Cannoli with Chocolate Ricotta Filling

Here are a couple of fun facts about me:

I love ALL kinds of Italian desserts.

My grandfather is from Sicily, and inspired my love for all things Italian-related, including cannoli, a crisp and delicate Italian pastry with a sweet ricotta or custard filling. I made cannoli for the first time about 6 years ago now. I was very pleased to have it turn out a success the first go, and my love affair for cannoli started from that moment!

The recipe below for cannoli with chocolate ricotta filling is adapted from a recipe from the Australian Gourmet Traveller. While I normally love the traditional plain ricotta filling, I decided to make the chocolate filling as this was my husband's preference. I hope you enjoy and that it takes you to the sunny mediterranean as you eat these delicious pastries. 

A few hints and tips before we get started…

The cannoli dough is made using a pasta machine, and rolling out until very thin. The thinner the dough, the crispier the shell will be once deep-fried. (side-not, if you haven’t got a pasta machine, I highly recommend buying one, they are worth the investment! I recommend this pasta machine, or, if you have a Kitchenaid, then you can buy a suitable attachment for them as well).

I experimented under setting 5 on the pasta machine and I found it still too thick, as the dough puffs while it is deep-fried. I found setting 6 on the pasta machine was perfect. Depending on your pasta machine you may need to adjust this. You want to achieve a thickness of about 1.5mm-2mm.

Ok so when it comes to deep frying the cannoli, I recommend purchasing some stainless steel cannoli tubes. They are a small cost, and will last forever. More about how to wrap the pastry around the tubes below.

For the filling, it is important to use good-quality and fresh ricotta, ensuring the ricotta is not too watery. I bought the ricotta from a delicatessen and always get full-cream for maximum flavour. To add to the success of the cannoli, it is important to only pipe the filling into the cannoli shells just before serving as this keeps the shells crisp. 

Cannoli with Chocolate Ricotta Filling

Recipe from The Australian Gourmet Traveller, April 2012 Issue.

Serves 12

For the shells...

150g plain all-purpose flour

30g caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon Dutch-process cocoa

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

20gm butter, melted and cooled

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup marsala

For moulding: 

1 packet of cannelloni pasta tubes (or metal cannoli moulds)

1 eggwhite, lightly beaten

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

For the chocolate ricotta filling...

600gm firm ricotta

120gm dark chocolate (at least 54% cocoa solids), melted + extra melted chocolate for drizzle

40ml Marsala

40gm icing sugar, sieved + extra for dusting

Finely grated rind of 1 orange

20gm roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

20gm glace` orange, finely chopped


1. To make the dough, sift flour, sugar, cocoa and cinnamon into a bowl and male a well in the centre. In a separate bowl, combine liquor, butter and egg. Pour into flour mixture and gently combine together until dough starts to form.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (about 5 minutes). Wrap dough with pastil wrap and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

3. Cut dough into 4 portions and mould into a small disk/oval shape. Coat in flour and using your pasta machine on the lowest setting, feed the dough though, continuing to fold and adjust the settings as you work your way up to approximately setting 6 (or desired width - about 1.5mm). When working the dough through the machine, make sure you are coating with a little flour each time; otherwise the dough with split or become wrinkly.

4. Place rolled out dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 9cm squares. Cover with a tea towel while you continue rolling out the remaining dough.

5. Working with one square at a time, wrap pastry around cannelloni tubes, ensuring opposite corners meet and overlap. Brush a little egg white to seat corners. (Make sure not to get any egg white on the tubes, otherwise the pastry will stick to the tubes when deep-frying).

6. Heat oil in a saucepan until it reaches 180˚C. Depp fry cannoli in bathes for approximately 2-3 minutes or until golden. Drain on absorbent paper, and allow to cool. Once cooled, slide the shells off the cannelloni tubes. Cannoli shells can be kept in an airtight container for a week. 

7. To make the chocolate ricotta filling, combine ricotta, chocolate, marsala, icing sugar and orange rind into a food processor or mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Process/mix until smooth. You may need to add more marsala if it is still a bit clumpy. Mix until well combined. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

8. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm star nozzle, and pipe into cooled cannoli shells. Drizzle top of shells with extra melted chocolate if you like, Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.