I grew up eating the cannolis that my Italian nana would make. I’ve never seen her recipe, but the flavor I was aiming for mimics hers in that there is a touch of cinnamon and vanilla with mini chocolate chips throughout. If you’ve never eaten a cannoli, it consists of a fried pastry shell in the shape of a tube and a creamy, lightly-sweetened ricotta cheese based filling. Beyond that, there are a lot of options for different flavor additions such as nuts and chocolate. Unlike my nana, I choose to buy my shells premade, but I always make the cannoli filling from scratch.
This is a very simple recipe, but it does require a little planning since it calls for strained ricotta cheese. Straining the ricotta the night before makes a big difference in the texture of the filling. You’ll need cheesecloth and a fine mesh strainer or colander. I place the strainer over a bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap, then set in the fridge overnight. Once this step is completed, the cannoli filling comes together in a snap.
Personally, I don’t do a lot of deep frying, so I prefer to buy the shells premade. I’ve purchased Ferrara brand cannoli shells several times with great results. They offer a mini and regular size that I’ve linked to below the recipe.
I like to dress up the premade cannoli shells by dipping the ends in chocolate and crushed pistachios. For this option, you’d just melt your choice of chocolate, dip the shells, sprinkle with pistachios, then let the chocolate set until firm to the touch. Be sure the chocolate is solid before filling.
I had the opportunity to make about 200 cannolis for a local event last year. We did a tasting in advance and gave them a few different options to choose from. I generally make my filling with just ricotta cheese, but they preferred a smoother filling with the addition of mascarpone cheese. I’ve given options for both in the recipe.
In the picture below, you can see the difference in size between the mini shells and the regular sized shells. If you’re making mini cannolis, you should be able to fill at least a dozen with this recipe. If you’re filling the regular sized canolli shells, you’ll get closer to six.
Cannolis are the perfect end to an Italian meal. Have fun trying out different additions to this basic recipe!
Cannoli filling- creamy and slightly sweet with hints of vanilla and cinnamon.
- 8 oz. ricotta strained
- 2.5 oz. mascarpone optional
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar plus extra for topping
- ½ tsp. Vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 oz. mini chocolate chips optional
Beat all ingredients except chocolate chips together until smooth.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Using a ziplock or piping bag, snip off the corner and pipe filling into cannoli shells.
Sift powdered sugar over cannolis and serve.
Make the filling the same day you intend to use it.
Fill the cannoli shells no more than one hour in advance to avoid them getting soggy.