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Cannoli Filling Recipe with Ricotta

April 12, 2022

Cannoli Filling Recipe with Ricotta

3 Comments

Cannoli filled with ricotta and chocolate chips is a classic Sicilian dessert. This delicious pastry filling is sweet, decadent and incredibly easy to make. You only need 4 ingredients and about 15 minutes to whip up a bowl of goodness that you can use to fill cannoli or in a number of other desserts.

Cannoli dip with a maraschino cherry and cannoli chips.
Delicious as a dip

While cannoli can be found in any Italian bakery and even many grocery store bakeries, there is just nothing quite like the homemade version. You can easily find premade shells that you can fill with this creamy filling, but my cannoli shell recipe will have you rethinking that strategy. They are delicate, crisp and flaky. Give them a try!

What are cannoli?

Cannoli are crispy, tube shaped pastry shells that are traditionally filled with creamy sweetened ricotta and chocolate chips. Cannolo in Italian means “little tube” and is the proper term for just one, while Cannoli is used when referencing the plural or more then one.

Cannoli have a long history in Sicily. It is believed that they originated in Palermo sometime between 827-1091 AD. They were a popular dessert eaten during Carnivale in the weeks leading up to Lent. The pastry has since become a staple in Italian dessert tables year round.

Cannoli lined up in a row, filled with ricotta and chocolate chip cream.
Crunchy and flaky

Ingredients:

Ricotta: Whole milk ricotta is best for this recipe. Ricotta has a lot of water in it which can make the filling runny. Low fat ricotta will have more water then whole milk and will not work as well in this recipe.

Confectioners Sugar: To create a velvety texture do not use granulated sugar.

Mascarpone Cheese: Mascarpone is a milder smoother Italian version of cream cheese. It helps to thicken the ricotta if it is a little to moist. The addition of the mascarpone is really optional.

Almond Extract: Almond flavoring is a traditional flavoring for cannoli filling.

Mini Chocolate Chips: Mini chips work best in this recipe especially if you are going to use a pastry bag to fill the cannoli shells.

Alternatives

There are many ingredients that can be added to the ricotta to change the flavor of your filling.

Orange zest is a common addition in Sicily where oranges are plentiful.

Dried or candied fruit is also commonly added to the filling or used to decorate the ends of the cannoli.

Cinnamon and brown sugar would make this perfect for the fall gatherings.

Pistachios can be chopped and sprinkled on the ends of the cannoli

Amaretto can be used as a substitute for the almond extract.

The possibilities are endless!

Make the filling

  • Add the ricotta, sugar, mascarpone (if using) and almond extract to a medium bowl. Mix until completely combined.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Use to fill cannoli shells or as a dip for cannoli chips.

What other ways can I use this filling?

This is a delicious substitute for whipped cream in cream puffs. In Sicily it is often used as a filling for a layered sponge cake. My favorite way to use this filling is to serve it as a dip strawberries. And of course it is perfect just on a spoon!

Avoid a runny filling

As I mentioned, ricotta that is purchased in the grocery store is usually watery. If you were to use it straight out of the container, the result would be a runny filling. In order to avoid this the ricotta needs to be drained.

Here are some options for draining the ricotta:

  1. Place it in a cheese cloth.  Twirl the cheese cloth tightly around the ricotta and squeeze it gently.  Continue squeezing the ricotta until you have removed most of the water.
  2. You can also spread the ricotta out on paper towels.  Cover it with another paper towel and soak up as much water as possible.  
  3. Place the ricotta in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. This will allow any water in the ricotta to pass through it.
A bowl of cannoli filling topped with a cherry and cannoli chips and surrounded by mini chocolate chips, cannoli shells and a bowl of cherries.
Sweet and creamy dip

What is Ricotta Impastata?

You know when you get cannoli from a bakery how perfectly smooth and dense the filling is? Well the reason for that is the Ricotta Imapastata that they are using to make the filling. Ricotta Impastata literally means “mixed ricotta” or “ricotta paste”. It is a firmer, drier and creamier ricotta. Impastata is specifically made to have a lower moisture content and therefore is perfect for making cannoli filling. Most bakers use Ricotta Impastata to make cannoli cream for cakes, cannoli and other desserts.

FAQ

Does cannoli filling need to be refrigerated?

Yes it does. This filling contains cheese so it should be covered with plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and refrigerated. It will keep for up to a week if properly stored.

Can you make cannoli filling ahead of time?

Yes. The filling can be prepared several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Can this filling be frozen?

Yes it can. You can spoon the filling into plastic freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Make sure to squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing it. Then thaw it in the refrigerator before using it.

How do you get a smooth ricotta filling?

One way to create a velvety filling is to strain the ricotta through a fine mesh strainer after you have drained it. Then mix it with an electric mixer or whisk until smooth.
Another option is to put the drained ricotta in the food processor for a couple of minutes. The food processor will cut through the curds in the ricotta and whip it up.

Chocolate dipped cannoli shell filled with ricotta and chocolate chips and topped with a cherry surrounded by other cannoli.
Assorted cannoli

Chocolate dipped cannoli shell filled with ricotta and chocolate chips and topped with a cherry surrounded by other cannoli.

Cannoli Filling Recipe with Ricotta

This traditional filling for cannoli made with ricotta and chocolate chips is incredibly easy to make. Sweet and creamy you will find many other uses for this delicious recipe.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian, Sicilian
Servings 12 pieces
Calories 131 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 15 oz Ricotta Cheese whole milk, drained
  • 6 tbsp Confectioners Sugar Add more if you want a sweeter filling
  • 1/3 cup Mascarpone Cheese optional
  • 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
  • 1/3 cup Mini Chocolate Chips

Instructions
 

  • Add the ricotta, sugar, mascarpone and almond extract to a medium bowl. Mix until completely combined.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Use to fill cannoli shells or as a dip for cannoli chips.

Notes

Store bought ricotta is often watery and needs to be drained before using in this recipe. 
Here are some options for draining the ricotta:
  1. Place it in a cheese cloth.  Twirl the cheese cloth tightly around the ricotta and squeeze it gently.  Continue squeezing the ricotta until you have removed most of the water.
  2. You can also spread the ricotta out on paper towels.  Cover it with another paper towel and soak up as much water as possible.  
  3. Place the ricotta in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Nutrition

Serving: 12gCalories: 131kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 5gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 37mgPotassium: 38mgFiber: 1gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 256IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 88mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Ricotta, chocolate chips, cannoli, traditional, holiday desssert
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


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