
On the next day, remove the dough from the fridge. You can roll dough out by hand or with the use of a pasta roller. No matter what method you use, divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll them out individually to make it easier. With my pasta machine, I roll the dough through the machine once on every number and stop on number 5. Flour your counter and sprinkle flour over the dough. Don’t use too much flour, just enough to handle the dough easily so it doesn’t stick to the counter when you are trying to cut the circles.
Cut circles with your biscuit cutter. I use a 3” cutter and that makes small cannoli, but you can make them bigger, just choose a larger cutter, such as the 3.5” or 4”.
I usually roll all of my 6 pieces of dough out, cut circles out of them. Roll out the dough scrapes and do the same. And you can roll out these second scrapes once again to obtain a few more circles.
Once you have all your circles cut you can start wrapping them around your cannoli tubes and frying them. (or if you are crazy like me, you can fry the shells and roll the dough out at the same time, but get ready to move fast)
To wrap tubes, place each in the middle of a dough circle, roll out the bottom half and lightly dip your finger in water and brush where will be the seam so the other side will seal. Don’t wrap your tubes too tight or you will have a hard time removing the shell after frying. Just make it a tad looser.
Heat 4 cups of shortening in a large pan with a heavy bottom until it registers 350F. Start frying the cannoli in batches. Fry for a couple minutes on one side and then flip it over with tongs. Once the cannoli is golden brown, remove to a tray lined with wire so the cannoli will drain. If you are lucky like me, you have several tubes and that makes life easier. If not, wait a couple of minutes before removing the shell from the tube after fried. And go on wrapping more until you are done. Wrapping, frying, wrapping, frying. Once shells are cool, place them in an air-tight container, they will keep for 3 days, but start to loose quality the longer they sit.
To make the filling
Add ricotta and vanilla seeds to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip with the whisk attachment for 2 minutes on medium speed until ricotta is fluffy and the seeds have incorporated and spread. Add already sifted sugar slowly. Once sugar is incorporated, add vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
Don’t assemble until you are ready to serve or serve within the next couple hours because if you let the filled cannoli sit, the shell gets soggy. I like to keep the filling in a piping bag inside my fridge and the shells stored in a airtight container on my counter. When ready to serve to my lucky guests, I simply pipe the filling in. Fresh, crispy and delicious! Perfection!
I like to use a large round piping tip (around 1/2” inch) fitted in a large piping bag. Scoop the filling in and pipe from the middle to the outside from both sides.
You can coat the tips in crushed pistachios, or any other nuts or in mini chocolate chips.
Another option is to dip the ends of the shells into melted chocolate and let them dry for a while and once the chocolate is dry, fill with the ricotta.
Sprinkle powdered sugar over shells for the final touch.
This recipe yields about 45 small cannoli, cut with the 3” round cutter. Note 1- So, this vanilla pod you are left with now is good for many things. Stick it in your vanilla extract jar if you make your own. You can add to jams or apple sauce to flavor it while cooking. Or you could add the dry pod to your sugar jar. And just kinda tuck it in the middle there and let it sit. Stir it once or twice and you will have vanilla sugar. Every time you open your sugar container, you will be graced with the sweet smell of vanilla sugar.
- 6 cups whole milk
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
Bring milk, heavy cream and salt to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Don’t let it actually boil. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally. As soon as you see the first bubbles surfacing, add vinegar, turn heat off and stir. Let mixture sit for a few minutes.
Line a large mesh strainer with two layers of cheese cloth over a large bowl. Pour milk through strainer and let it drain for at least 1 hour.
Refrigerate for a couple hours before using.
I like to cover my ricotta with the overhanging pieces of the cheesecloth and store in my freezer as it is, in the bowl lined with the mesh strainer and let the ricotta drain overnight or for a few hours, this way you’ll obtain a very firm ricotta.
This recipe makes a little bit over 2 cups of ricotta.