As promised in today’s Seasonal Pantry, “Ricotta and Other Tastes of Sicily,” here’s my recipe for cannoli. When I first wrote about cannoli in a column, there was no great local ricotta. Now we have Bellwether Farms sheep milk ricotta, the best I’ve had this side of Sicily. If making the cannoli shells seems daunting, you can buy them. I’ve always gotten mine from Traverso’s and have yet to find another source, though I’m certain there are plenty. If you have a source you like, please let us know in the comments section here.

Cannoli • Serves 8

"Leave the gun; take the cannoli" is a classic snippet of dialogue from The Godfather. If you've ever had a perfect cannoli, you understand.

for the shells

  •  1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Marsala, or white wine
  • 1 egg white, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

for the filling

  •  1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) Bellwether Farms sheep milk ricotta
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup minced candied lemon peel or orange peel, optional
  • 1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips, optional
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, optional
  1.  To make the shells, mix together the flour, sugar and cocoa powder. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly, like coarse polenta. Add just enough of the Marsala or white wine for the dough to come together. Press into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough in half. Return one half to the refrigerator and roll out the other piece into a strip about 16-inches long and 5 inches wide; it should be about 1/8 inch thick. Cut the strip into 4 large (5-inch x 3 1/2 inches) ovals. Place a cannoli tube lengthwise on each one and bring up the sides to overlap slightly on top.  rush with egg white to seal.
  3. Pour 3 to 4 inches of oil in a deep-fryer or saucepan and heat to 365 degrees or until a bit of pastry dropped into the oil sizzles immediately. Fry the cannoli a few at a time, without crowding the pot, turning with tongs, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.  Remove the tubes while still warm.
  4. Form the remaining cannoli, reheat the oil, fry and drain on paper towels.  The shells can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week.
  5. Shortly before serving, put the ricotta, sugar, salt and vanilla into a bowl and mix thoroughly.  Taste and add more sugar as needed to create a rich sweetness.  Fold in either lemon peel, chocolate chips or toasted pine nuts.
  6. To fill the cannoli shells, put the ricotta mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe filling into each shell, filling as full as possible. Serve immediately.

Recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives:

Fresh Ricotta with Olive Oil & Black Pepper

Basic Bruschetta, with Ricotta (see the first variation)

Strawberries & Ricotta

Rachel Ann Seghesio’s Ravioli with Swiss Chard, Prosciutto & Ricotta