What is the definition of cannoli? It is a tube-shaped crispy pastry, open ended on each side, which is quickly fried, cooled and then filled with lightly sweetened ricotta cheese. A singe cannoli is called a cannolo, meaning “tube,” but many cannot eat just one of these amazing pastries; hence the term cannoli is heard more often. Cannoli was originally developed in Sicily, however, there are many variations of the original.
Growing up in an Italian family during the 40’s and 50’s I have some wonderful memories of our Sunday dinners.
Sunday was the special day families would entertain as this was their one day off from working. After church, Mom would be busy cooking a large five course meal for our relatives who would arrive in their Sunday best and brought the hostess a large box of Italian pastries, which they just purchased at the local Italian bakery.
The pastries were baked fresh that day and the line of customers went out the door to choose and purchase a variety of these delicacies that everyone enjoyed eating after a huge Italian meal. They were usually consumed with a cup of espresso and shot of Sambuca liqour.
My sister, Natalie and I would eagerly wait for our aunts, uncles, and cousins to arrive and our eyes would be focused on the bakery’s white box tied with string which held those scrumptious deserts. I would always check, before Mom put the box in the fridge, if there were any cannoli in the box as they were my very favorite. I wanted to make sure there was enough to go around because I wasn’t too willing to share my favorite with others, including my sister! The war was on as to who would get the cannoli, being the youngest, I always won out.
Natalie and I have searched for recipes that would be the same or close to the cannoli we had growing up. I am only writing about the cannoli filling, as I have found ready-made shells to be more convenient and just as crispy as the homemade ones. Ask for the shells at the bakery of your local grocery store, as they usually do not keep the shells on display. You can also find them at a local Italian bakery. I have used Alessi’s packaged cannoli shells and have found them in specialty grocery stores or Italian delicatessens. Along with my sister, we have experimented with many recipes and finally developed one that I think combines the best features of them all.
Natalie and I hope you enjoy the cannoli cream recipe!
Prepare 2 days ahead.
Makes enough for 6 large cannoli
1 15-ounce carton whole milk ricotta
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon Cointreau liquor (optional)
¼ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
Drain ricotta in a colander. Set the colander over a large bowl, cover ricotta loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate over-night. Beat ricotta in large bowl for 1 minute. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat until light and creamy 2 minutes. Add other ingredients and blend well.
Place mixture back in colander, set over bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate over-night.
Fill shells just before serving so the shells don’t lose their crispness.
Transfer cream to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe mixture into the shells.
If you don’t have a pastry bag, put the filling into a quart size plastic bag, snip off one corner and squeeze the filling out into the pastry shells.
Then simply squeeze the filling into the cannoli shells.
To serve, dust with confectioners’ sugar, using a sieve. Serve chilled with coffee or expresso and a shot of your favorite liquer and as always, enjoy!