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This scrumptious and traditional Sicilian cannoli recipe is universally adored. Easy to make, it consists of crispy tubular shaped shells, filled with creamy sweet ricotta dipped in chopped pistachio and candied orange peel. Straight from Sicily, watch everyone’s eyes light up with each delightfully creamy bite.
What is Cannoli Siciliano?
Cannoli Siciliano or in English, Sicilian cannoli, is a classic and traditional Italian dessert from Sicily.
The name cannoli comes from the Latin word “canna”, which means cane or reed due to their tubular shape.
Cannoli is plural and the singular form is cannolo, a diminutive word, meaning little tube from cane.
A Sicilian cannoli is a deep-fried cylindrical pastry shell filled with sweet ricotta cream. In Sicily, the traditional ricotta filling is made exclusively with sheep’s milk.
The ends are traditionally topped with candied fruit, chopped pistachios or chocolate flakes.
Sicilian cannoli vs cannoli actually refer to the same popular Italian dessert. Cannoli by itself or Italian cannoli simply refers to cannoli from Italy.
Whereas, Sicilian cannoli puts an emphasis on origins of this traditional dessert, which is the island of Sicily.
Sicilian Cannoli History
The cannoli or cannolo for singular, is Sicily’s most iconic dessert. It is believed to have its origins in Piana degli Albanesi, a town near Palermo.
It’s history can be traced back to when Sicily was under Arab rule during the 10th and 11th centuries.
During this period, sugar and many almond based sweets were introduced to the island.
There is another legend that traces the origins of the cannoli to the province of Caltanissetta in the middle of Sicily. It was said to be made as a tribute to the Sultan.
The cannoli spread to the United States with the mass migrations of Sicilians in the 19th century. And today, this beloved sweet is found all over the world.
This Sicilian cannoli recipe is an authentic recipe and one that we learned to make in a cooking class in Palermo, Sicily.
The Italian cannoli is a wonderful meld of cultures, and easy to make in your own home kitchen.
Discovering Cannoli in Sicily
Already familiar with cannoli from the US, we couldn’t wait to try the famous Italian cannoli in Sicily.
Shortly after arriving in Sicily, we made a point to try cannoli wherever possible. With their widespread availability at every pastry shop and restaurant, we embarked on a delicious cannoli tasting journey.
After our faire share of mouthwatering cannoli, we decided to learn the authentic Sicilian cannoli recipe.
The Sicilian Pantry in Palermo focuses on authentic Sicilian traditional recipes and came highly recommended as one of the top cooking schools.
Michael, our patient cooking instructor, taught us the secrets of homemade cannoli.
And, we’re excited to share this cannoli siciliani recipe with you so that you can also savor the wonderful flavors at home.
Sicilian Ricotta Cannoli Recipe – How To Make Homemade Cannoli
As you get ready to make this Sicilian cannoli recipe at home, you want to drain the fresh ricotta at least a day or so in advance. Start by preparing the ricotta filling and then make your cannoli shells.
While you can use your favorite toppings for decorations, aim for pistachios and candied fruit for a true Sicilian experience.
For The Cannoli Shells
- 00 flour
- Durum wheat flour
- Caster sugar
- Lard or butter
- Marsala wine
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg white
For The Ricotta Filling
- Caster sugar
For The Decoration
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are looking for other Sicilian recipes to go with your cannoli, try these traditional and emblematic dishes.
Equipment You May Need For Your Sicilian Cannoli Recipe
- Pasta Machine – Making homemade cannoli shells from scratch is not difficult and only adds a few steps to the process. After you have prepared the dough, you want to roll out your dough fairly thin- about 1/16-inch or 1-2mm in thickness. Using a pasta machine makes the process of rolling out the dough much easier. Alternatively, you can also use a rolling pin.
- Cannoli Tubes – To easily create your cannoli shells, wrap them around non-stick, stainless stell cannoli molds. These cannoli tubes are 5-inches in length and they come in pack of 15 cannoli tubes.
- Kitchen Tongs – To fry the cannoli shells, use kitchen cooking tongs to hold the cannoli shells down. This will help you hold them down until they turn golden brown.
