This weekend I am in a cannoli mood! These crispy shells with the creamy ricotta filling represent one of the most – if not the most popular Sicilian dessert. The recipe versions can vary. Some come with a taste of lemon, orange or candied fruit. Others with a little cinnamon, vanilla or chocolate chips. My favorites are the ones with chopped pistachios and almonds, the two precious treasures of Sicily. There are entire festivals dedicated to these marvelous nuts.
One is the ‘Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore’, the Almond Blossom Festival which takes place once a year in Agrigento. The ‘Sagra del Pistacchio’ in Bronte – a village near Mount Etna – is the festival dedicated to the world-famous pistachios that grow on that fertile lava soil. Bronte’s pistachio is also known as the ‘green gold’. If you get a chance to buy it in a specialty store, or eat it while traveling through Italy, you will understand why it is called that way, and why its taste is so intense and unique.
For the shells
300 g / 10½ oz of flour
30 g / 1 oz of sugar
60 g / 2 oz of butter
2 medium-sized eggs
a pinch of salt
1 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder (3 tsp for dark shells, see pictures)
3 tbsp of dessert wine (i.e. Marsala or Moscato)
1 egg white (to seal the dough on the metal tube)
vegetable oil to fry
For the filling
700 g / 25 oz of fresh ricotta cheese
250 g / 8¾ oz of sugar
a pinch of cinnamon
candied fruits, chocolate chips, chopped fresh pistachios or almonds
* * * * *
Mix the flour with the sugar, butter, eggs, salt, cocoa powder and the dessert wine until you get a smooth dough. If i is too dry, add a little more dessert wine. If too wet, add additional flour. Then cover and refrigerate for 1-2h.
Cut the dough into 4 parts and start rolling one part out as thin as possible (not thicker than a dime). You can also use a pasta machine, if available. Sprinkle a little flour if it gets too sticky.
Cut big circles depending on what you have available, i.e. a big cup. In the meantime heat the vegetable oil.
At this point I’d like to add a little suggestion, after having experienced some trouble myself: You might want to grease the metal tube with a few drops of vegetable oil. This will prevent the dough to stick on it while frying them.
Then wrap it around the cannoli metal tube and seal the edges with some egg white.
Deep fry them in approx. 2 inches of oil at 180°C / 360°F until golden brown and drain in a bowl covered with paper towels. Let them cool off well.
Mix the ricotta with the sugar and cinnamon until creamy. Then you either stir in the candied fruits or the chocolate chips. Alternatively you can skip both and sprinkle – after having filled the cannoli with the ricotta mix – both edges with chopped fresh pistachios or/and almonds. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top.
Always fill them right before serving. Because the longer you store them filled, the more will the shells’ crispness fade. So, if you don’t plan to eat them all right away, you can store the empty shells covered in a dry place.
Prep Time: 2-3h
Serves approx. 24 medium-sized cannoli