Cannoli Shells Recipe

This recipe, like the one for the ricotta cream, is adapted from Grace Massa Langlois’ new book, Grace’s Sweet Life. The only difference is that I left out 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder in the dry ingredients, as I like a blonde pastry shell. Add it back if you prefer a shell with a hint of chocolate in it!

You’ll need a set of cannoli forms to make these, basically little stainless steel tubes that can be had very inexpensively at cooking supply stores. A pasta machine comes in handy for rolling the dough thin (the key to light cannoli shells) but isn’t essential. Likewise, an oval 3″ x 4 1/2″ cutter is ideal for getting the perfect dough shape, but not essential. A round cutter will also work well. Assemble:

6.25 ounces (1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
2 tablespoon vegetable shortening
6 to 7 tablespoons marsala wine
1 to 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

Begin by lining a sheet pan with 3 or 4 layers of paper towels. Line a second sheet with parchment paper. Pour three or four inches of vegetable oil into a deep pot for frying. Attach a thermometer.

Sift the flour, salt and cocoa (if using) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Add the vegetable shortening and beat on low until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. (Yes you can do all this by hand if you prefer).

Gradually add 6 tablespoons of the wine and beat on low until the dough starts to come together in a ball. If the dough isn’t coming together, add the last tablespoon of wine a little at a time. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead it for about 2-3 minutes until it’s smooth. Shape it into a ball, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic and let it sit at room temperature for one hour.

Divide the dough into quarters. At this point you can employ a pasta machine to steadily flatten the dough (using flour only if you desperately need it) until it’s at the thinnest possible setting. Alternately you may use a board and pin (which is what I’ll probably do). When the pasty is thin enough, lay it out on a work surface and cover it with kitchen towels so it won’t dry out.

Set the oil on medium high heat, bringing it up to 350 to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile cut the dough using a 3 1/2″ round cutter (or the oval cutter mentioned above). Spray the cannoli forms lightly with cooking spray, then wrap a dough piece around each, affixing it with a little of the beaten egg white. Set them on the parchment-lined sheet pan while you prepare to fry.

When the oil reaches the proper temperature, gently lower the forms into the oil. Fry about 45 seconds. Then, grasping the end of the form with tongs, carefully lift one out. Gently shake it until the cannoli slips back into the oil, then fry for another minute or so until lightly brown. If it won’t release it’s OK to push it a bit with a butter knife.

Remove the shells gently with the tongs and drain them on the paper towels. Allow them to cool completely. Meanwhile, provided the forms are cool, wrap and fry them again until all your dough is used. Let the shells cool completely before filling them. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

57 thoughts on “Cannoli Shells Recipe”

  1. I use the handle of a wooden spoon to form brandy snaps, but they are rolled after cooking. Do you reckon you could wrap this stuff around a wooden spoon handle and plonk the spoon upside down in the fat? The bowl of the spoon would make a good retrieval handle.

    1. I’m not sure about that, Brwnwyn. You’d need a pretty thick-handled spoon….but it might be worth a try! See what you think when the tutorial goes up (hopefully Monday).

      – Joe

      1. I guess it was in Australian Masterchef (unfortunately I don’t know which season/episode) that they indeed used a wooden spoon to deep-fry some kind of sweet pastry rolls. It worked perfectly, except that some of them had some trouble to get the pastry off the spoon…

        1. I was also thinking that sections of an old broom handle would work well. Thanks, Ena!

          – Joe

          1. Somebody did exactly that to make cannoli shells on the current season of Top Chef Canada. (He wrapped the sections of broom handle in aluminum foil first.)

          1. I like this recipe. I haven’t made cannoli in more than 25 years but I am making some tomorrow : ) We made them with old broom handles (with my grandmother) when we were kids. You don’t use foil though. You cut up the broom handles and sand the paint off. You can buy dowels at Home Depot and do the same thing. Once you use them a time or two the shells slide right off.

          2. Neat, Lori! Thanks very much for the tip. As you know, cannoli molds aren’t available everywhere.

            – Joe

  2. I make krumkaka which is a batter that’s fried in an iron much like a pizelle iron. Once it has been browned in the iron, the cookie is removed and rolled around a cone shaped mould and left to cool until crisp before the mould is removed. Is it possible to fry the cannoli flat and then mould it around the form until it holds the tubular shape or does it crisp as it cooks in the hot oil? (or can you tell I’ve never had a cannoli before?)

    1. Hi Susan!

      I don’t think that’s possible, unfortunately. Cannoli shells are more floury than sugary like krumkaka, which means they don’t have any elasticity when they’re cooked. They crisp instead. And anyway they’d be amazingly hot coming out of the oil and thus very hard to handle.

      Good question, however, thanks!

      – Joe

  3. Joe,

    I have made cannolis a few times using different recipes and every one of them called for cinnamon or cassia oil in the pastry. When I think of cannolis I think of the faint hint of spice behind the sweet dairy hit you get from the filling. I see your recipe has the cocoa powder (which you are leaving out) instead. Any thoughts on cinnamon vs, plain?

