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Cannoli Hope

My Aunt Amelia (actually my grandmother's sister) joined our family almost every Sunday for dinner. Since she didn't contribute to the making of the meal, she "did her share" by jumping up before anyone else to start the dishes and by bringing with her a box of pastries from the pasticceria near her house.

After the table was reset for dessert, the white twine around the box was ceremoniously cut and we gathered around to see what constituted that week's assortment. There might be a rum-soaked baba or some sfogliatelli with their crispy layers and cheesy filling.

But I had my heart set on cannoli. For my young palate, there was nothing more pleasing or satisfying than that gossamer smooth cream, infused with the flavors of candied orange and chocolate bits, encased in the crunchy, bubbled shell.

One day, my mother decided to make a batch of cream puffs. For the filling, she sweetened ricotta cheese with confectioners sugar, flavored it with rum and vanilla, and mixed in chocolate bits and chopped candied orange peel. I couldn't resist dipping in a spoon and having a taste. That is the moment that destined me to love cooking. It was exactly the same cream as in the cannoli from the bakery!

I realized that it was possible to make the foods you love to eat. It sounds so simple -- and yet it was a revelation filled with power. If you can make it, then you can make as much as you want, whenever you want.

Mom made her cream filling several times a year for special occasions. We even bought her a set of the wooden dowels used to shape the cannoli skins for deep-frying. Since I'd just as soon have my cream served in a bowl with a spoon, I've forsaken the difficult-to-handle dough for the tubes and fashion them instead from pizzelles. Hot off the griddle, they can easily be shaped into tubes, crunchy cups or cones and you don't have to wait for your Aunt Amelia to come over for dinner.



  • 1/2 cup margarine (1 stick)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Ricotta Cream

  • 2 pounds ricotta
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rum or brandy
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped
  • 1/4 cup miniature chocolate bits


  1. Pizzelles: Have ready a wooden dowel about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I cut up a wooden dowel into 5-inch lengths. Heat your pizzelle maker according to manufacturer's directions.
  2. Melt and cool the margarine. Beat the eggs and sugar until light yellow and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, and gradually stir in the melted margarine. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the liquid mixture slowly while stirring, until the batter is even.
  3. Drop a teaspoonful of batter onto the pizzelle iron and cook about 30-40 seconds. Repeat until batter is used up.
  4. When you remove the pizzelle from the iron, wrap it around a wooden dowel and allow to cool until firm. Remove the dowel and store tubes in an airtight container until ready to fill.
  5. After filling, if desired, dips ends into about a 1/4 cup of chopped nuts (we used pistachios) or chocolate jimmies.
  6. Ricotta Cream: Put the ricotta in a strainer over a bowl and allow to drain in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. Whisk in the confectioners' sugar, rum and vanilla extract. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve or a double layer of cheesecloth. Stir in the finely diced orange peel and the chocolate bits.
  8. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Servings: 48

Posted by LladyRusty at Recipe Goldmine on 1/29/2002, 1:47 pm.

Source: WQED Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Magazine - by Chris Fennimore -