Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Family Cannoli Shell Recipe and Cannoli Filling Recipe

family cannoli shell recipe and cannoli filling recipe
The results of my family cannoli shell recipe.
Cannoli are an Italian treat that my family traditionally makes during the winter holidays. My mom and I usually make a few batches to share with family and friends. In recent years, though, I've also made several hundred cannoli for my own holiday parties. Yum! They fly off the table.

Our beloved family cannoli shell recipe, however, is old and cryptic. It's written on a decades-old index card that's set to crumble any day now, and it's not in English . . . it's in Mom-code: written by Mom not as a recipe, but as a memory aid. It omits crucial steps, presents them out of order, and cryptically lists ingredients. Figuring it out each year results in a few good laughs . . . and a few mishaps. Lucky for me, I've ironed out the questionable index card involved and present clear instructions for my (and your) future reference in this post!

image of family cannoli shell recipe and cannoli filling recipe
I dipped the end of the cannoli shell into walnuts and chocolate chips.
That's why I'm doing myself the favor of getting the whole cannoli shell recipe down on paper and putting it up here. I hope that my lovely readers will be able to enjoy both the photos I took this season and the recipe, straight from my family kitchen! The shells are crispy and slightly sweet with a hint of cinnamon. The sweetened ricotta filling tastes like fresh cream and is accented with cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest.

If you want to make your own, just follow the cannoli shell recipe below. I'd suggest recruiting some dessert-loving friends to help you! It makes the process much easier. Complete the filling before your helpers arrive. Let it chill in the fridge so that you can all enjoy a cannoli right after you're done making shells.

If you'd like to make a mini cannoli shell recipe, there's no big secret. Just use the recipe below and roll out less dough so that it covers less of the cannoli form when you wrap it around. This creates a perfect mini cannolli. I've made several hundred mini cannoli shells, each about 2 inches long, using this technique.
picture of cannoli shell recipe and cannoli filling recipe
Cannoli cut in half to show the filling, which includes chocolate chips.

Cannoli Shell Recipe

Makes 30 to 40 cannoli shells

Frying Equipment and Ingredients:
1.  Stainless steel cannoli forms. I'd recommend having about 8 forms on hand.   
2.  Deep fryer or closest equivalent. I'm afraid of hot oil, so after discovering mini deep-fryers, I've never gone back to the stovetop version. I use a mini countertop deep fryer. My mom is brave, so she uses a pot that will hold a few cannoli shells at a time and about 5 inches of vegetable oil for deep frying, a candy thermometer to measure the oil temperature, a large spoon or tongs to remove cannoli from oil, paper towel and a wire cooling rack.
3.  A quart of oil should be sufficient. Canola or peanut oil will work well. Do not use corn oil or sunflower seed oil.

Cannoli Shell Ingredients:
4 c. flour (17 oz, if you have a scale)
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. shortening
1 whole egg and 2 yolks for batter (reserve the two left-over egg whites for later use in sealing cannoli shells)
  1. Measure ingredients, lightly oil the cannoli forms, and then set up the frying station. Start heating the oil, and keep an eye on the temperature as you mix the dough. Bring the oil to 350F.
  2. Cut shortening into flour until it is pea-sized or smaller using a pastry blenderpicture of cannoli shell recipe and cannoli filling recipe, then add sugar and cinnamon. Mix.
  3. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add vinegar, 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks. Mix until fully incorporated - it should be a little dry - and then knead briefly.
  4. Tear off a section (maybe about a quarter of the total dough) and roll into rope. Tear a few walnut-sized pieces off the rope and, using a rolling pin, roll them out into thin ovals slightly less than the length of the cannoli form and just large enough to wrap around the cannoli form and slightly overlap. Don't make the ovals paper thin or else the finished shells will be weak, and will collapse when bitten into. As mentioned earlier, if you'd like to make mini cannoli, just make a smaller oval that only covers about half of the length of the cannoli form.
  5. Wrap each oval around a cannoli form. Lightly beat the egg whites you've set aside, and where the edges of the oval overlap, glue the dough to itself using a dab of egg white.
  6. Once all of your cannoli forms are wrapped in raw dough and the oil has reached 350F, lay paper towels out on a tray or counter top near the pot, and carefully lower two or three dough-wrapped cannoli forms into the pot of oil (or place them in the deep fryer). When the shells are golden brown (this only takes a few minutes, so watch closely), remove them from the oil and place them on paper towels. Continue with remaining cannoli forms.
  7. Once cool to the touch, gently slide the cannoli shells off of the forms. Twist the form to loosen it, if needed. If the shells look white inside, it means that the outside cooked too quickly, and you should lower the temperature of the oil so that they cook more evenly.
  8. Continue rolling out and wrapping the rest of dough until all shells have been made.
  9. Once all shells are completely cooled, you can store them in Ziploc bags in the freezer until ready to use. If you store them in open air or at room temperature, the humid air might make the shells soggy or stale.
picture of family cannoli shell recipe
cannoli shell recipe
picture of family cannoli shell recipe
Cannoli shells on the cooling rack.

Cannoli Filling Recipe

(Makes about 2 quarts. Fills about about 40 cannoli.)

