Italian Pastries were always a special treat especially during holidays and special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion would be a birthday, christening, or just because it’s a Sunday.
In our family there was always a ‘don’t forget the pastry’ alert. Grandma would wave her hand with how many extra cannoli to buy. I don’t even want to imagine what would happen if someone forgot.
Those were the good ol’ days.
It’s easy to make cannoli at home when celebrating holidays or family gatherings.
I do not make the shells mainly because they require a specific metal form which I never thought to buy (on my ‘bucket list’ though) but every specialty Italian market has the shells available to purchase. So Easy!
I always make the cannoli filling homemade so I can make as many or as few as we need whenever someone decides they have a craving.
What I like about making these at home is that I can dip the shells in chocolate and add pistachios, sprinkles and chocolate, something for everyone.
There is no magic recipe for dipping the cannoli to make them special. Have your family’s favorite toppings in small bowls and melt a half cup of chocolate chips. Dip the ends of each pastry shell into the melted chocolate, then into the toppings. Place on a rack to dry and set aside until ready to fill.
The toppings I used were chopped pistachios and colored sprinkles, I also left some with the chocolate plain. Be sure to sprinkle them with powdered sugar to dress them up for the holiday!
Here is one of our favorite recipes to fill the pastry and includes the addition of citron (candied citrus rind) which is how I remember the filling to be in days of old. In recent years I have not had a commercial Italian Cannoli that had citron in the filling. I might not have been in the right Italian ‘neighborhood’. I like to add the citron for a bit of authenticity.
Making the filling is very simple and the sugar and spices added are based on your flavor preferences. You can always add either less or more as desired. Taste as you go to the make the filling your own. You can’t make a mistake, if you add too much of something you can just add more ricotta or mascarpone to mellow out the flavor.
- 8 oz. container ricotta - drained
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- ¼ - ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
- ¼ cup citron (optional)
- Drain the ricotta - place the cheese into a cheesecloth lined strainer. Let sit for several hours. You will see a small pool of liquid which can be discarded.
- Add the drained ricotta and the mascarpone cheese to a medium size bowl and blend together using a hand mixer and then mix in the powdered sugar. This method helps to blend and smooth the filling.
- Stir in the vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate chips and citron if using.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 3 hours before filling the shells.
- When ready to fill the shells, add the filling to a plastic baggie or a pastry bag and pipe into the shells. Pipe the filling into half of the shell and turn around and continue to fill in the other half.
- Place on a serving platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
I also remember grandma and Nonna serving espresso and Latte Caffe with the pastries. Who knew then that latte would be so popular today. Everything Old is New Again!