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Best Cannoli Recipe: Crunchy Shell and Creamy Filling

This is the Best Cannoli Recipe! It is by far my new favorite dessert! I want to share all the tips for a smooth filling, perfect shells, and quick fixes if something goes awry. I’ve been making these luscious hand-held desserts quite often throughout this last year.

Cannoli on a pink plate with a pomegranate in the background and pomegranate and pistachios

Best Cannoli Recipe with Pistachios and Pomegranate seeds make a gorgeous Christmas dessert!

Earlier this year, Scott and I went to Boston for our anniversary, and as always we ate any and everywhere food was served, and this included bakeries. One outstanding bakery was Mike’s Pastry Shop, which is, among other things, renowned for their cannoli. Before tasting these freshly baked and skillfully made cannoli, I thought the pastry would be stale tasting and cardboard-like with grainy filling, therefore an out-and-out waste of calories, but now am a hardcore cannoli enthusiast. When we got home, I dedicated myself to recreating and improving that delicate delight Scott and I so enjoyed.

Cannoli on a round plate stacked up with chocolate and pistachios on white marble with powdered sugar sprinkle

Oh. My. Goodness. Cannoli with Pistachios and Chocolate Chips and powdered sugar! How could life get much better?

Tips To Create the Perfect Filling for the Best Cannoli Recipe

Authentic cannoli fillings are made with fresh sheep’s-milk ricotta, adding an additional tang that cuts the richness of the filling. However, in the States sheep’s-milk ricotta is not so readily available; an effective substitute is including a bit of plain goat cheese to the cow’s-milk ricotta. Often I make a custard filling to for this recipe, as well. 

Over time recipes have begun using powdered sugar as both the sweetener and to stabilize the watery ricotta, but this, in turn, makes the filling a grainy and overwhelmingly sweet pastry cream. To fix this dilemma, I use a mixture of ricotta, mascarpone, goat cheese with granulated sugar. It creates the perfect amount of sweetness and a smooth delicious filling. 

A quick tip when preparing the filling: If the filling is too loose, beat with an electric mixer. If still no improvement, add a quarter cup of powdered sugar and beat again. Cornstarch isn’t recommended because of the fact that it can cause the filling to taste a bit chalky. Always use 100% whole milk ricotta; skim milk will separate and become super watery and grainy.

Cannoli with pomegranates in background on marble

Cannoli with Pomegranate Seeds make for a festive look and a nice crunch to go with the smooth filling.

How To Create the Perfect Cannoli Shell 

I’ve found store bought cannoli’s shells are often stale-tasting with no flavor. Let me assure you, I’ve tested myriads of recipes to get this right. I want a light, crisp, but tender shell to match the delicate flavors and textures of the filling. 

For lighter shells that come out completely dry, use lard or vegetable shortening. Oil can turn them hard and greasy more like a hard taco than a cannoli. Knead the dough by hand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it’s completely smooth, and small blisters begin to appear below the surface. Too little kneading will result in large and spontaneous air bubbles.

The secret to making cannoli shells crisp and to ensure tenderness is the wine. The acidity levels in the wine acts a lot like a marinade, as it relaxes the gluten fibers creating a tender shell.   

Any light wine will work in the dough; a darker wine may make it burn when frying and tempt you to take it out while it is still raw. If you don’t have any wine on hand, or just don’t want to use it for this purpose, you can substitute it with apple cider vinegar. 

When wrapping the dough around the tubes, make sure not to do it too tightly. You want the oil to circulate the shells and make all sides crisp when frying.

Before cooking, allow the dough and filling to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour. This step will relax the dough and help the sugar absorb into the mixture. 

If the filling is too loose, beat with an electric mixer if still no improvement add a quarter cup of powdered sugar and beat again. Cornstarch isn’t recommended because of the fact that it can cause the filling to taste a bit chalky. Always use 100% whole milk ricotta–skim milk will separate and become super watery and grainy.

How to Store the Best Connoli Recipe

The shells and filling can be made several days ahead. Store the filling in closed containers in the refrigerator and the shells in airtight containers. I store the toppings in sandwich bags. Prepare and plate the cannoli up to 3 hours before serving. 

Canolli served on a white plate on white marble with chocolate and pistachio on the sides

These Cannoli are not only heavenly in taste, bu!t an absolutely gorgeous dessert

 

Canolli served on a white plate on white marble with chocolate and pistachio on the sides

Best Cannoli Recipe

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Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 36

Ingredients
  

For the Dough

  • 5 tsp of granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 2 cups of AP flour
  • 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp of chilled vegetable shortening or high-quality lard
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp of sweet marsala or any sweet white wine
  • 8 cups of vegetable oil for frying

For the Filling

  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta drained and squeezed dry
  • 1 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt

For Garnish

  • Candied orange peel finely chopped pistachios, mini chocolate chips, and pomegranate seeds
  • Powdered sugar

Instructions
 

For the Dough

  • In a large bowl whisk together sugar, cinnamon, salt, and 2 cups all-purpose flour. Work the shortening into dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Separate 1 egg, place the egg white into a small bowl, and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, lightly beat the yolk with the remaining whole egg.
  • Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour in the egg-yolk mixture. Using a fork, mix in a circular motion to gradually work the egg into the dry ingredients. A thick paste will form, but all the ingredients may not be combined. Add wine and continue mixing until all the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough becomes too hard to mix. At this point knead the dough in the bowl to work everything in. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and continue to knead for about 3 minutes until the dough is very supple. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

For the Filling

  • In a large bowl, beat ricotta, mascarpone, goat cheese, granulated sugar, and cinnamon together until smooth. Taste filling and add a pinch of salt if you think it needs it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to give the sugar time to dissolve.

Assembly

  • In a medium saucepan fitted with a thermometer, pour oil until it comes 2" up the sides. Heat over medium-high until the thermometer registers 375°.
  • In the meantime, divide dough in half; rewrap one half and chill until ready to use. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to about 1/16" thick. If rolled too thin, the dough will lose its distinguishing bubbled surface; however, if the dough is too thick, it will become tough and challenging to chew. Cut out rounds with a 4-inch cookie cutter. Re-roll scraps until the dough is fully used. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
  • Beat reserved egg white until loose. Work with one round at a time and cover remaining rounds with plastic wrap; prick each one in several places with a fork. Dip your finger in the beaten egg white and wipe on one edge of the round. Wrap dough loosely around cannoli tubes and gently press seam to flatten and adhere.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Carefully drop the prepared shells into the oil, gently turning them as they cook to create an even color. After 4 to 5 minutes they will become a deep golden brown, at which point they are done. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Let cool slightly, then slip shells off of tubes. Let the tubes cool completely before repeating the process with the rest of the dough.
  • Fill a large pastry bag with filling and snip off the end. Pipe into cooled shells, working from the center to one end. Then turn the shell around and, just as before, pipe from the center of the shell to the opposite end.
  • Decorate exposed filling on each end with candied orange peel, pistachios, and/or chocolate. Generously dust cannoli with powdered sugar. Consume immediately!
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