Old Fashioned Cannoli Recipe

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Growing up in a big family, cannoli were always a special treat reserved for celebrations and holidays. I remember the anticipation as we watched my Grandma expertly pipe the creamy ricotta filling into crispy, golden shells. 

Now, making cannoli is not just a tradition but a cherished ritual that brings back fond memories of family gatherings and joyous occasions.

Why I Love This Recipe

Cannoli are more than just a dessert to me; they’re a connection to my heritage and a symbol of love and togetherness. The combination of crispy shells and creamy filling is irresistible, and every bite is a nostalgic journey back to my childhood. Plus, making cannoli from scratch allows me to infuse them with love and tradition, making each one a labor of love.

Cooking Times

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Nutritional Facts (Per serving – makes 12 cannolis)

Calories: 250

Total Fat: 15g

Saturated Fat: 8g

Cholesterol: 30mg

Sodium: 80mg

Total Carbohydrates: 23g

Dietary Fiber: 1g

Sugars: 10g

Protein: 5g


For the shells:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup Marsala wine

Vegetable oil, for frying

Powdered sugar, for dusting

For the filling:

2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese, drained

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped pistachios (optional)

Candied orange peel, finely chopped (optional)


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, and salt. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Gradually add the Marsala wine, stirring until a dough forms. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. While the dough rests, prepare the filling. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth and creamy. Stir in the mini chocolate chips and chopped pistachios, along with any other desired mix-ins.
  4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until very thin, about 1/16 inch thick. Using a round cutter or glass, cut out circles of dough.
  5. Heat vegetable oil in a deep fryer or large pot to 350°F (175°C). Carefully wrap each dough circle around a cannoli tube, sealing the edges with a dab of water.
  6. Fry the cannoli shells in the hot oil until golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oil using tongs and drain on paper towels. Let the shells cool completely before removing the tubes.
  7. Once the shells are cooled, use a piping bag fitted with a star tip to fill each shell with the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the ends with powdered sugar and, if desired, additional chocolate chips, chopped pistachios, or candied orange peel.
  8. Serve the cannoli immediately or refrigerate until ready to enjoy. They are best eaten the same day they are filled to maintain their crispness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is mascarpone or ricotta better for cannoli?

For me, the choice between mascarpone and ricotta for cannoli filling ultimately depends on the flavor and texture I’m aiming for. While both cheeses are delicious options, they offer distinct characteristics. Mascarpone lends a richer and creamier texture to the filling, with a subtle sweetness that pairs beautifully with the crispy shell. 

On the other hand, ricotta brings a lighter and slightly tangy flavor profile, along with a more traditional texture that’s beloved in classic cannoli recipes. Personally, I often opt for ricotta when I want a more authentic and nostalgic experience, but I occasionally indulge in the decadence of mascarpone for a special twist on this beloved dessert. 

Ultimately, both cheeses have their merits, and the choice depends on personal preference and the desired flavor profile of the cannoli filling.

What is the difference between Italian and American cannoli?

From my perspective, the main difference between Italian and American cannoli lies in the filling and sometimes the size. In Italy, traditional cannoli are typically filled with a simple mixture of ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and sometimes citrus zest or chocolate chips. The filling tends to be lighter and less sweet compared to its American counterpart. Italian cannoli shells are also often smaller and crispier, with a delicate texture that complements the creamy filling.

In contrast, American cannoli often feature a richer and sweeter filling, which may include ingredients like mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, and additional sugar or flavorings. American versions of cannoli tend to be larger, with thicker shells that offer a more substantial crunch. Additionally, American variations may include creative fillings such as chocolate ganache, fruit compotes, or nutty mix-ins, reflecting the diverse culinary influences present in American cuisine.

While both Italian and American cannoli share the same basic concept—a crispy shell filled with creamy goodness—their differences highlight the adaptability of this beloved dessert to suit different tastes and preferences. Whether enjoying a classic Italian cannoli in Sicily or savoring a decadent American cannoli at a bakery in New York City, each variation offers a unique and delightful experience.


Making cannoli from scratch is a labor of love that brings you a burst of Italian heritage with every crispy, creamy bite. Whether enjoyed as a sweet ending to a dinner meal or as a decadent treat any time of day, these homemade cannoli are sure to delight and impress. Also, if you would like more unique dinner ideas, check out these wagyu ground beef recipes.

Buon appetito!