Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
cannoli with ricotta cheese
Cannoli (Fried pastry shell filled with ricotta cheese and semi-sweet chocolate, decorated with pistachio nuts)
Originated from: Italy
Occasion: Special times
Contributed by: Taken from "The Complete Italian Cook Book: LA CUCINA" by Rose L. Sorce (Grosset & Dunlap, 1953)

Printer Friendly Version


Pastry shell:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Spry (shortening)
1/2 cup wine

Spry or Crisco for deep frying

3 tablespoons Ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups milk
8 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, ground
2 1/2 cups sugar

pistachio nuts, ground
Powdered sugar


For pastry shell:

Mix flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking powder, work in the Spry, then add wine a little at a time; knead well.

Take a piece of the dough the size of a nickel and roll it very thin, then put this loosely around a 3-inch long stock that is 1-inch round, and pinch ends together.

Deep fry in Spry or Crisco, and when nicely browned, remove carefully and place on brown paper to cool.

Carefully remove sticks from pastry by pushing gently through so as not to break the pastry.

For Filling:

Bring milk to a boil over a slow flame, mix in cornstarch and sugar combined, and add milk.

Allow to cook for 30 minutes, then set to cool.

Beat the cheese until creamy, add cornstarch custard, and ground chocolate, then beat until fluffy.

Fill the pastry shells on both ends, dip ends in ground pistachio nuts and top with powdered sugar.

Cannoli shells can be kept indefinitely in a cool place and filled as needed.


This recipe was taken from "The Complete Italian Cook Book: La Cucina" by Rose L. Sorce. It was published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1953. For the entire copyright-free cookbook see www.archive.org........... P.S. P Re. History of Cannoli: Cannoli originated in Sicily, dating back to the time of Arab domination. Cannoli's tube-shaped shells made of fried pastry dough are generally filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese or Italian custard. They range in size from mini (known as "cannulicchi") to extra large. Some food historians believe cannoli were once thought of as symbols of fertility and may have been served to harems. By the late 19th century cannoli were traditionally prepared in Sicily for the Carnival holidays. When Sicilians immigrated to North America they brought along their beloved desserts. In North America Italians did not celebrate Carnival with the same enthusiasm as they had in their home country, so cannoli did not become associated with this festivity. In the 1950s cannoli were generally served at weddings, baptisms and confirmations. Nowadays no one needs a "reason" to eat a cannoli -- they're eaten whenever the mood strikes. American television shows have popularized cannoli by making constant reference to them. In the T.V. series, "The Sopranos," Tony Soprano, a Mafia kingpin, indicates his love for the Italian dolci. One of the most quoted lines from the movie, "The Godfather," is [Believe it or not]: "Leave the gun, take the cannoli...." Even though Italian cooking is not known for its desserts, cannoli have made a big inroad in the North American market. They're incredibly popular with Italians and non-Italians as well. Making home-made cannoli shells is labor-intensive and frankly (i.e., according to this website's archivist, Mary Melfi) not worth the bother. Special equipment is needed and the ingredients are expensive (They require: flour, cocoa powder, butter and Marsala wine). However, now that store-bought cannoli shells are available, many people have started making their own fillings. Some fillings are rather easy to do. The one listed on a store-bought cannoli shell package suggests using: 1 cup ricotta, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cinnamon and that's it! However, I tried this recipe and found the filling was so thin, it spilled out of the cannoli shells. Supposedly, one should be able to make a ricotta filling for cannoli without the use of thickening agents, but I wasn't able to do so. Obviously, using "whole milk" ricotta helps, as "light" ricotta is thinner, still I think it's hard to get it right if one doesn't add something or other to thicken the ricotta (But that's only my opinion). The recipe presented in this entry I haven't tried so I can't give my opinion on it, but the cookbook, "La Cucina" has become a standard "textbook" for Italian cuisine, so it might very well be good. In any case, there are hundreds of recipes for cannoli on the internet and they're worth studying and finding out which one will work best for you.... Comments and photo of store-bought cannoli: Mary Melfi.

Back to main list