Can I Cannoli?

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Virgil Evetts

I’m a bit lily-livered when it comes to deep-frying. I used to own a bench-top deep fryer, which makes the process pretty fool [ergo flame] proof, but I got sick of cleaning the perpetually greasy thing and hated the smell of stale oil that hung around the house after every use.  So it was eventually sentenced to death,  via the inorganic collection, labelled ‘works but very unpleasant’. This was no doubt a good move for my waist, which isn’t quite as waspishly thin as it once was, but I do sometimes pine for a deep-fried treat or two. I’ve had a particular hankering lately for cannoli. These exquisite Italian pastries are almost unknown in New Zealand, which in my weaker moments is enough to make me consider emigration. Just recently I’ve been feeling very weak indeed, but apparently the Italian government doesn’t recognise pastry deprivation as grounds for refugee status.

 So armed with a deep-frying thermometer and a couple of litres of oil, I’ve been doing my best to conquer my fear of stove top deep-frying and to get my head around cannoli making- with some rather tasty results.

Cannoli, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of making their acquaintance  are a delicious blend of naughty and nice-  crunchy deep fried pastry shells filled with a seemingly rich but really quite healthy blend of  ricotta, bittersweet chocolate chips and good quality glace peel. They may not sound like all that, but there is a reason why cannoli, once a strictly Sicilian specialty are now just about the most popular pastry in all of Italy. They’re very, very good.

Cannoli pastry is bit weird- it contains unusual ingredients like wine and vinegar, but it’s really a doddle to make- far more forgiving than most of its kind, and is sure to please even those obnoxious types who piously claim to lack a sweet tooth. Whatever.

My recipe is the result of a fair bit of trial and error. It works and I like it, which are the only criteria I really care about.

Most Italian recipes stipulate a lot more sugar in the filling than I’ve suggested here and they also have a tendency to include various nuts, glace cherries and other things jewelled and sickly. It’s a point of personal taste really but I prefer to take a simpler, less cloying approach.

You will need some sort of form to hold the pastry while it fries. In Italy, proper metal cannoli forms are available. I’ve made do with a wooden broom handle cut into roughly 10cm lengths.


Makes about 6


1 ½ cups plain flour

2 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 egg

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

2-3 tablespoons dessert wine, Marsala or Port

Pinch of salt

Vegetable oil [not olive or peanut] for deep frying.


500 grams ricotta

¼ cup caster sugar

½ cup coarsely chopped glace peel

½ cup bittersweet/dark chocolate chips

1 tsp pure vanilla essence


For the pastry

Mix the wet ingredients [use an electric mixer if you have one] into the dry and work into a firm, slightly elastic dough. If too dry and crumbly add a little extra wine, if too wet add more flour. Roll into a ball, cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for around an hour.

Pre heat the oil to about 170 Celsius.

On a smooth, lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 5mm. Cut into strips the width of your forms. Roll the pastry around the forms and cut at the joint. Seal the joint with a little water or egg white. Carefully lower the pastry/forms into the hot oil in batches of 2 or three. Fry for about 2 minutes each, turning the forms to ensure the pastry is evenly cooked. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Once cooled carefully slide the pastry shells from the forms. You may need to use a paring knife to help with this.

For the filling

Use a fork to lightly whip the sugar into the ricotta. Gently fold in the chocolate and fruit. Use either a piping bag with a wide nozzle or a small teaspoon to firmly fill the cooled pastry shells.

Serve  with coffee, grappa or just on their own when no one’s about. They make a very fine breakfast too.


So that’s my deep-fried weakness [enough to make me risk stove top immolation] what’s yours?

Won tons? Deep-fried camembert? A nice plate of chips?

Name your poison.

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15 thoughts on “Can I Cannoli?

  1. I have read about cannoli, many times (some books are practically food porn!), and tried to find them in Auckland, but have not found them, yet… They sound devine, I am glad to hear about Bolero, might be worth a trip to Albany, as Churros are another thing I read about years ago, and instantly lusted after…

  2. There is a great little spanish cafe at Albany Westfield called Bolero. This is the only place I have ever tried Churros (more than once I confess) and I love them! I have even been thinking of trying them at home- and am pleased to hear other people share my fear of frying. I look forward to seeing your report, and hope a recipe is included in it.

  3. Mmmmm churros con chocolat a la The Engine Room!! So delicious and rich. I have it every time I go (which hasn’t been for awhile now). There is a recipe for it in a Delicious magazine from ages ago but I have yet to make it. I’ll be watching to see how they turned out Virgil. By the way has anyone tried the cannoli at the Matakana Farmers Market? I thought They were initially lovely but I have one or two where I could taste the oil wasn’t at it’s best therefore it kind of put me off a bit.

  4. For my next trick I’ll be making churros- amazing Spanish extruded doughnuts. Eaten with thick, syrupy hot chocolate. Oh my!!

  5. These sound yummy!

    I have never deep fried at home. I’m a little bit absent minded – lots of potatoes and rice boiled dry! So would have to really focus to deep fry rather than do three things at once as usual.

    I’m partial to hot chips every couple of months as part of a fish and chip dinner. And on rare occasions – more like once a year, I like the long doughnuts too.

    I’ve never tried deep fried camembert of deep fried mars bars!

  6. look yummy but what a novel way of disposing of the broom so you don’t have to use it–cut the handle into 10cm lengths.

  7. FYI- those are NOT bacon rinds in the photos, they’re slices of glace peel [ponderosa actually].
    Thanks Toots- now that’s all I can see when I look at it!