    1. That’s interesting, Ed, none of the recipes I have call for cinnamon. However I think that’d be a perfectly fine addition. About 1/2 a teaspoon would suffice, I’d think. I may just add that!

      – joe

  4. Hi Joe

    Two things – first, I purchased wooden dowels (of the correct diameter) at a home improvement store and cut them to length for my cannoli forms. Cleaner than an old broom handle and you can get lots of them cheaply so you don’t have to wait for the metal forms to cool down.

    Second – is there a counterpart to cannoli in other cultures? So many pastries show up in similar forms elsewhere, but I get the feeling this is somewhat unique. True for false?

    1. Yeah, I thought about the cleanliness factor after I posted that comment. Dowels are a much better solution.

      But no, I’m not aware of any other tubular fried sweets out there. Cannoli as far as I know, are unique.

      Thanks Linda!

      – Joe

      1. There is Krum Kaka, which is a Norwegian cookie that is cooked like a pancake in a special iron pan then quickly rolled onto a wooden tube where it cools and hardens. Although, Krum Kaka isn’t filled yet it is like a roll cookie.

        1. Ah yes, I know what you’re talking about, Jules! I remember now that I’ve seen them in Chicago. Thanks!

          – Joe

  5. Hey Joe (and everyone else). Just need to let you know that I’m a cannoli connoisseur and will help the cause. Send my your samples and I’ll tell you if they are good.

    1. Glad to know you’ve got my back, Brian. I knew I could count on you! 😉

      – Joe

      1. The Mexican bakery nearby sells cream filled horns but they are not much like the cannoli I have had. Similar form & it seems ingredients but theirs just aren’t that good. Not having anything to compare them to I don’t know if it is the style or just this shop that makes them tasteless.

        1. Sometimes cream horns are made with a yeast dough. Was it fluffy or more cookie-like?

          – Joe

  6. Hi Joe!
    In Italy I’ve heard from a couple of pastry chefs something strange about the shells frying process.
    They were saying that you should “overcook” them a little, going a bit further than just golden. This way the shells should acquire a stronger flavour, almost a hint of bitterness, helping to counter and highlight the filling.
    I don’t know if it is reasonable or not.
    Do you think it is just folklore?

    1. Very interesting. Now that you mention it, it does seem to be the case that cannoli shells are generally darker than, say, doughnuts. I’ll remember that, Marco. Nice to hear from you again, by the way!

      – Joe

  7. I know Alton Brown has used heavy-duty aluminum foil folded over a few times and rolled into a flattened cylinder (think the letter D in three dimensions) to shallow-fry tortillas for crispy taco shells. This seems pretty much the same technique. I’m too cheap to buy cannoli molds, so this is probably what I’ll try. Also if I buy something specifically for cannoli-making, I’ll have to make cannolis more often to justify the expense, and then my waistline will go the way of my hairline, and no one wants that.

    I’m a long time reader and fan, and NY born and bred, and I’m looking forward to reading the tutorial. Your laminated dough articles helped me resurrect my Nana’s danish recipe and bring back my family’s favorite Christmas tradition, your scone recipe earned my esteem amongst the discerning palates of the church ladies of our congregation, and I wowed some Jewish friends with your knish recipe. Oh, and I fed a whole squad of hungry Soldiers fresh beignets for Christmas breakfast one year.
    Joe, you’re the secret weapon of my culinary arsenal. Many thanks and I look forward to future pastry enterprises!

    1. Sgt. Tom, if I wasn’t sure you’d make me drop and give you 20, I’d be tempted to get a little misty over the last paragraph of that email. Suffice to say you’ve made a guy’s day. Man hugs all around.

      That’s an interesting idea on the cannoli forms. But just let me say that the real deal will probably run you four bucks at any eye-talian food shop in the greater New York area. A very minor expense which shouldn’t lead to all those dire consequnences. All I’m saying is: think about it.

      Glad to be the XM25 in the pantry,

      – Joe

    1. Eh…I guess…in a pinch. But it depends on how salty. I’d go for the real stuff. You can get cooking-grade (non-slated) for about five bucks a bottle. Then you can have some for veal Marsala!

      – Joe

      1. It’s fairly salty, 1-2%, but I’ve never seen real Marsala floor only $5 a bottle. It works for tiramisu, but you don’t need as much for that custard.

          1. I will, and will just omit the salt. I did the calculations, it’s 95 mg sodium per tablespoon, and a normal quarter teaspoon of salt has 600 mg sodium. So if I use 7T, it’ll be a little over, and 6T will be a little under. I’m making them for Father’s Day for my husband, so I’ll let you know Monday or so.

  8. It’s too hot for frying today but I was craving cannoli so I rolled out 1.5 inch squares of your dough recipe using my pasta machine and pressed them into mini-muffin tins with a tart tamper. Baked at 375 until just past golden, filled them with ricotta cream, and wow! All of the flavors of cannoli without having to stand over the stove. They kept their shapes pretty well while baking–no bubbling or lifting up of the bottoms, and only one caved in on the side. They’re cute little one-bite desserts, too! (I got about 36 for anyone looking to do the same). Thanks, Joe!

