A Sicilian staple, cannoli shells are a decadently sweet and creamy treat that will transport across the ocean to the shores of the Mediterranean. Luckily though, you don't actually need to hop on a plane over to Italy to enjoy these delicious ricotta and sugar-filled pastries, not with our homemade cannolis recipe!
In fact, all you're going to need are a few sweet and creamy ingredients (lots of ricotta), plenty of flour, a pasta machine, and oil for frying. Here's our decadent, homemade cannoli shells recipe!
4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp of sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1/3 cup of vegetable shortening
2 cups of Marsala wine
32 ounces of whole milk ricotta*
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of chocolate chips
1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
Pour your all-purpose flour, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl and give them a good mix using a fork or your hands.
Add the vegetable shortening to the mixing bowl and give everything another thorough mix together. Keep mixing the vegetable shortening into the flour until you've got a wet, almost sandy texture.
Now, pile the mixture into a large mound and use your fingers to form a well in the center of the mound. Pour your Marsala wine straight into the well.
Use your fingers to pull the flour into the well, slowly combining everything until you have a soft dough-like substance. Keep this up until all of the liquid and flour have been well combined together, and you have a dough-shaped ball that's slightly elastic in texture.
Take the ball of dough out of the mixing bowl and lay it down on a floured surface or cutting board.
Knead the ball of dough vigorously for at least 10 min. You will need to add more flour if the dough is too sticky. If it's much too dry, add another dash of Marsala wine!
When the dough has been thoroughly needed and is now super-elastic, wrap it up in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least one hour in the fridge (you can make your cannoli shell fillings while you wait for the dough to set).
After one hour, set up your pasta maker on the side and dust it over with flour.
To make things easier, give your ball of dough a once over with a rolling pin (or the wine bottle) to flatten it out. Then feed it through the pasta maker on the widest setting.
Feed your dough through at least two times, then fold the dough in half, and feed it through twice again. Keep putting flour down to stop the dough from sticking to the pasta machine.
Keep rolling the dough through and change the settings as the dough becomes thinner and thinner.
When you're happy with the thickness of the dough, place it down on a floured kitchen surface or cutting board and use a rounded cutter to produce dough circles.
Use a metal dowel (or cannoli forms if you have them) to roll the dough circles into a cannoli shape, shaping the dough around the metal to give it that cylindrical shape. Repeat until you've rolled all of your dough or run out of metal dowels!
Heat up oil in a fryer or large pot (large enough for deep frying).
Place your cannoli tubes into the oil and fry them until the dough has cooked into a bubbly brown texture. Repeat until you've fried up all of your cannoli shells.
Leave the shells to cool on the side, then remove them from their metal dowels.
Take your fillings (see further directions below) and use a piping bag to squeeze the fillings into the hollow center of the cannoli shells.
Strain your ricotta until it's no longer runny but has a thick, creamy texture.
Pour the strained ricotta, sugar, chocolate chips, cinnamon, and pistachios into a large mixing bowl.
Use a wooden spoon (or your hands!) to thoroughly combine everything together.
Allow the mixture rest then use a piping bag to squeeze the filling into the fried cannoli shells.
*The ricotta needs to be strained (or, at least not liquidy) before you start mixing it.
You can roll and press out cannoli shells by hand, using just a rolling pin (or even that Marsala Wine bottle), but it's going to take much more time and effort than using a pasta maker. That's why our directions below make things quicker and easier by incorporating a pasta machine into the process.
You'll have noticed that our recipe uses Marsala wine, which is a very specific type of fortified red wine that's traditionally used to make cannoli dough. Marsala wine originated in Sicily, so it's probably the most authentic wine to use for your homemade cannoli shells!
If you don't have any Marsala wine, however, then other fortified red wines will do the job just as well; they will have a slightly different flavor, however.
A pasta maker really does make your job a whole lot easier when you are rolling out cannoli shells. For the best shells, you need the dough to be super-super thin, or else they just won't be crispy when you deep fry them. It's hard to achieve this level of thinness without a pasta maker.
Of course, if you don't have a pasta maker, you have to make do with the rolling pin or wine bottle. Another option, of course, is finding pre-made cannoli shells in your local supermarket (although this is definitely cheating!).
Once you've fried your cannoli shells, they should keep for up to a week. You don't need to refrigerate them, just keep them at room temperature in a sealed box.
If you're making your ricotta filling in advance, this does need to be kept in the fridge. Store it in a sealed container and try to use it within three days, or it could start to go off.
Just as we use Marsala wine for authenticity, we also use ricotta in the recipe to make it more authentic. Ricotta cheese is the traditional filling, and to be honest, we love how creamy it is.
If you're not a fan of ricotta, then you can fill your cannoli shells with many more fillings too. Mascarpone cheese works well (baked cannoli shells with mascarpone are particularly delicious), or you could even get creative and try a savory filling!
Canoli shells are super rich and super creamy, so you might want to save a few of your delicious homemade pastries for later (it's tough, though, we know)! You can also save our homemade cannoli shells recipe for later, too, by bookmarking our cookery guide.
Cannoli shells are deliciously sweet and undeniably decadent, so there's no way you won't be returning to this recipe again in the future!