Cannoli has to be one of the greatest treasures of Sicilian cuisine. It was certainly one of my favorite desserts growing up and is always a hit with our family during the holidays. Growing up in an Italian-American community like Rochester, NY, cannoli was readily available at the numerous Italian bakeries and delis and even at Wegman's grocery store. But alas, here in the Pacific Northwest, if you want cannoli you have to make it yourself. Although making the shells is a lot of work, you really end up with a superior product. Homemade shells should be light, crisp and shatter when you bite into them. The ricotta cream filling should be smooth and not grainy. It is important to strain the ricotta overnight in cheesecloth to drain off some of the water. I sweeten mine with powdered sugar and flavor it with a little vanilla extract, mini chocolate chip morsels and just a hint of fresh orange zest. I am not a fan of the candied fruit that appears in some recipes but sometimes I add a little goat cheese to the ricotta in an effort to approximate the tanginess of sheepsmilk ricotta that would be available in Sicily.
Never fill your cannoli shells before serving time nor should you purchase cannoli that are already filled because the shells will become soggy if they sit for too long.
If you are not familiar with cannoli you should know that cannoli is actually the plural form of cannolo. But who ever orders just one cannolo? And if you did, the clerk would probably look at you like you had a third eye. Common usage prevails here in America so feel free to call one of these pastry tubes a cannoli and use an "s" to pluralize it if you wish. The next time someone asks you to bring the dessert to a party, remember the advice of Peter Clemenza in The Godfather, "leave the gun, take the cannoli."
We would love to hear from all you cannoli lovers so please post your comments about the best cannoli you have had and where to get them.
cannoli tubes wrapped with pastry dough and ready to fry
Shea Mielke enjoys the first of many cannoli