Cannolis are one of the most famous Italian desserts. They consist of crunchy fried cylinders filled with ricotta cheese, sugar and, depending on the version, chocolate drops and pistachios crumbs. Take your palate to Sicily with this cannoli recipe.
- 250 g flour
- 1 tbsp. bitter cocoa powder
- 30 g confectioners sugar
- 50 g lard optional
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp. instant coffee
- 1 egg
- 30 ml white wine vinegar
- 30 ml Marsala wine
- 750 g ricotta cheese
- 75 g dark chocolate drops
- 300 g sugar
- 24 Candied cherries
- Powdered sugar as required
- 1 egg white
- 1 l lard
Before you begin to prepare the cannoli shells (called "scorcie"), put the cheese to drain in a colander placed in a bowl, then store it in the fridge.
Put in a large mixing bowl the flour, salt, cinnamon, powdered coffee, cocoa and sift the confectioners sugar.
Add the lard, egg, and then the vinegar mixed with Marsala wine; the latter liquids should be added slowly, kneading the composition every time, as depending on how much the flour absorbs, you might not need to add the entire Marsala and vinegar mix. Keep in mind that the dough should be soft and elastic, but firm.
- Knead the mixture for 5 minutes on a work surface, until it is elastic, smooth and homogeneous, then wrap it in plastic and leave it to rest for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
Now to prepare the cannoli cream for the topping, you will need take the well-drained ricotta cheese and place it inside a bowl where you add sugar.
- Gently stir the ingredients without applying too much pressure, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least an hour.
- After the indicated time, take a very fine mesh sieve, place it on a bowl and with the help of a spatula, crush the ricotta and sugar down and press on it, so that what comes out through the sieve is a very fine cream.
- Once the composition has the right density, add the chocolate chips (or, if you prefer, candied pumpkin cubes). Mix and place the cream cheese in the refrigerator, inside a container with a lid.
Take the dough for the cannoli shells and place it on the table. Use a rolling pin to create a thin 1-2 mm pastry. Use round pastry rings to create at least 24 pieces.
Stretch the 24 circles, then roll them around cannoli molds (if you have metal cylinders that works too), brushing the ends with the whites before stacking them.
Heat the lard (or oil) in a saucepan not too big, until you get to 170-180 °C (338-356 F) and then fry all the cannoli shells. Place them afterwards on a couple of sheets of absorbent paper, to get rid of the extra oil, and let them cool completely before removing the metal cylinders.
Once they cooled, fill the cannoli shells with the cannoli cream that you will put in a pastry bag, using a smooth and wide nozzle.
- Complete the process by cutting the candied cherry in two and place one half at each end. Instead of cherries, you can use orange peel or chopped pistachios.
- Top it with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar and serve.
The cannoli were usually eaten during the Carnival, but because this dessert was so popular and appreciated, people began eating them also during other occasions. As a matter of fact, cannoli didn’t even need an occasion to be eaten.
They were so delicious, that Italians just decided to bake them whenever they felt like it, throughout the year.
The Authentic Italian cannoli recipe consist of a fried and crispy pastry wrap, stuffed with a cream filling of ricotta, chocolate chips and candied pumpkin cubes.
The latter got a bit lost in time and isn’t considered to be a main ingredient anymore. The Sicilian cannoli are then trimmed laterally and covered with candied cherries, orange peels or chopped pistachios.
Note: The authentic Italian cannoli recipe consists of it, but if you don’t want lard at all, replace it with the same amount of vegetable oil. If you don’t prefer using chocolate chips, you can only use candied fruit. Fill the cannoli waffles right before serving, to keep their characteristic crispness.
Cannolo: The Origin Stories
You already know that cannolo is one of the traditional desserts typically served in the island of Sicily, thanks in part to the wildly famous and iconic Godfather films. However, this dessert’s origin dates way back earlier than you may have imagined.
According to historians, during the 1st century AD, the island of Sicily was invaded by Muslims and control of the island was seized from then ruling Byzantine Empire. The island became the Emirate of Sicily and basically developed a multi-cultural and multilingual society.
It was during this Arab rule, specifically from 831AD to 1091AD, that historians say the cream-filled dessert was invented. Historians noted that because Sicilians were under Arab rule, it became important for the locals to make their traditional food or dishes stand out.
This theory is further cemented by the fact that cannolo was specifically created to celebrate the Carnevale season, which is the festival that happens right before the start of Lent season, a very important Christian holiday.
There is also the theory that the sweet pastry is a symbol of fertility and eroticism. Those who believe this story claim that the pastries are eaten during Carnevale as a symbol of the festival’s wildly erotic parties, parades, and masquerades.
Another story, however, claims that the cannoli filling came from the Saracens, an ancient Arab tribe, and was brought by the Arabs when they occupied Sicily.
According to Waverly Root, an American culinary researcher and author, the dessert were once called cappelli di turchi that translates to “Turkish hats.” He said that the old name for the dessert was proof that Sicilians then attributed the dessert to the Arabs.
On the other hand, he claims that the authentic Italian cannoli shell had far more ancient origins than the filling. He said that mention of the tube shaped shells could be traced back to prehistoric times and that they were associated with stone steles called menhirs, which were most probably fertility symbols.
Now, whichever origin story you might believe, one thing is certain: the cannolo is a richly indulgent pastry that has earned its place right at the heart of Sicilian culture.