Sicilian cannolo

The Sicilian cannoli is a traditional dessert typical of Sicilian pastry making.
It is a pride of Sicily, together with cassata and almond pastries, among the most loved and well-known desserts in the world.
A fried dessert, originally reserved for Carnival but now widespread, is produced and enjoyed all year round. The name “cannolo” derives from the river reeds on which, originally, the dough was rolled out into a “pastry” shape and cut with artisanal molds, thus giving it the typically rhomboidal shape. Subsequently, just as it was once done, these shapes are rolled transversally on small rods, now on metal cylinders, and finally fried in lard. This typical crunchy waffle full of bow-tie-shaped bubbles, which in Sicily we call zest, 10 to 20 cm long with a diameter of 4 or 5, is filled with sheep's ricotta cream and chocolate chips, and then dusted with sugar icing. The ends of the cannoli, however, are decorated with candied cherry and orange peel.
Like all regional recipes, even for Sicilian cannoli there are secrets and versions that change from city to city or from family to family: there are those who choose to add cocoa and Marsala to the dough, just like we did. Others, however, also use coffee or cinnamon to flavor the base.
The traditional recipe involves the use of sheep's ricotta, but there are also variations in the Ragusa area in which the lighter and more delicate cow's milk ricotta is used.
The important thing is that the ricotta is very fresh, possibly artisanal and very dry. For this reason it is advisable to let it drain in the refrigerator, inside a colander, for a whole night.
And if the ricotta must be soft and creamy, the cannoli wafer must be light and crunchy, golden and with the typical bubbles on the surface: once bitten into, together with the ricotta, it must have the right degree of crumbliness to be fully savored.
In Palermo we find razor clams as a variant, that is, cannoli in a reduced form, the size of a finger, but with the same flavour. On the contrary, in the Piana degli Albanesi area, giant cannoli were born, for the more adventurous and lovers of sweets. In the Trapani area, as in Dattilo and Fulgatore, there are cannoli which are always large in size but with coarser, less elaborate ricotta and with less sugar.
To take advantage of the work, we can make the cannoli wafers in advance and store them in a food bag or airtight container. But the fundamental rule is one: the cannoli must be filled at the last moment to enjoy all their crunchiness! If the ricotta and the zest remain in contact for a long time (over 30 minutes), the latter becomes moist and loses its crunchiness.
For the filling, the ricotta is sifted with icing sugar, more or less vigorously depending on the consistency you want to give it, be it more wrinkled and rough or more creamy and soft. There are also various decorations such as chopped dried fruit or more creative reinterpretations, such as the decomposed cannoli, in which the ingredients are the classic ones but assembled in a whimsical way: placed on the plate, arranged in layers to form a turret, or served in a glass, like a tiramisu.
The Sicilian cannoli is perfect for a birthday buffet and as a dessert at the end of the meal. Cannolo and coffee are often a valid excuse for a short trip out of town with friends and relatives.
To prepare them at home, we admit, it takes some time, but for those who want to try their hand at this rich and tasty dessert, all they will have to do is follow the steps in the recipe. In the end, you will see, they are not even too difficult to prepare.


Total time 1 not 35 minutes
  • 300 g farina 00
  • 30 g lard
  • 30 g sugar
  • 3 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 whole egg at room temperature
  • 60 ml Marsala liqueur or dry white wine
  • 1 spoonful of white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • water or egg white to taste for welding the external edges

For the filling

  • 1 kg sheep's ricotta drained and dry
  • 400 g sugar
  • chocolate chips to taste

For decoration

  • icing sugar to taste
  • candied orange peels to taste
  • candied cherries to taste
  • chopped pistachios to taste optional

A mano

  • In a bowl sift the flour together with the cocoa. Add the diced lard and sugar.

  • Sand the flour with your hands, dispersing the lard with your fingertips. Add the whole egg and continue kneading. Add the salt and slowly pour in the vinegar and Marsala.

  • Continue kneading until you obtain a non-sticky, smooth, homogeneous and elastic dough. Form a ball, wrap it in cling film and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

In planetaria

  • Insert all the ingredients at once and knead with a dough hook and finish it quickly on the work surface. You should obtain a non-sticky, smooth, homogeneous and elastic dough.

  • Form a ball, wrap it in cling film and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

  • Take the dough cut into pieces, crush it with your hands and with the help of a sheeter or rolling pin, obtain a sheet with a thickness of 1 mm. If you use a sheeter, start with the widest roller, reducing the thickness each time. With my sheeter I get up to n.6. Trim the edges to obtain regular contours.

  • Obtain the shapes by applying some pressure until cutting the dough with a 10-12 cm round pastry cutter or with the appropriate diamond-shaped tool. If you don't have either of the two, just create squares with sides of 10-12 cm, in the end the result is the same.

  • With your hands, slightly stretch only two opposite sides. The shape you made with the pastry cutter will become oval, while those made with the appropriate tool will have the two longer and more pronounced ends.

  • Now, place the cannoli barrel or cylinder on the carved dough: the long sides of the dough should be approximately as long as the barrel.

  • Close the dough from the short side. Starting first from a flap, moisten with very little water which you will need to seal so that the cannoli does not open during cooking. Then, overlap the other flap by applying pressure.

  • It is important that the mixture does not adhere completely to the entire cane, it must remain soft and not tense. During cooking, it will tend to swell and will cling completely to the barrel, leaving a small gap to be able to remove the cannoli once it has cooled.

  • As soon as they are ready, fry them in lard in a large, high pan. Dip the cannoli a couple at a time at a temperature of 170-175°C. During cooking, very crumbly bubbles will form. Turn them delicately with a slotted spoon. After about 3-5 minutes they will be ready. Do not cook for too long, otherwise they will taste burnt. They should have a slightly golden color. After drying they will tend to darken.

  • As soon as the pods are ready, let them drain in a basket or on absorbent paper, and wait until they are lukewarm before delicately removing them from the barrel. Let them cool completely.

  • While the waffles cool, prepare the filling. All you have to do is sieve the ricotta and mix it with the sugar. Better if you prepare it the day before. The chocolate chips should only be added before the filling.

  • Now, fill the cannoli with the ricotta cream, you can use a piping bag or, as per tradition, a large, flat knife, similar to a spatula.

  • At this point all you have to do is decorate them. Then add a sprinkling of icing sugar, candied fruit, oranges and cherries and if you want it special also some chopped pistachios.

The pastry scraps can be fried and dusted with icing sugar as if they were carnival chiacchiere. Alternatively you can create a “decomposed cannoli” by alternating them with the ricotta cream.
For a crispy wafer even after filling, we recommend filling them just a few moments before serving them. Especially if you have guests!
Resting in the refrigerator will risk making the wafer too moist, causing it to soak.

If you have any leftover pods, you can store them in the pantry in food bags or airtight containers for a few weeks.


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