Sunday, February 21, 2010

Holy Cannoli !

Crispy, crunchy, cinnamon-y goodness filled with velvety, smooth, sweet ricotta cheese. Cannolis are an Italian man's best friend, that has now become a friend to us all! I was invited to an Italian Potluck dinner and thought long and hard on what to make.   After careful research, I decided on a Sicilian type cannoli. The difference with a Sicilian cannoli and that of a regular cannoli is that the shell is made with cinnamon and Marsala wine.
Let me tell you the taste of the shell is outrageous! It's one of those things you taste, but just can't put your finger on the flavors, ugh, just absolutely amazing! I will preface my recipe and instructions by saying that if you are not a food perfectionist, then it is perfectly okay to purchase the ready made shells! These cannolis are a lot of work, but they are oh so worth the crispy, crunchy goodness I talked about earlier.

The filling for the cannolis are made from high quality impastata ricotta cheese. Impastata ricotta is a type of ricotta that has been drained of almost all of its moisture. It is smooth like butter and has a very fresh taste. It keeps for a very long time in the refrigerator and will not make your cannolis soggy due to the lack of moisture. The attendant at the gourmet market where I purchased this cheese told me that impastata is the "cadillac" of ricotta...pause......thinking......SOLD!!

However, if you cannot find impastata cheese, then you can certainly use the Sorento ricotta cheese from the grocery store. You will just have to drain it overnight to reduce the moisture in the cheese.

I was thoroughly impressed with the result. It definitely took some work, but what good dessert doesn't take work?


  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp shortening
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup sweet marsala wine
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg white for pasting
  • 3 1/2 -4 inch round cookie cutter or anything that diameter you have in your kitchen
  • Rolling pin
  • 4 Cannoli tubes
  • Vegetable Oil for frying

  • 2 lbs Impastata ricotta or ***regular ricotta drained (see below for special instructions for regular ricotta)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate shavings
  • pinch of orange zest
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of cocoa powder (optional)
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream or whole milk
  • Plastic pastry bag or ziploc bag for piping the filling

***If using regular part skim ricotta from the grocery store, empty cheese into a strainer and put strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid, place in refrigerator overnight. You may also use a cheese cloth to squeeze out the liquid.


1. For shells- place all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until all the cinnamon has disappeared into the flour. If you don't have a food processor, you can sift this by hand, you will also have to knead this by hand and the recipe continues.

2. Now add the shortening and marsala wine. Pulse till the dough forms a ball. If doing this by hand keep mixing till the dough comes together into a ball. Now place ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 -2 hours.

3. After your cheese has soaked overnight (if you are using regular ricotta) and is dry and smooth, mix in all ingredients, but add milk 1 tbsp at a time until the consistency is like that of a spreadable butter. Once you have everything mixed in, FOLD in the chocolate that you are using. cover the bowl and put into refrigerator.

4. Heat the oil. Fill the skillet or deep frying pan half way up the side with vegetable oil. Let this heat up while you being working with the dough. After 1-2 hours have passed for the dough, remove from fridge and cut into quarters. Work with one quarter at a time leaving the other quarters covered under the plastic wrap. Roll the quarter piece of dough till it is really thin almost paper like. If it is at all too thick your cannoli shells will be hard and stiff not flaky at all. This is traditionally done with a pasta machine, if you have one great but if not, then roll this as thin as you can get it remembering to flour your surface and rolling pin often.

5. After you have rolled the dough to the thinnest possible, cut as many circles as you can with the cookie cutter. If you don't have a cutter you can print a 4 inch circle and cut it out from the paper and use that as your guide.

6. Place the cannoli tube in the center of one of the circle cut outs from the dough and roll one end onto the cannoli tube and rub some egg white on it, then bring the other end of the circle cut out to meet that end with the egg white. The egg white side should be on the bottom. Look at the pictures I have posted to see what it is supposed to look like.

7. Set up a pan with lots of tissue to soak up the oil from frying. The oil should be temped at 360 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer then sprinkle some flour in the oil and if it quickly goes to the side then you know the oil is ready.

8. Drop the cannoli tubes in the oil, 2 at a time and fry for JUST A FEW SECONDS! you want a nice light color not dark and burnt! After you fry it for just a few seconds, with a spatula, remove cannoli shells from oil and place on the pan with the tissues. Gently slide the cannoli shell off of the tube and put back into the oil to fry for another FEW SECONDS. The reason for doing this is to ensure the inside of the shell also gets a nice browned color. Repeat this step till your dough is finished or you have the amount of shells you need. The dough can be kept in the freezer if you don't want to use all of it.

9. After frying all the shells, let them cool for a few hours or even overnight. I actually made my filling and shells on the same night and didn't assemble the cannoli until the next day.

