In San Francisco, my boyfriend and I were walking through Little Italy and stopped into a bakery that was overflowing with Italian treats.  It was full of cookies, pastries, gelato, just all the classics, but the cannoli is what caught my eye.  It was big and bursting with cream and damn it was good. We split it while walking down the street and I swear I almost went and bought another one.

This week I thought, heck, why not try it myself?  I discovered it was difficult to find a traditional recipe that used Sicilian Marsala wine and red wine vinegar (not enough Italian grandmas have baking blogs I guess), but came across this recipe from Rosetta Constantino’s Southern Italian Desserts cookbook.  If you cannot find Marsala wine, a dry white wine will also work.

Also a word of warning, the filling is so good you’re going to want to pipe it directly into your mouth.

Shell Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp Marsala wine, plus more if needed (can also use dry white wine)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 large egg white (for sealing shells)
  • Neutral tasting vegetable oil for frying (I used canola)

Filling Ingredients

  • 3 cups ricotta, drained in cheesecloth overnight (I used a strainer lined with paper towel and changed the paper towel 3 times)
  • 1 cup icing sugar, plus more to finish
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Mini chocolate chips , optional


In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar and cocoa until combined.  Make a well in the centre and add vinegar, wine and butter.  Mix with a fork until shaggy dough forms and continue to mix and press together with your fingers until a dough forms.  If it is too dry or difficult to handle, add more wine until it comes together.

Knead dough on a flat surface for 3-4 minutes until it is nearly smooth.  Flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

Cut dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a large, thin circle, about 1/16th of an inch thick.  It will be very elastic, so you may have to let it rest periodically so it doesn’t keep snapping back.  While rolling each piece, keep the other pieces wrapped in plastic.  The edges should curl inward slightly.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a heavy pot over medium heat to 350F and line a baking sheet with paper towel.

While oil heats, using a 3 inch circular cutter, cut dough into circles. Roll excess dough into a thin sheet and continue cutting circles.

Slightly roll each circle into an oval, like below.  This ensures a nicer shell shape once finished. Wrap the dough over a greased cannoli form, dabbing the overlapping dough with egg white to seal it.  Press the overlapping dough lightly to seal.  The dough should not be too tightly wrapped around the form to ensure it slides off easily.

Gently slide the dough wrapped form into the hot oil and fry for about 30 seconds, moving around with tongs to ensure it evenly cooks.  Remove the form from the oil with tongs and gently slide shell off with a knife, allowing to cook about 30 seconds more.  It should be a couple of shades darker than when it went into the oil.  Transfer shell to prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining shells.  Allow them to cool completely before filling.

To make filling, mix ricotta, icing sugar and vanilla with a spatula until fully incorporated.  If you like, fold mini chocolate chips into the filling. Using a pastry bag, pipe filling into shells from each end until completely filled.  Dust generously with icing sugar and serve immediately after filling.

Adapted from Southern Italian Desserts


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