- Pastry Bag or Piping Bag – Using a pastry bag makes it easier to fill cannoli shells with fresh ricotta filling.
- Airtight Vacuum Packed Containers – While not technically a piece of equipment to make the cannoli recipe, vacuum containers are essential for storage purposes. If you have any extra cannoli shells and ricotta cream, storing them separately in airtight containers keeps them fresh longer.
Sicilian Cannoli Recipe Tips
Ricotta cheese is the most traditional filling used for Sicilian cannoli. In Sicily, the ricotta cheese used for cannoli is sheep ricotta cheese.
Outside of Sicily and Italy, finding sheep ricotta cheese can be difficult. However, it is easy to find ricotta cheese made from cow milk in most grocery stores.
We recommend this Organic Valley Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese for your cannoli recipe.
If you don’t want to use ricotta, you can substitute with cottage cheese. While cottage cheese may have similar flavors and fewer calories, the cannoli will not be as authentic as the ones from Sicily.
As ricotta is fresh cheese, we will drain it to make it to make the filling smooth and creamy.
If you use cottage cheese instead, you’ll use the same amount as you would for ricotta for a 1:1 ration. And, if it is watery, you may need to drain it too.
Cannoli Fillings Without Ricotta
If ricotta is hard to find, you can still make this cannoli recipe with other ingredients for the cannoli filling.
Cannoli Chocolate – To make a chocolate filling without ricotta cheese for your cannoli, simply mix two ingredients together.
You can make a lovely chocolate ganache by mixing equal amounts of chocolate and warm cream together. Simply warm the cream in a microwave, add in the chocolate and mix it until smooth.
Cannoli Pistachio – For a taste of Sicily, you can make Sicilian cannoli with pistachio cream. You can purchase pistachio cream on Amazon and stuff the cannoli shells with this deliciously decadent cream.
Alternatively, you can also make pistachio paste at home, by crushing fresh pistachio nuts in a food processor.
Blend it until smooth, adding a little water at a time, to make a creamy filling for the cannoli pistachio.
How To Prepare The Shell For Cannoli
The cannolo shell, the tube shaped fried pastry dough is best when made fresh. These homemade cannoli shells, also known as scorza, typically contain marsala wine, from the western part of the island.
To make the shell, we’ll roll the dough out thin and place it around a cannoli tube before frying.
- Traditionally, the cannoli tubes were made from fresh bamboo cane allowed to dry thoroughly. Today, you’ll find stainless steel, non-stick cannoli tubes easily available.
- Roll the dough thin for best results. Aim for about 1/16” or 1-2 mm thick.
- Lightly grease the cannoli tubes and then wrap the dough around the tubes. Seal the dough by applying a little egg white, between the dough, where they meet, without getting any on the tubes.
- When cooking the cannoli tubes in hot oil, they will try to float to the top. Use cooking tongs to hold them under until they cook golden brown.
- Allow the shell to rest on paper towel to absorb the oil and cool down after cooking. This will make it easier to pull out of the tubes.
How To Seal The Cannoli Dough
To help seal the dough around the non-stick cannoli tubes, you want to brush a little egg white on the dough.
Be careful not to avoid putting the egg whites on the tube and only seal the dough.
Premium Premade Cannoli Shells from Sicily
If you don’t want to make the cannoli shell from scratch, you can still enjoy delicious cannoli Siciliani.
Directly shipped from Sicily, you can enjoy traditionally made and ready-to-eat cannoli shells for your recipe.
These gourmet Giusto Sapore Sicilian cannoli shells are made in the Sicilian tradition and they can be shipped via Amazon to your home.
How Long Can You Keep The Shells?
Unfilled cannoli shells do not need to be refrigerated. In fact, if properly stored they can last up to two weeks.
- Keep the cannoli shells in an air tight, vaccum sealed container. Place the cannoli shells on paper towels inside the airtight container to absorb any extra moisture.
- Store cannoli shells in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight or oven/microwave.
