'Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.' - Peter Clemenza, The Godfather
I've had a little obsession for the little tube like Sicilian pastries ever since watching Christopher Moltisanti impatiently waiting for his baked goods in a scene from The Sopranos (itself based on a scene from the Godfather) a few years ago.
Originating in Palermo, and very popular with Italian American communities (I've tried decent versions in both Boston and New York), they don't seem to have really travelled over here. In fact, despite eating many cornetto, sfogliatelle and bomboloni, I don't remember seeing them too often in mainland (mid) Italy either. One problem is the fried dough tubes are both fragile when unfilled and prone to going soggy quickly once filled.
Luckily for me the rather fabulous Italian Continental Stores in nearby Maidenhead stocks a selection of crunchy, golden pre-fried tubes, all ready to stuff with your own fillings at a later date. Of course a dedicated cook may scoff at the idea of pre-made, make their own dough, roll it out thinly, wrap it round a metal cannolo mould and deep fry... But the idea of messing about with pastry, oil and piping hot metal tubing seems a rather fraught with dangers, especially for somebody who manages somehow injure themselves in the kitchen on an almost daily basis.
If you feel up to it there's an easy enough looking recipe in Jacob Kennedy's Bocca book (he even suggests lengths of copper piping from a hardware store as a stand in for cannolo moulds) otherwise try an Italian deli or ordering shells online.
Traditionally they are filled with highly sweetened sheep's ricotta, although American versions may also use marscapone or even custard. I use cow's ricotta, as it's easily available, and sweeten it quite lightly with icing sugar. Shards of chocolate, pistachios, cherries and finely diced candied peel can be combined into the cheese mixture, or just used to decorate the ends. As a bit of an experiment I also used some of my candied watermelon rind in this batch, along with some finely chopped dark Ritter Sport with hazelnuts. Delizioso!
6 Large or 12 small cannolo shells (see above)
250g tub of ricotta
Icing sugar to taste
A selection of -
Finely chopped dark chocolate
Pistachios, candied cherries/peel.
Place ricotta into a bowl, sift in icing sugar to taste.
Mix a handful of chopped chocolate/nuts/fruit into ricotta mixture, saving some for decoration.
Fill shells with mixture using either a teaspoon or piping bag (you can use a plastic food bag with a corner snipped off)
Decorate ends with remaing chopped chocolate/nuts/fruit.
Alternatively you can provide unfilled cannolo shells, along with teaspoons and bowls of sweetened ricotta and chopped fillings, and allow people to assemble their own.