I grew up in South Jersey, where there was an Italian deli on nearly corner, so cannoli has been a favorite dessert of mine for years. So once I moved to Ohio, the search for cannoli has been on for over a decade. Unfortunately, it has been one disappointment after another, with problems with texture, taste, whatever. It just wasn’t the same as the stuff I could get back in Jersey. So I finally decided to say “the hell with it” and thought about making it on my own. Seeing cannoli shells a few weeks ago at Carfagna’s clinched it for me – there was no time like the present.
After having made a couple of batches, I’ve discovered a few things. First, draining the ricotta before adding any other ingredients is absolutely crucial. And the mascarpone makes it 10x better than it would be otherwise. The citrus is a nice match with the chocolate. But feel free to experiment with flavors – only the ricotta, sugar, shells and mascarpone are absolutely necessary. You’ll get different results with different spirits and/or extracts and garnishes. You’re only limited by your imagination.
30 oz. ricotta cheese, drained overnight
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar (plus additional for sprinkling)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. Grand Marnier
1 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
2 packages (of either 6 regular or 12 mini) cannoli shells
miniature chocolate chips
Using a strainer and paper towels (or cheesecloth), set the ricotta cheese in the refrigerator to drain overnight. It should be mostly dry when finished, with no additional whey able to be extracted from it. Mix the dry ricotta with the mascarpone cheese, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, Grand Marnier and orange zest and set aside.
Pipe cheese mixture into the cannoli shells, and then sprinkle exposed ends with mini chocolate chips and entire dessert lightly with additional confectioner’s sugar. Eat fairly quickly or share with someone you care about, as these are best fresh and will start to get soggy if allowed to sit.