8 cups whole milk ricotta (64 oz.) DO NOT USE LOW FAT RICOTTA!
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar (my mom would suggest using 2 cups...)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated orange peel
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips (optional, for adding to filling)
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings (optional, for ends of cannoli)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, for ends of cannoli)
1/2 cup powdered sugar for dusting

  1. If ricotta is watery, drain it first.
  2. Mix ricotta, vanilla, 3 cups powdered sugar, ground cinnamon, and freshly grated orange peel. The cannoli filling will be easier to work with if you let it cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. You can also store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Assembling the cannoli:
  1. You can refrigerate the filling until you need it, but no more than 3 or 4 days. You can also keep the shells in an airtight ziplock bag at room temperature until needed!
  2. If desired, mix mini chocolate chips to the filling right before filling the cannoli shells. It's best to add them right before filling the shells, because if you let them sit in the filling overnight, they'll get soggy.
  3. Use a pastry bag or a large plastic Ziploc bag with a corner cut off to pipe the filling into the cannoli shells. Fill shells shortly before serving to avoid soggy cannoli.
  4. If desired, dip the ends of each cannoli in walnuts and/or chocolate chips.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar, and serve.

picture of family cannoli shell recipe
I dipped the end of each cannoli shell in melted chocolate.
This year, I dipped the end of each cannoli shell in melted chocolate and let it harden before filling them. One lucky cannoli recipient's shell, however, was entirely coated in chocolate. Joy!

Hope you like this one,



KB @ Florida Car said...

I am reading this on Christmas Eve and I am drooling. The Pictures look beautiful and these cannoli are one of the best desserts. Thank you.

BakerGal said...

Thanks, KB! These are one of my favorites, too, and this recipe in particular is close to my heart!

M said...

I have never thought about making my own shells. I'd go to the italian bakery to pick some up. The shells are a bit expensive, so I figured I'd learn to make some. I was wondering though. I've seen a few other dough recipes and none have the amount of vinegar that yours has. Is this typical?

BakerGal said...

Hi Marge! Since vinegar is the only major liquid source (other than the eggs) you do need the full 3/4 cup. Unfortunately, I can't speak to other versions of cannoli shell recipes...this traditional family recipe has always served me well, so I've never had a need to look into other options. Best of luck!

mini deep fyers said...

You have a very interested post, you got the topic right and you discuss it well. Thanks for the information that you've shared. Good Luck!

Jose said...

I just wanted to let you know I tried out this cannoli shell recipe for a catering event and everyone had high compliments for them. I made them miniature sized and I followed the ingredients exactly. I doubled the recipe with no problem and I used a tabletop fryer with a 6 Liter capacity filled with Canola Oil. All 60 cannolis for the event were eaten up and the extra 20 I made for my family and friends. Needless to say I am committed to making them again because now I want everyone to try them. Thank You very much!!

BakerGal said...

Hi Jose,

I'm glad you tried these out, and that you and your guests enjoyed them as much as my family does! Thanks for the positive feedback! :)


chrispi2 said...

my daughter is having her senior recital for college and decided we are holding an Italian recption----I will be doing a LOT of these cannoli!

BakerGal said...

Wonderful! Be sure to set aside plenty of time. I hope you enjoy the results!

Anonymous said...

can butter be used? or does it have to be shortening?

BakerGal said...


No, it has to be shortening. Butter has a very different fat to water content, and will not work in a substitute in this recipe.


Anonymous said...


My family will not do ricotta. could I substitute with marscopana(sp ?) and if so is it of equal measurement ? Thank you!

BakerGal said...

Yes! You certainly can. It's a one-for-one substitution. As always, though, season to taste as you go, based on your own preferences.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe!!!! I just finished making the shells and will be making the filling tomorrow!

I usually buy the shells but have not been able to find any for YEARS! So I started buying them from the Publix bakery (which are to die for) but the fact I can MAKE these from scratch? So awesome!
I'll let you know how fast they go! :)


BakerGal said...

You're welcome, Liezele!!

I'm so happy that you made the shells and reported back! I hope they're a hit!


Anonymous said...

Can I make the filling the night before and store it in the fridge since they have to be filled right before serving? TIA. Im also thinking of making the shells the night before, do they have to be stored in room temperature , in a air tight container ? Fridge? Thank you. Cant wait to try these, found you on pinterest. Definitely pinning! !!!!

BakerGal said...

Yes! In fact, that's what I almost always do (refrigerate the filling and fill the shells the next day or before whenever the event is). I should put that as a note in the recipe.... As for the shells, yes, you can also store them. Keep them in an airtight ziplock back or container until you're ready to use them. I've kept them at room temp in the past until needed. Hope you like them!!

Anonymous said...

Awesome, thanks for the quick response. Ill be making these for Easter! Super excited to try something new!

Anonymous said...

do you chill the dough or is it ok to make the dough one night, and chill it till the next night(let the dough warm up a bit after taking it out of the fridge) and make the shells then?

BakerGal said...

I've never chilled the dough (that I can remember) but I think it should be okay to chill and then bring it up to room temp to proceed the next day. I'll check with my mom to be sure, though, as she should hopefully know the definitive answer! She and I are in different time zones, so I'll post her answer here tomorrow!

BakerGal said...

I double checked with my mom about whether it would be okay to refrigerate the dough. She said that she doesn't know for sure, as she's never tried it either, but she doesn't think it would hurt. She says that she thinks it's worth trying (as long as you have the time to experiment!) and if there's a problem, the dough isn't hard to make again. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Can you bake the shells in muffin tins if you don't have the molds?

BakerGal said...

I've never tried it, and don't have an intuition as to whether it would work. The recipe is built for the shells to be deep-fried. I'm just not sure whether brushing them with oil and baking them would be successful. If you try it, please report back! :)

Anonymous said...

Just saw your recipe, and would like to use this for Easter brunch. Looking forward to trying the baking method. Will just try a few, if doesn't work, will fry. If as good as you say, will put a gold star and keep in my recipe book for future use, (like golden anniversary celebration). Thank you so much.

BakerGal said...

Glad you are giving it a try! I never heard back from the reader who wanted to try baking the shells, but my strong guess at this point is that baking won't work...I'm curious to hear whether you can confirm this! Best of luck!

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