Desserts

how to make italian dessert cannoli

This Italian dessert is a cream pastry filled with sweetened ricotta, chocolate chips, and candied fruit. It's usually shaped into a tube or a cone and then deep-fried in oil.

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How to make italian dessert cannoli

Cannoli!! This recipe makes a crisp and flaky cannoli shell enclosing a lusciously creamy, sweet ricotta filling which is dotted with decadent dark chocolate chips. In other words, pure dessert bliss! These homemade Italian pastries may require a little more effort than some other desserts but they are well worth it!

Looking for more cannoli inspired desserts? Try these flavors in my cannoli cupcakes, dip, cheater cones, ice cream, cream puffs, and bite size treats!

Reading: how to make italian dessert cannoli

Cannoli on a serving platter, showing one close up.

These cannoli taste just like the best ones I’ve gotten at Italian bakeries! They have the perfect combination of flavors and textures.

The cannoli shells are perfectly tender and flaky, like a flake away in your mouth kind of texture.

The ricotta cannoli filling is rich and deliciously sweetened, and those little flecks of mini dark chocolate chips swirled throughout just amp up that already immensely satisfying flavor.

But if you still want to boost flavor you can add extra cinnamon, orange zest, maraschino cherries, or vanilla to the filling. And optionally finish by dipping ends in crunchy pistachios.

Read more: dessert shots to make at home

Don’t be scared away by the number of steps in this recipe, the first time will likely go slow but once you get the hang of it these cannoli will become a breeze to prepare. And they may even become a new holiday or party tradition!

These delectable Italian delicacies are truly worth learning to make!Overhead image of two rows of homemade ricotta filled cannoli on a serving platter.

Ingredients Needed to Make Cannoli Shells

  • Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter
  • Marsala wine
  • Egg and egg white
  • Vegetable oil

Ingredients Needed to Make Cannoli Filling

  • Whole milk ricotta
  • Powdered sugar
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon
  • Pistachios (optional)

Ingredients shown here that are used to make cannoli shells and cannoli filling.

Special Equipment Needed:

  • food processor
  • rolling pin and metal tongs
  • 4-inch round or oval cookie cutters
  • cannoli forms (I have these)
  • piping bag and large round tip (or a gallon size ziploc bag with a snipped corner will work too)

How to Make Cannoli Shells

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Pulse in butter.
  3. Add marsala wine and egg and pulse to bring together.
  4. Transfer to oiled bowl, cover and rest dough.
  5. Heat oil in pot.
  6. Roll dough out very thin on a floured surface.
  7. Cut into rounds or ovals (about 4-inches each).
  8. Wrap rounds around greased cannoli forms, brush top or bottom edge with egg white to seal shut.
  9. Fry in preheated oil until golden brown and crisp, about 1 – 2 minutes.
  10. Remove cannoli shells and drain on paper towels.
  11. Remove shells from forms, let forms cool and repeat process.
  12. Make cannoli filling.
  13. Let shells cool completely then fill with cannoli filling.

Steps of making cannoli shell dough in a food processor.Steps to rolling cannoli shell dough, cutting into rounds, wrapping around forms, frying and removing from forms.

Can I Make the Dough without a Food Processor?

Yes, mixture can also be made by hand. To do so:

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Cut butter into dough using a pastry cutter or fork.
  3. Mix in egg and marsala wine with a wooden spoon. Add more wine to bring together.
  4. Knead briefly to a shaggy ball. Proceed with resting and frying as directed.

Homemade fried cannoli shells on a baking sheet shown before filling. Homemade fried cannoli shells on a baking sheet shown before filling.

How to Make Cannoli Filling

The filling is the easiest part of the recipe. All you need to do is:

  1. Strain ricotta.
  2. Add ricotta, sugar, chocolate chips and cinnamon to a mixing bowl.
  3. Fold and stir mixture to blend.

How to Strain Ricotta

  • Shortcut tip: I like to use a brand of ricotta that’s not runny (such as Galbani), then I spread across paper towels, cover with more paper towels and press out some of the extra moisture and roll up, then unroll and drop into bowl.
  • For wetter ricotta here is a link that shows two straining methods.

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Steps to making cannoli filling in a mixing bowl and piping into cannoli shells.

How to Store Cannoli and How Long do They Keep?

Cannoli shells should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, they should keep well for 1 week. The filling should be stored in the refrigerator separately from the shells, it should keep well for about 5 days.

How to Fix Cannoli Shells that Aren’t Crisp?

If you follow this recipe precisely you shouldn’t need this step at all, but just in case this will solve the issue. If you do happen to end with not so crispy cannoli shells you can place them on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet and bake them at 250 degrees in the oven until crisp, about 5 – 10 minutes. Don’t attempt to do this with the cream filled cannoli shells though of course.

Cannoli with ricotta and chocolate chip filling on a white serving platter.

Possible Variations and Substitutions

Regionally there are several authentic variations of cannoli so you can switch things up as you like. You can:

  • Use shortening or lard in place of butter in shells. Fry in vegetable oil, shortening, lard, peanut oil or refined coconut oil.
  • Go with granulated sugar in place of powdered sugar (but stir enough to dissolve any grittiness).
  • Add 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder or 1/4 tsp cinnamon to the cannoli shell recipe for a light background flavor.
  • Use white wine for marsala wine. For a no wine option use grape juice or water and vinegar as noted in recipe.
  • Add orange zest, chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips, chopped maraschino cherries, cinnamon, vanilla extract or vanilla bean to filling.
  • Dip each end of of finished cannoli shells in melted chocolate. Let set in fridge before filling.
  • After filling cannoli, dip each end in unsalted chopped pistachios.
  • Add mascarpone to the filling. Use 8 oz in place of 8 oz ricotta, smooth it out first by pressing against a bowl with a spatula before adding remaining filling ingredients.
  • Take a major shortcut if time doesn’t allow and use store-bought shells and just use the filling recipe here.
  • Dust with powdered sugar to your hearts content before serving.

Cannoli bitten into to show flaky layers and crispy texture along with ricotta and chocolate chip filling.

Tips for the Best Cannoli

  • Allow time for dough (gluten in it) to relax, it makes it easier to roll and work with.
  • Roll dough super thin or shells won’t end up crispy.
  • Bring oil to proper temperature using a deep fry or candy thermometer (otherwise shells can end up soft or burnt), maintain the temperature.
  • Strain moisture from ricotta! Otherwise it will be soupy once the sugar is added.
  • Serve cannoli within 1 hour of filling for crispiest results. The moisture of the ricotta will seep into the shells after a while and soften them.

More Delicious Desserts You’ll Love

  • Lemon Ricotta Cake
  • Ricotta Cookies
  • Butter Cookies
  • Puff Pastry Tarts with Ricotta Cream Filling

Originally published February 17, 2015. Recipe, text and photos have all been updated February 27, 2020. Recipe has been improved to include whole egg (the white makes for a flakier shell).

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