Secrets to Making Cannoli

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The holy cannoli trinity

Making cannoli at home can be an arduous task, but if you get it right you will be lauded as royalty by family and friends.

Cannoli have always been marginalized to the Italian pastry shop or your favorite Italian restaurant: and rightly so because getting the right consistency on the shell takes real know-how. The shell needs to be thin and shattering, slightly blistered, crispy but somewhat cake-like, and taste of light sweetness. And you need those tubes that look like hair rollers to make them hollow for the filling. Drop the whole thing into hot oil and hope for the best.

In actuality, making the dough for cannoli could not be simpler. After you make it once or twice the mystique starts to fade away, and you begin to realize these amazing pastries can easily be made in a Saturday afternoon – no trips to little Italy needed.

Dough for cannoli

In Sicily, the cannoli ends are flared like a horn. Why? So more filling can be piped in at the ends (Sicilians are intensely passionate about their dolci, and any time more sugar can be squeezed in, it is accommodated). There are two different filling types in Sicily: pastry cream and sweetened sheep’s milk ricotta. My preference is for ricotta, although the pastry cream is very good. My sister married into a Sicilian family and their stunningly delicious cannolis are pastry cream. But ricotta is what I grew up with and is more interesting to me. I like it’s rustic texture when it is combined with icing sugar and cinnamon. And you are using real ricotta for the filling, right?


Dough Ingredients (makes about one dozen cannoli)

400g all purpose flour
75 grams shortening
50 grams sweet white wine
35 grams sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Equipment needed:

Bowl of water
Pot with high sides, filled with 3 inches of cannola oil.
Cannoli tubes, metal or wood

  1. Combine the ingredients into a shaggy ball, and then wrap in plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight.
  2. When ready to make the cannoli, take the dough out and let it come to room temp. Take a piece and roll it out thin. Using a 3-in round cutter, cut out circles in the rolled out dough.
  3. Take a circle and roll it even thinner, so it is almost paper thin. Wrap the dough circle around a cannoli tube making sure the dough is firmly around the tube without much slack, dab your finger in the bowl of water, and wet one side of the seam you are about to make. Close the seam with the other side of the dough circle, and press to seal. Flare the ends with your fingers. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  4. When ready to fry, bring the oil up to 360 degrees. Drop in the cannoli tubes two at a time. “Baste” them with the oil, as they will float, to make sure they are cooking evenly. They should become golden brown and blistery. Remove from oil, place on a drip rack, and then remove tube immediately or they will stick after cooling.

Filling Ingredients

500g ricotta, drained
200g Icing sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Whisk the icing sugar and cinnamon into the ricotta until the mixture is somewhat smooth, but still rustic. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag, or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off, and fill the cooled cannoli shells from each side. You can add additional ingredients to the ends, including crushed pistachios, candied orange peel, or amarena cherries. Dust with icing sugar.

Have any secrets to making cannoli? Be sure to post them in the comments.


  1. Larry Cariglio says

    hi john you recipe looks great. we now buy our shells but will try your recipe and if we can get them to look like your will try them for special events. thanks Larry from

  2. Harrison West says

    definitely not enough liquid called for. just made the dough and it will not hold together at all.

  3. What is the secret to getting the blisters on the shell? I roll my shells to 1/16 inch thick and cook in 365 degree oil for 1 to 2 minutes. Sometimes they blister and sometimes they don’t! Frustrating. Any tips? Thanks!

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