10. Fill your pastry bag with the cannoli cheese filling using your favorite tip (I recommend a tip with a big opening since the cheese is so thick) and pipe the filling into each shell from both sides.
If you don't have a pastry bag, get a zip loc bag and fill it with cheese then cut one of the tips off (a tiny cut) and squeeze cheese into shells this way.

11. Place on a platter and decorate as desired. You may drizzle chocolate or dip the ends in mini chocolate chips etc.


  1. OMG!!! I want to eat one RIGHT NOW. It looks so yummy.

  2. LOL Nancy. They are a bit of work, but I made the shells the night before so it breaks up the work load. Well worth it though!

  3. Where did you find the impastata? I've been searching for it everywhere with no luck :(

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    I found the Ricotta Impastata at a gourmet food store here in Rochester, NY. If you live in the area here is the website with the address to the store, it's called Lombardi's

    The impastata is actually around the same price at the Sorrento one in the stores, so it's worth it!! Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions :)

  5. I actually live in Idaho, so I'm pretty far from NY :( I doubt I'll be able to find it out here and I can't find it online anywhere but my search will continue, thanks for the help! This is anonymous by the way :)

  6. Hi Michelle,

    I'm sorry you can't find the impastata. When I moved here from NYC, I couldn't find a lot of ingredients either so I understand your frustration. When I was in your position I considered draining fresh ricotta (the Sorrento brand that you can buy in the grocery store)overnight to dry it out, I'm sure you will get a good consistency from doing it. Just put the cheese in a cheese cloth and tie it with a string, then put the cheesecloth into a colander and set it over a pot so all the juices can drip out into the pot. You can squeeze it every now and then. Leave it to drain overnight.

    Also I just contacted a few places online to see if they would ship to Idaho. I will let you know of their response! Good luck!

  7. Thank you so much for the suggestions and for looking in to that for me! I might have to try that soon...maybe at the end of the semester when I'm done stressing about finals :D

  8. Hi Michelle,

    I wanted to get back to you. I received an email from Lombardi's here in Rochester, NY. They said they DO ship to other states!! They would ship the impastata overnight!! I attached the website in a previous comment, but just in case, here is it-

    Good luck with Finals!!

  9. Yay! that's so awesome, thank you for doing that =D I will definitely get in touch with them and try out the cannolis. Thanks so much!


  10. I make these at the restaurant. Yours is a good recipe. Especially the slide and re-fry. CRUCIAL! the only other tips i would give: spray a little pam before you roll to release easier and dip the ends in melted chocolate. Because of the volume I have to do, I used an aluminum shower curtain rod cut into @ 8" or 9" lengths so I can do 2 on a roll at a time (and they are waaay less expensive than the molds they sell) just use a hacksaw and sand down each end. Sounds like a lot of work, but I can now make a huge batch without having to stop and let the forms cool down, wash, grease and reroll a whole batch. You KNOW what I'm talking about... Even if you want to keep it simple, just cut all your curtain rod pieces into 5". It is a pain to do the forms thos way, BUT you only have to do it once and you're set for life.

  11. Janet in So. Fla. but proud ex-NYer.October 19, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    To Ms. Gourmet Express (& Patrick,too) are so very generous with your time and advice, I am going to try these also...I am really very curious of "what is a pinch" of grated, chopped orange zest and cinnemon for that matter. Those are both strong flavors, but I'd think the pinch of orange zest would be bigger than that of the you think 1/8 tsp.cinnemon, and maybe 1/2 tsp. chopped zest? Also, to double-check, you are talking frsh orange zest? Not candied orange zest? I hope you'll get to see this to clarify what your pinch is...I'm pretty much a rookie baker and do better with exacts...Thank you so much!

  12. Hi Janet,

    I would say a pinch of cinnamon is about 1/8 tsp. As for the orange zest- here is what I would do: zest the orange- give it about two long strokes with your zester. Now chop the zest so it is really fine and tiny. The reason is b/c you dont want to be chewing pieces of zest when you eat this cannoli. It should be about 1/4 tsp once your done chopping. Real orange zest has such an amazing flavor so I would go with fresh if you can! I hope this helps if not, you can send me another message. Thanks for visiting!

  13. I recently found impastata ricotta at Corrado's Market in New Jersey along with other Italian goodies that I cant find since moving to Virginia from Brooklyn NY ( they also ship) give it a try .Ciao!

  14. I am really happy to FINALLY find out about the ricotta impastata. Now to just find it in Phoenix, AZ! I sometimes use finely chopped citron instead of orange zest. Also, if using regular ricotta (drained) add a raw egg yolk to it and it helps to make it smoother when mixing.

  15. Wow, I love cannoli so much and have been trying to find good recipes for days and days. Your advice is by far the most helpful, and I am going to try again following everyone's suggestions - and, with impastata! Hard to find here in a North Carolina small town. Thank you SO much!