baroque town of Modica. I adapted a recipe I found in a Sicilan cookbook by Eleonora Consoli called La Cucina del Sole. It’s one of these books
that has no pictures and assumes you already know your way around a
Making them at home, I realized, is doable and not too tricky—if you follow some important tips:
— Investing in a candy thermometer is handy for good frying
results, but if you don’t have one, throw a cube of bread into the hot
oil to test if it’s ready. It should brown in about 15 seconds.
—Roll out small portions of dough at a time—so thin that it’s
nearly transparent—and keep the rest of the dough chilled in the
— A touch of beaten egg white will help hold the pastry ends
together while frying. It’s not traditional and expert Sicilian nonnas
manage to make these without, but if you find the cannoli are opening
during frying, then this will greatly help you.
— You can make both the dough and the filling ahead of time.
— Always fill the cannoli just before you want to serve them.
Variations: Some like to add a teaspoon of bittersweet cocoa powder
in the dough for color. In terms of decorating, you can use whatever you like here, from chopped dark chocolate to pistachios to candied fruit
(cherries and orange in particular). You can even mix candied orange or
chocolate chips into the ricotta. Or, instead of ricotta, you can use
pastry cream or chocolate pastry cream
Makes about 20 cannoli
For the pastry:
2 1/3 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) melted butter (or, more traditional, lard)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup (70 milliliters) water (or white wine or marsala), or as needed
3 cups (roughly) vegetable oil, for frying
1 egg white (optional)
For the filling cannoli:
2 pounds (1 kilogram) fresh ricotta
1 teaspoon (240 grams) sugar
splash of milk, if needed
chopped pistachios, dark chocolate, or candied fruit, for decoration (optional)
confectioners’ sugar, for decoration (optional)
- To make the pastry, combine the flour, sugar, melted
butter or lard, vinegar, honey, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the water
(or wine) bit by bit until you have a smooth, compact dough—you may not
need any liquid it all. You may need to work this (kneading) quite a bit until it is soft and smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the
fridge at least 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the filling: Combine the
ricotta with sugar and whip until you have a creamy consistency. If you
need to loosen it, add a splash of milk. Chill until needed.
- Cut off small, mandarin-sized portions of dough to
work with at a time. Keep the rest wrapped and chilling in fridge. On a
floured surface, roll out the dough to a long rectangular shape until
very thin, about 1-millimeter thickness (you should be able to nearly
see through it!). Trim the edges and cut the piece of dough into 4- by
4-inch (10- by 10-centimeter) squares.
- Place a cannoli tube on the corner of a square. Roll
the tube to wrap the pastry around it and seal the opposite corner of
the pastry by pressing gently (you can also dab a bit of egg white on
the corners to seal more effectively).
- In a small saucepan that will fit 2 to 3 cannoli tubes easily, heat enough vegetable oil so that the pastries will be covered. Over medium-low heat, heat the oil (if you have a candy thermometer,
you want to reach about 330° F/165° C; see note above if not). When
ready, cook 2 to 3 cannoli at a time, keeping a careful eye on them as
they can brown too quickly or unroll themselves if they haven’t been
sealed well. When they are a deep brown color and the surface is bubbly
and crisp, remove them with a slotted spoon and carefully place on
kitchen paper to drain. Do not remove the tubes until they are
- Repeat with the rest of the dough. If they are
coloring too quickly, the oil is too hot, so turn it down a notch and
wait a few minutes before proceeding.
- To assemble cannoli, just before serving, pipe the
ricotta (or carefully spoon it with a teaspoon) into each cooled cannolo tube to fill. Then decorate as desired: Dust with powdered sugar, dip
the ends into chopped chocolate or pistachios, or simply pop a candied
cherry on one end. Or mix them up!
Cannoli have been traced to the Arabs during the Emirate of Sicily, with a possible origin for the word and recipe deriving directly from qanawat. These were deep fried dough tubes filled with various sweets, which were a popular pastry across the Islamic world at the time, from Al-Andalus to Iraq.
Cannoli come from the Palermo and Messina areas and were historically prepared as a treat during Carnevale season, possibly as a fertility symbol; one legend assigns their origin to the harem of Caltanissetta. The dessert eventually became a year-round staple throughout Italy.
Second method Cannoli cooking
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons shortening
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 egg white
1 quart oil for frying, or as needed
Filling for cannoli:
1 (32 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest, or to taste
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (optional)