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Aunt Rosalinda's Authentic Sicilian Cannoli Recipe

When I was a child, I always looked forward to visits to Zia (aunt) Rosalinda and a chance to enjoy her cannoli. She was from Sicily, unlike most of my family, who come from the north.

Authentic Sicilian Cannoli

We would visit straight after Mass. Once we all arrived, Zia disappeared into the kitchen, followed by a platoon of other aunts and Nonna.

A few hours later, we'd all sit down for Sunday lunch, and the food would arrive.
Zia always made sure there was enough for 30 people, although I never recall more than 15 at lunch. She always believed in making huge quantities.

She'd say: "What if cousin Luigi and family arrive? What if Roberto brings his friends."
Roberto could have brought an entire football team, and they would have struggled to finish.

Anyway, I loved it all, and ate like mad.

You had no choice; otherwise, Zia or Nonna might have gone and fetched the wooden spoon. It was that, or she'd be offended: "What, you don't a like my food?" Or to my mother, she would whisper: "This child is sick, she is too thin... why she no eat?" 

One day I brought a vegan, no-gluten friend of mine to lunch. The worry on my aunt's face and on everyone's faces was comical. They wanted to rush her off to a doctor. In those days, nobody had heard of vegans. They treated it as a life-threatening condition.

Well, enough of my memories. What I most wanted to share with you was the highlight (for me anyway) of every Sunday at Zia Rosalinda—her famous cannoli. It took me years to get her to share the cannoli recipe, but, at last, I can let you in on the jealously guarded secret.

Here, then, is Zia Rosalinda's cannoli recipe...


Ingredients for the Cannoli Shells

  •  500 g (17.6 oz) flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 g (1 oz) lard 
  • 1/4 of a cup of dry Marsala wine
  • a pinch of salt
  • 60 g (2 oz) caster sugar
  • Tablespoon of white wine vinegar

Ingredients for the Cannoli Filling

  • 100 g (3.5 oz) candied orange 
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate drops
  • 600 g (21 oz) fresh ricotta ( let excess moisture drain overnight)
  • 250 g (9oz) icing sugar
Cannoli - the authentic recipe

Ingredients for the Cannoli Topping

  • Icing sugar to taste


Making the Cannoli Shells

  • Place the flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl.
  • Add the lard and eggs.
  • Slowly add the vinegar and Marsala, kneading continually. You may need a little more Marsala or less, depending on how it absorbs. The mixture should be firm and elastic and not stick to the side of the mixing dish. Knead for around five minutes.
  • Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes take the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin - make sure it is at least 2 mm (0.08 inches) thick.
  • Use a pastry ring or fairly large glass to make circles.
  • Stretch the cannoli around metal cannoli rings or metal cylinders.
  • Fry in lard until golden brown and bubbly.
  • Drain well.

Making the Cannoli filling

  • Mix together the sugar and ricotta.
  • Place in the fridge for at least an hour.
  • Remove from the fridge and mix in the chocolate and candied orange.

The Final Touch

Only fill the cannoli shells with the filling and sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving. They get soggy if they have to wait, even in the fridge.

Buon appetito!

In honor of the memory of zia Rosalinda and the beautiful island of Sicily.

FAQ about Cannoli

What are cannoli?

Cannoli are traditional Italian pastries that originated in Sicily. They consist of a crisp, fried pastry shell (usually made from dough containing flour, sugar, butter, and sometimes wine) that's formed into a tubular shape. The shell is then filled with a creamy, sweet filling, typically made from ricotta cheese, sugar, and various flavorings such as vanilla, chocolate chips, or candied fruits. The ends of the cannoli are often dipped in chopped nuts or chocolate chips.

Where did cannoli originate?

Cannoli have their roots in Sicily, an island region of Italy. The name "cannoli" actually means "little tubes" in Italian, which aptly describes their shape. These pastries have a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages when they were likely created as a treat during Carnevale, the festive period leading up to Lent. Over the years, cannoli have become a beloved dessert not only in Sicily but also throughout Italy and around the world.

What variations of cannoli are there?

While the classic cannoli consists of a fried shell filled with ricotta-based cream, there are several delightful variations to explore. Some variations involve changing the filling itself, such as using different flavors of ricotta, adding chocolate chips, or incorporating citrus zest. Others experiment with the shell, offering options like pistachio-crusted shells or cocoa-infused dough. Creative bakers have even turned cannoli into savory treats by filling them with ingredients like goat cheese, seafood, or vegetables.

How are cannoli traditionally served and enjoyed?

Cannoli are often served as dessert, either in restaurants or at home during festive occasions. They're a popular treat during holidays and celebrations, and you might find them at Italian bakeries or specialty dessert shops. The delicate balance between the crispy shell and the creamy filling creates a delightful contrast of textures, making each bite a harmonious blend of flavors. The cannoli's presentation is key, with the exposed filling often adorned with powdered sugar, chocolate drizzles, or chopped pistachios.

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