Why buy cannoli shells when you can make them at home! Trust us, homemade cannoli shells stand head and shoulders above any shop-bought ones! Our recipe below is an adjusted recipe by Angela Hartnett, with the added tips and tricks on how to get the shells just right and what to do if you don’t have cannoli moulds!
What are Cannoli?
Cannoli is a deep-fried pastry stuffed with a sweet ricotta filling. Originating in Sicily, they are one of the most well-known Italian desserts that have gained enormous popularity across the world. The name comes from a Sicilian world cannolu, meaning a small tube, that represents the shape of the pastry.
Whilst the history of truly traditional foods is always a topic for debate, some historians claim that cannoli are a symbol of fertility and were traditionally eaten during the Carnival season. Read more about the history, here (it’s certainly interesting).
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What Equipment Will You Need?
For perfectly shaped cannoli, you will ideally have Cannoli Moulds. You can get them in specialist cookware shops or online, and they can be as expensive or as cheap as you’d like. We have these budget-friendly cannoli moulds and never had an issue with them.
However, we also took on a challenge to prepare beautiful cannoli shells without the moulds. We rummaged through our kitchen (and garage!) for hollow tubes, and found something that worked a treat! You know large bamboo sticks that you use in the garden to support plants? Well, they act perfectly as cannoli moulds. We cut them into 10 cm sticks choosing parts that didn’t have joints (Seb may have sanded a few joints as well). Yes, your cannoli will likely be smaller in diameter, so you may want to use a smaller pastry ring/ cookie cutter as well, but it works. The two lots of cannoli we made can be seen below.
Tips and Tricks for Making Great Cannoli Shells:
- Knead the pastry. Although unsual, you actually have to knead the pastry quite a bit to get all the loevely bubbles on the surface once fried. Roll your sleeves up and work the pastry for at least 5 minutes.
- Try rolling the pastry only once: Try and roll your pastry out thinly only once into a large sheet, then cut the circles as close to each other as possible to get as many as you can. Yes, you will be left with some scraps, that you can reroll, but I find that rerolled pastry makes for cannoli shells with less bubbles on the surface and they are definitely less crumbly and melt in the mouth.
- Roll the pastry out thinly. The pastry is a strange one to work with, it contracts when you roll it, but on the other hand it doesn’t stick. Your pastry should be extremely thin if you want your cannoli shells crispy, so my advice is to use a pasta machine if you have one. Alternatively, use a rolling pin! You may not be able to roll it out thinly enough to get the shells completely crispy, but if you ask me, I like a slightly cakier cannoli. We love stainless steel rolling pins for rolling out pastry!
- Brush the cannoli moulds with oil before wrapping the pastry around. This will prevent them from sticking.
- Control the oil temperature. It should be between 180-190 C. Any hotter and your cannoli will puff up too much and will be too brittle to hold the filling. Too low, and your shells will absorb too much oil and be grease. We use this kitchen thermometer.
- Don’t fill too early. Don’t fill the shells right until you’re ready serve/ want to eat them. Your shells will be soggy if left with filling for more than 15 minutes. You can always keep a piping bag full of cannoli filling ready to go!
So How To Make Cannoli Shells?
Place the plain flour, caster sugar and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with white wine. Pour it into the flour mixture and knead for 5-10 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
Roll out the dough on a surface lightly dusted with flour. It should be paper-thin, almost see-through. Using a 10 cm round cutter or a template, cut out 10-12 circles.
Wrap each circle tightly around greased cannoli mould (if you don’t have moulds, see text above – we have suggestions) using a little egg white to seal it together firmly.
Fill a small saucepan 2/3 full of oil and heat to 180 C. Lower down two cannoli at a time into hot oil and fry for 30-40 seconds. They should look bubbly and golden brown when done. Place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to cool. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, carefully remove the cannoli from their moulds in a gentle twisting motion.
Repeat with the rest of your cannoli. And leave them all to cool down completely, whilst you make the filling.
We will be posting our favourite cannoli filling recipes over the coming year, so keep an eye out. The first one, Campari & White Chocolate Filling is here for your to try already! For other Italian inspired desserts, have a look at our recipes below:
- Chai Spiced Panna Cotta with Cranberry Jelly
- Sourdough Pannetonne
- Chocolate and Hazelnut Sourdough Biscotti
Homemade Cannoli Shells
- Cannoli Moulds (or see text above if you don't have them)
- 150 g plain flour
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 30 g butter
- 1 egg yolk for shells, egg white for sealing
- 50 ml dry white wine
- 1 l vegetable oil for frying
- Place the plain flour, caster sugar and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- In a separate small bowl, mix the egg yolk with white wine. Pour it into the flour mixture and knead for 5-10 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
- Roll out the dough on a surface lightly dusted with flour. It should be paper thin, almost see-through. Using a 10 cm round cutter or a template, cut out 10-12 circles.
- Wrap each circle tightly around a cannoli mould (if you don't have moulds, see text above – we have suggestions) using a little egg white to seal it together firmly.
- Fill a small saucepan 2/3 full of oil and heat to 180 C. Lower down two canoli at a time into hot oil and fry for 30-40 seconds. They should looks bubly and golden brown when done. Place them on a plate lined with paper towel to cool. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, carefully remove the canoli from their moulds in a gentle twisting motion.
- Repeat with the rest of the cannoli. Leave the shells to cool down before filling them.