Preparing the Ricotta Filling
Traditionally, Sicilian cannoli are made with sheep’s milk ricotta. The ricotta filling is made with just two ingredients. Fresh ricotta and caster sugar or baking sugar.
The key is to strain the ricotta cheese using a fine mesh sieve or let it dry for 24 to 48 hours. Then take the strained ricotta and whip it up to make a soft and creamy filling.
Once the filling is ready, use a pastry bag to fill the cannoli shells. The piping bag will make it easier to delicately fill the cannoli ahead of eating them.
How Long Can You Keep The Ricotta Filling?
Generally, you want to store the cannoli filling separately from the cannoli shells. Place any extra cannoli cream in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.
The cannoli cream can hold in the refrigerator for 1-3 days. You will notice the ricotta filling becomes watery, while stored.
This is to be expected. Simply mix the ricotta cream gently before putting it into a pastry bag to fill the cannoli shells.
When Can You Start Filling the Shell?
For the best cannoli eating experience, you want to fill the shells with ricotta cream just before eating.
Filled cannoli are best enjoyed freshly stuffed at the last minute before eating.
Sicilian Cannoli Step by Step Instructions
Make The Dough For Cannoli Shells
Mix all the ingredients together for the dough to make the cannoli shells. Knead several times until the dough becomes smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 30 mins.
Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough until about 1/16’ or 1-2mm thick. Alternatively, you can also use a rolling pin to roll out the dough.
Cut the dough into circles, big enough to fit around your cannoli molds.
Shape and Fry Cannoli Shells
Using a pastry cutter, cut out circles of cannoli dough about 4 to 5 inches in diameter or 10 to 12 cm wide.
Wrap the cannoli circles around the cannoli molds and then place them gently in large heavy pot of hot oil.
Fill and Decorate The Cannoli Shells
Once the cannoli shells have cooked golden brown, let them rest for a few minutes on a paper towel. Then, you want to gently fill them with the ricotta cream.
Fill your pastry bag with the ricotta cream and squeeze the ricotta filling individually into each cannolo. Decorate the cannoli with candied fruit or chopped pistachios for classic Italian cannoli.
Otherwise, you can also use mini chocolate chips, chocolate shavings or your favorite garnishings.
Sicilian Cannoli Recipe
For The Cannoli Shells
For The Ricotta Filling
- 4 cups ricotta
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- Place 00 flour, durum wheat flour, caster sugar and pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the lard or butter and work this into the flour mixture with your fingertips.
- Add the Marsala wine and vinegar and mix everything well.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it well on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes until smooth.
- Cover the dough with a plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough and fold it in half. Roll it out again and fold it in half again. Repeat this at least 7 times. Keep in mind, the more you fold it, the better. You may use a pasta machine, if you have one, or a rolling pin.
- Roll out the dough until it is about 1/16” or 1-2 mm thick. Using a pastry cutter, cut the dough into circles, large enough to comfortably wrap around your cannoli tube. Reuse any leftover dough to make the remaining dough circles.
- Lightly grease one cannolo tube, wrap the dough around it and seal it shut using some egg white. Be careful not to get any egg white between the dough and the cannolo tube.
- Heat up the lard or vegetable oil to around 360°F / 180°C. Cook the cannoli shell in the oil for about 3 to 5 minutes until they turn golden brown. Use a pair of kitchen tongs to hold the cannoli down in the frying oil, as they will try to float to the top.
- Remove the cannoli and set aside to one side and let them drain on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, gently pull out the cannoli tubes.
- Pass the ricotta cream filling through a fine mesh sieve to make sure it smooth.
- Whisk the sugar and ricotta cream together and keep the mixture in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
- Just before serving, fill a pastry bag with the ricotta cream and squeeze some into each cannolo.
- Dip one end of each cannolo into your desired topping – crushed pistachios, chocolate drops, or chocolate chips.
- On the other side, place a piece of candied orange peel.
- Dust the cannoli with powdered sugar and enjoy your delicious homemade Sicilian recipe.
- While lard from the butcher is typically used in Sicily to fry the cannoli, you can substitute with vegetable oil or canola oil
More Local Food Experiences and Recipes
Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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