Cocoa cannoli with ricotta

Recipe by Paola Bacchia, From Italy On My Mind.

Cannoli are one of the most popular and well-known sweet Sicilian street foods. The pastry is traditionally made with strutto (a type of pork fat),  which makes the shells very crisp. This version uses butter but please feel free to substitute strutto if you know anyone who can get it for you!


  • Grapeseed, peanut or sunflower oil, for frying
  • 1 egg white, for brushing
  • Crushed pistachio nuts, for garnish icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting
  • Pastry:
  • 250 g plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 40 g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons dark bitter cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground coffee pinch of salt
  • 50 g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 50 ml dry white wine
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Filling:
  • 600 g firm ricotta
  • 150 g caster (superfine) sugar

Although not traditional, I have added cinnamon, cocoa and coffee to the pastry just like they do at my local Sicilian restaurant.  These cocao cannoli can be filled with vanilla or chocolate custard but I love the traditional version filled with sweet ricotta and the ends dipped in chopped nuts. You will need metal cannoli tubes  to make the shape, which can be purchased from most homeware shops. Alternatively, you can try using scrunched aluminium foil, but they won’t be as even.


  1. To make the pastry for your cocoa cannoli, place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee and salt in a large bowl. Scatter over the butter and using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the vinegar, wine and egg and stir until well incorporated. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 2 minutes until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  2. To make the filling, combine the ricotta and sugar in a bowl until you have a smooth cream. Alternatively, you can do this in a food processor. If you have a particularly sweet tooth, feel free to add a bit of extra sugar, to taste. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to 1–2 mm (1/16 in) thick. You can also use a pasta machine to roll out the dough, taking it down to the third-last setting. Cut out circles of dough using a 9 cm (31/2 in) cookie cutter.
    Heat plenty of oil in a small deep saucepan or deep-fryer to 170°C (340°F) or until a scrap of dough dropped into the oil bubbles immediately.
  4. Wrap the dough circles around metal cannoli tubes so that the edges overlap slightly. Seal the two edges with egg white and press firmly. Brush a little egg white over the shell as well.
  5. Cook the cannoli tubes, one at a time, for 2–21/2 minutes until brown. Lift out the cannoli by holding the metal tube with heatproof tongs (or lift up the basket if using a deep-fryer). Shake the shell from the tube and place on kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil. If the shells do not come off easily, then leave the cannoli to cool slightly, then hold it gently with kitchen towel and use the tongs to lift the metal tube out from the cooked pastry. Carefully wipe the metal tube with kitchen towel and wrap another uncooked pastry circle around the tube, sealing it well with egg white. Repeat until they are all cooked.
  6. Fill the shells with the ricotta cream, using a knife to push the mixture into the tubes from either end. Alternatively, place the sweet ricotta in a piping bag and pipe into the tubes using a wide nozzle. Dip the ends of the cannoli in crushed pistachio nuts, then dust with icing sugar and serve.
  7. If you are not going to eat your cocoa cannoli immediately, leave the shells unfilled in an airtight container. They will keep for about 1 week.

For more delicious recipes from Paola Bacchia, check out her new book, Italian Street Food.

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