Sicilian cannoli, along with Sicilian Cassata, are the most representative cake of our island, and is typical of the Carnival because it seems it was made as a joke.
When we were kids, we often played this joke by making a cannolo and putting the ricotta cheese cream at the ends, while we put an absorbent cotton wad inside.
It was really funny, because the victim greedily bited the end thus finding the surprise!
In Sicily we call cannolo the faucet pipe where the water flows, and it is a metal rod that is used to make the casing (the so called “scorcia” i.e. rind in sicilian dialect) containing the cream.
But from the faucet it flows water instead from from the cannolo it flows… the cream! Hence the Carnival joke.
However, like all our greedy dishes, even this simple but fantastic cake is eaten throughout the year and at any time.
It is always a pleasure to bite this particular crispy pastry stuffed with fresh ricotta cream.
Crumbly and creaky cannoli are made throughout Sicily and, thanks to the skill of our pastry chefs, are different from place to place in the decorations.
For example, in Palermo, at the ends of cannolo normally they use to lay two beautiful candied cherries and on the top a slice of candied orange peel, while in eastern Sicily the minced Bronte’s pistachios dominate the scene.
Anyway the ricotta cream is the ingredient that can’t change, and it must strictly be really fresh sheep’s ricotta.
Recipe makes 32 cannoli shells, and enough filling for 32 shells. Serve each person 2 cannoli.
For the Shells:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 eggs plus 2 yolks
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/2 cup Marsala wine
- 1 egg white, beaten
- Vegetable oil, for frying
For the Filling:
- 16 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
- 6 tablespoons superfine sugar
- 2 tablespoons candied orange rind, chopped
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
- 1/4 cup chopped pistachios, (optional)
Place the flour on a work surface and make a well.
Place eggs, yolks, butter, Marsala wine in the well and combine them with a fork.
Gradually incorporate the flour, little by little.
Knead the dough until smooth, about 10 minutes.
Let rest, covered with a damp cloth, about 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Roll the dough very thin and cut into 4-inch squares with a pizza cutter.
Grease 3/4-inch cannoli tubes and roll the dough around them, sealing the overlap with beaten egg white.
Deep-fry them at 335 degrees F (170 C) until golden brown.
Cool and carefully slide them off the tubes.
Drain the ricotta cheese overnight in a cheesecloth-lined colander in the refrigerator.
The next day, place ricotta, sugar, orange rind, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla scrapings in the food processor and blend until very smooth.
Just before serving, pipe the filling into each shell with a pastry bag and large plain tip. Dip the ends in chopped pistachios if you like.
You can make your own distinct variation of Cannoli.
Try adding cocoa, orange juice, chocolate shavings, maraschino cherries, small pieces of dried apricot or other dried fruit, candied cherries or other candied fruit to the ricotta filling mixture.
Garnish your cannoli with confectioners’ sugar to give a pretty finished look.
Flavoring Cannoli Shells
Why not add a tablespoon of cocoa to the shell mixture to give the cannoli shells a delicious chocolate look and taste.