Holy Cannoli, these are awesome!! As a good Italian girl, I’ve been enjoying cannoli for a long time, but I had yet to learn how they were actually made, until this holiday season. Sure you could buy the shells and fill them with a homemade filling, but I’m talking honest-to-goodness homemade, from start to finish. Enter my Chief Culinary Consultant’s Nana. I had been hearing about her cannoli since I met my Chief Culinary Consultant, but never had the opportunity to try one until now. Not only did I get to eat them, but I got to watch them be made and enjoyed every minute of it! On New Year’s Eve day, several members of the family got together to help and watch the cannoli being made. I tried to document the process as much as possible so that I could share it with you. My only misstep was not getting a photo of the cannoli sitting on the dessert platter the next day, so I had re-plate with the extras that I took home with me.
For those that are not familiar, cannoli are a traditional Sicilian pastry that is made by rolling out a circle of dough and wrapping it around a metal cylinder or “form” and then deep frying. Once cool, the shells are filled with a sweetened ricotta filling. Sometimes nuts or dried fruit are added to the filling and sometimes the ends are dipped into crushed nuts or chocolate chips, but we went simple and classic – just the shell and filling. Pure and utterly delicious!
I expanded on the recipe when I wrote it out below to provide some additional details, but wanted to share a photo of the original recipe. I always love seeing older recipes as they were typed or written out, with handwritten notes scrawled on them.
The cannoli forms that we used and that you’ll see in the pictures were made by Nana’s husband around 50 years ago in the shop of the aluminum manufacturer that he worked for. These cannoli are TRULY from scratch! Cannoli forms are available for purchase from a variety of outlets, and these Norpro Cannoli Forms received the highest rating on Amazon (and they are inexpensive at $6.95 for a set of 4).
You will see that the recipe for the dough includes wine, and I am told that either red or white will work, but that red will affect the final color of the shells, and my Chief Culinary Consultant said that he liked the shells made with white wine better than those with red. These were made with a mix of Riesling and Pinot Grigio; you could also use Marsala wine.
Recipe Note: You should only fill the cannoli right before you are planning on serving them. You can store the empty shells in an airtight container and the filling in the refrigerator until ready to use. Only fill as many cannoli as you plan on eating!
For the Shells:
2 lb. cake flour
3½ ounces granulated sugar (about ½ cup)
4 ounces vegetable shortening
4 egg yolks
1¾ - 2 cups wine (enough to make the dough easy to roll and handle)
For the Filling:
2 lb. ricotta cheese
2 cups whole milk
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup cornstarch
1. Mix all ingredients together and allow to rest at least 4 hours before frying.
2. Tear off a chunk of dough about the size of a walnut and roll into a circle about 1/8-inch thick.
3. Wrap the dough around a cannoli form, overlapping dough and press to seal together.
4. Heat vegetable oil to around 375°F (the best temperature for deep frying) and, a few at a time (or however many fit in your frying vessel without crowding), place the prepared forms into the oil. Fry until light golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
5. Remove the forms from the fryer and set on paper towels to drain.
6. Allow to cool until able to handle and slide the shell off of the form. Cool completely before filling.
7. To make the Filling:Mix the sugar, milk and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat until smooth and dissolved. Stir the sugar mixture into the ricotta until combined. Return to saucepan and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (a few large bubbles should pop at the surface when it has thickened), about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Filling should be cold when used to fill the cannoli shells.
Note: The recipe for filling should be doubled in order to fill all of the shells that the original recipe makes.