    1. Wow, fabulous! Sounds great, Melanie…wish I could have been there for some!

      – Joe

  9. Hi!
    I’m looking to make a small batch of cannoli’s . Aproximately how many does this recipe yield?

    1. This should make about two dozen depending on the size you like. Cheerio,

      – Joe

  10. Hi Joe,
    I’m trying to perfect my cannoli formula. Can you explain how,where and why the bubbles are created? My guess is from air being traped in the laminating process. Or is it the acidity in the wine? I’m going to try 8 folds today in order to get micro bubbles and a big crispy flake. You comment is needed.

    1. Hey Alex!

      I wish you luck on your quest! To answer your question, the bubbles are created in the mixing process. As you work the ingredients together you incorporate small amounts of air. Once those air pockets hit the oil they expand and bingo – bubbles. The best way to eliminate them is to squeeze them out steadily by using a pasta machine to roll the dough thinner and thinner…then fry the shells. That’s my best advice! Good luck!

      – Joe

  11. Hi Joe,
    I did my laminate test and I agree with you about the bubbles being created in the mix cycle, it’s logical for that to happen. The 8 fold laminate produced many micro bubbles as well and increased the flakyness, (is this a new word?) Also your canndied orange peel method worked fantastic in the sweetened Ricotta. It is after all Classic Sicilian to use candied orange in the filling. I’m very happy to have found your site. Is there a way to post pictures to you? Thanks again…..Alex

  12. Love Love Love this recipe and instruction….I tried another recipe before it wasn’t great…and it was my first time…so I looked for another and I liked this one….I did have to use a tad more shortening and wine but that may just be alttitude….boyfriend and kids and myself were thrilled with the outcome….and frying after removing the tubes really changes the cannoli and makes them crunchier….thank you!

  13. Amazing recipe but I want to make a small batch for a small dinner party. Can I freeze the dough for later use? Or would it be better to fry up all the shells and freeze them after they have been cooked? How long can you store the unstuffed shells and how would you recommend? I typically use Gladware tubs.

    1. Hey Heather!

      It’d be better to freeze the dough since the crunch will fade in the freezer. It will keep for several months.

      – Joe

  14. i have small problem how to keep the cannoli shell crunchy and stay crunchy for longer than a week .I have a small bisiness. some advise can help .thanks

  15. is there a more specialty-type flour that would be even better than AP flour for this? I bought cannoli molds a few weeks ago ($5!) and can’t wait to give this a shot.

    Also, would using butter or clarified butter be possible? Thanks!

    1. Hey Erica! AP works the best considering they frying, Erica. But I never thought about clarified butter, that’s a great idea. Give it a try!

      – Joe

  16. I found my mom’s old cannoli forms (4 boxes of 4 each) but they’re filthy. I have to clean them off and then I want to give cannoli’s a try. Any hints on cleaning those aluminum tubes which have gunk in the seam?

    1. Hello!

      I’d just try a scouring pad. Cannoli molds often get a little gunky with old oil, so some abrasion plus a good grease-cutting detergent should do the trick. Scratches won’t hurt them, so apply elbow grease abundantly.

      Let me know how they turn out!

      – Joe

      1. Thank you for the suggestion.

        I started by boiling the tubes for about 10 minutes in a big pot of water to loosen any of the grunge inside and out, draining the water off, dumping them into a sink full of very hot soapy water and then scrubbing them thoroughly with a bottle brush inside. I used a scrubby on the outside seam. Then I rinsed the tubes well in couple of changes of clean hot water, rolled them in a big towel and then placed them on a baking sheet in a 200 deg F oven for one hour.

        I let them cool overnight and made a batch of cannoli this morning using the recipe above including the cocoa powder and substituting unsalted butter for the shortening.

        I repeated the cleaning process afterwards so I have a nice clean batch of cannoli tubes for the next time.

        I haven’t decided on a filling yet but will post pictures of the finished product to my LJ.

        1. Glad you got that figured out! And yes, please do let me know when your cannoli pics are up!

          – Joe

  17. I already made my cream now I wanna make the shells do I have to use wine or can I use Marsala cooking wine to make the shells

    1. Hey Enp! Sorry I’m a little late with the reply!

      You can indeed use cooking wine if you like…or no wine at all if you prefer. It’s not essential to the recipe. Cheers,

      – Joe

  18. Hi

    Every time I make cannoli’s the pastry always opens up when I fry them. What am i doing wrong?

  19. I would like to make these a month before Christmas. Can the cannoli shells be frozen after frying, cooled and frozen the crisped in a 250 degree oven?

    1. Hi Gerry!

      That’s a good question. I’ve never tried freezing them. My expectation is that they’ll soften in the freezer to some extent, but the further drying you suggest may be the corrective they need. Very clever indeed. I’d suggest an experiment to prove the theory, then get back to me! Freeze them for at least a few days, and store them in as airtight a container as you can. Freezer air is more humid than you might think!


      – Joe

  20. This is great! I used to make cannoli with my grandmother and this is just how she did it. I just forgot 🙂 Thanks for the reminder! Now off to the kitchen!

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