If you’re not a fan of the Godfather movies you may not recognize the phrase “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” It is a classic! Clemenza’s wife wanted cannoli and asks him to bring some home. So no matter what his day at work looked like, even killing or beating up people, he’d better not forget to bring home the cannoli!
Hands down, the best cannoli I have ever tasted was in Italy in a small restaurant near the Valley of the Temples. Not only was it the biggest cannoli I’d ever seen, but truly the most delicious shell and filling ever.
Making cannoli is an Italian tradition anytime of year, but especially during the holiday season. You can buy the cannoli shells from a local Italian deli, and I’ve heard that you might find them in Walmart’s freezer section and seasonally at World Market but I haven’t found them at either of those stores. You can also find them online from Amazon but I caution you about ordering the shells online at a busy shipping time, as the package may not be handled with care and some shells may arrive damaged.
When I was making pizzelles a few days ago, I made my own cannoli shells. It was easy enough to do – just wrap the warm cookie around a wooden dowel for about a minute to form the tube. There are many recipes available for making your own shells, most involve deep frying, seem like a messy process, and just look like a lot of work. So I prefer to make my own from the pizzelle cookies or buy them.
Next decision, which filling to use? There are several schools of thought about which cannoli filling is the best. Well when you have Italians involved in anything, there are many opinions, all diverse, and everyone has to be heard. And everyone thinks they are right, or have the best recipe. So if you have Italian heritage, be careful who you ask or do your research online to choose your favorite – ricotta or mascarpone as the basic ingredient. While I like mascarpone, my favorite is ricotta and that may be because I make it with my fresh, homemade ricotta.
To use liqueur or not, that is the next question. I think a little liqueur adds a bit of zing to the cannoli cream. And there are so many choices in liqueurs! Since most recipes only use one tablespoon of the liqueur, it’s also a good way to use up a small bit that may have been left in a bottle. If I know our guests are bringing children or wish to be alcohol free, I eliminate the liqueur and add extract flavoring instead.
Nut Clusters: If you have extra melted chocolate after dipping your cannoli shells, throw a handful of nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts – using one type of nut or a combination) into the melted chocolate and drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. Let stand about 20-30 minutes until chocolate solidifies. The challenge is to come out with the right amount of melted chocolate to nut ratio. I always have to melt more chocolate to cover the nuts I’ve stirred in, then it’s too much chocolate so I add more nuts. This goes on for a bit and all of a sudden I have a dozen or so nut clusters and chocolate dripped all over the place – mostly contained on wax paper. 🙂