Italian Cannoli Recipe

Cannoli is an Italian dessert made from deep-fried pastry. The tube-shaped shell ranges in size from 9 to 20 cm in length. They are filled with a sweet, creamy filling made from ricotta cheese, lemon zest, and chocolate chips and are commonly garnished with candied orange slices and a dusting of icing sugar. Cannoli are also known as cannoli Siciliani. This is because they originated in the region of Sicily. It is an Italian tradition to serve these sweet treats with a sweet dessert wine, coffee, or espresso as they all pair perfectly with the pastry and filling, and the cannoli is always best served chilled.

There are many names for cannoli around the world, such as Kannoli in Malta and Kanojët in Albania, but they all mean the same thing. Cannoli, in my opinion, is the best Italian dessert. There’s nothing that compares to it as they are truly irresistible. Although they are not the most healthy because of the number of calories they contain, they can be enjoyed as a treat now and again. Many people experiment while making cannoli and add some chopped pistachios or other nuts to add that extra crunch, so feel free to adjust our recipe to your preference. My partner came home one day after writing articles in a cafe and told me about a lovely Italian bakery that he came across.

That was the first time he had tried cannoli, and from then, it became a regular occurrence from then. He told me about the flavour of the cannoli with the freshly brewed coffee, and even though they were expensive, he insisted that it helped him write better. After his first bite, he explained that it was the nicest thing he had ever eaten, and I didn’t understand until I tried it myself. The flavour is moreish, not too sweet, not too salty. You could eat a lot of these.

When lockdown 2020 began, he stopped being able to visit this bakery, so he asked me if I could attempt making it. On a whim, I got the children to help me mix together some ingredients we had in the cupboard and fridge, and they came out perfect the first time. I couldn’t believe it. Then I lost the recipe, it had been taken down, and I couldn’t remember all of the ingredients. I tried other recipes, and they were just not the same. I then began experimenting, watching videos, searching blogs, and I made my own variation, and this recipe is just the same as the one in that bakery.


For the shells

  • Butter (3 tbsp)
  • Demerara Sugar (2 tbsp)
  • Cinnamon (1 tsp)
  • Medium Egg (1) + egg white (1)
  • Plain White Flour (1 1/2 cups)
  • Sweet Marsala Wine (3 tbsp)
  • Fine Sea Salt (1 pinch)
  • Oil (any high smoke point flavourless oil such as ground nut)

For the filling

  • Ricotta (250g)
  • Chopped bittersweet chocolate around 75% dark (30g)
  • Powdered sugar (1/2 cup)
  • Candied orange (optional)
  • Lemon zest (optional)
  • Orange zest (optional)

How to make Cannoli shells

Add flour, cinnamon, salt and sugar into a bowl mix well until combined, add in the butter and mix with a spoon until it resembles crumbs like an apple crumble topping would look. Once you have your crumbs texture add in the 1 egg and 3 tbsp of masala wine and stir until combined. (Do not rush this part do it slowly and you will have the best outcome.)

When a dough is formed place onto a floured surface and need well for 5 minutes, add more flour if it is too sticky as you want it to be pliable and not wet.  Place into a floured bowl for 1 hour in the fridge before moving to the next part. Once the dough is set in the fridge put onto a well floured surface and roll out thinly and cut out circle shapes with a cookie cutter.

Heat the oil in a pan for medium to deep frying, wrap the pastry around your cannoli moulds and seal the edge with your egg white. Once the oil is hot enough put in your cannoli until golden brown. lay your cooked cannoli on kitchen paper to drain any excess oil off. Continue cooking in batches until you are happy with the amount made.

To make Cannoli filling

In a medium glass bowl mix together the powdered sugar, ricotta cheese and chocolate chips with the optional lemon or orange zest. Mix together until combined. Once the shells have cooled remove them from the moulds and pipe in the ricotta filling, you can decorate with chopped nuts or more chocolate and a dusting of powdered sugar to look the part.

Frequently asked questions

What is cannoli filling made of?

Cannoli filling is made up of icing sugar, ricotta, and lemon zest with the optional chopped dark chocolate.

Are cannolis bad for you?

Cannolis are a sweet pastry that is high in calories which makes them bad for you, these delicious treats should only be enjoyed as a treat and should not be eaten every day.

Is Cannoli a type of pasta?

Yes in the simple form it is a deep-fried pasta pastry with the addition of sugar and marsala wine so it cannot be eaten as a pasta dish with tomato (that would be weird)

Do you eat cannoli warm or cold?

It is recommended you eat cannoli chilled straight from the fridge as the ricotta can spoil and lose its creamy texture. It is not recommended to eat the shells warm as the filling will melt and go watery.

How to store cannoli?

You can freeze cannoli shells for 1 month however if they are filled with the ricotta they will last up to 3 days in the fridge.

What is the correct way to eat cannoli?

Traditionally they are eaten by hand, it would be very unlikely to see someone eat it with a fork or spoon.

Is it called a Cannoli or Cannolo?

The different terms can seem very confusing especially when they are often used incorrectly. In Italy, Cannollo is singular and refers to one whereas cannoli means more. This is where It gets confusing, in England, people say Cannoli when referring to one pastry, and the word Cannolo is rare. For example, in a sentence, you would say: “Please can I have three cannolis or please can I have one Cannolo".

What does cannoli taste like?

Cannoli pastry is crunchy, buttery, and has a sweet cinnamon aftertaste whereas the filling is creamy and sweet with a cocoa taste from the chocolate the filling and pastry pair so well together.

Can I use mascarpone for the filling?

Yes, mascarpone is a great substitute for ricotta as a filling however it will increase the amount of saturated fat making it more unhealthy.

Other popular filling variations for cannoli?

Adding pistachios and other chopped nuts to the ricotta filling will add a crunchy nutty element that is very popular in Italy.

Why is my cannoli filling watery?

Always make sure when making the filling to drain the ricotta well as it holds water on top, make sure you are adding enough icing sugar to the ricotta and this should make it less watery.

Uses for leftover cannoli cream?

The cannoli filling is yummy on top of crepes, parfaits, or for topping cupcakes.

Italian Cannoli Recipe (Video)


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