Mock Italian Cannoli are a delicious (and far easier!) substitute for the real thing. Use rolled Pizzelle and fill with delicious vanilla ricotta cream.
Up until recently, my only exposure to cannoli was watching Curious George eat Chef Pisghetti’s cannoli with wild abandon.
I knew it was a dessert (unlike my husband, Jim, who thought it was a type of cheesy pasta like Manicotti, because don’t all those names sound the same?), but that was about it.
One day, my friend Sarah and I were rambling on and on about food on a recent afternoon, the topic of cannoli came up. She mentioned how one of our favorite local Italian bakeries sells cannoli and that It.Is.Amazing. But we can do better, right? We vowed then and there to make our own authentic cannoli.
The Best Laid Plans
A super-thin, deep-fried crispy shell filled with sweetened ricotta cheese?! Yes please! I was immediately impressed and won over and on the same page as Sarah.
We had to do this.
And then, just as quickly, our dream was shattered. I started looking at recipes to see how this magic comes together, and I was a bit overwhelmed.
While reading comments on various recipes, I learned that wise cooks recommend you roll the dough out with a pasta maker to get it super thin. I don’t have a pasta maker, sadly, nor am I interested at this juncture in my life in rolling out cannoli dough with the pasta maker I don’t have.
It sounds, so well, PUTZY. I don’t always have the patience for these things. So, we were going to have to find another way.
Plan B: Pizzelle
In lieu of deep-frying wafer-thin shells, however delicious, we busted out one of my favorite Italian appliances: My Pizzelle Press.
I love Pizzelle Italian cookies because they are crunchy and delicious without being overly sweet. They are a great option for summer because you don’t have to heat your house by running the oven!
Because let’s face it, in SoCal, we have a couple more months of sweltering heat ahead of us yet and hopes of an el Niño event fade with each new report.
But I digress. Pizzelle cookies.
Yes. My Pizzelle press came with a 3/4″ wooden dowel; you wrap the cookies around it immediately off the press and hold them until they are cool enough to maintain the shape. I recommend using a towel so you don’t burn your fingers.
Roll your cookies one at a time, leaving the second cookie on the press with the press open while you work with the first. If you remove both at the same time, the second one will be too cool to bend by the time you get to it, and it’ll break in half. <– True story.
Fill ‘er Up!
On to the filling! I also saw a lot of variations on the filling. Flavors such as cinnamon, allspice, and lemon (sometimes all three at once) were common in flavors.
They sound delicious, but I wanted something more basic. Just vanilla, please. Is that allowed? Since this is a mock recipe and not at all authentic, I decided to take creative license and scrap all fruity and spicy filling ideas and just use delicious vanilla.
I also used a little more heavy cream than most recipes call for because I didn’t want an overly cheesy filling. This is a dessert, after all. And I’m a Wisconsin girl by nature, so yes: More cream, please.
To fill the cookies, I used a disposable pastry bag fit with a large coupler and no tip. Squeeze the filling in one side of the cannoli, turn it around, and fill the second side. The filling might not go all the way through the middle of the cannoli, and that is okay. Sometimes real cannoli are like that, too.
I added some mini chocolate chips at the very end, both into the filling and as a garnish. Perfection! A light dusting of powdered sugar and Sarah and I were ready to open our own bakery. Not really. But the Mock Cannoli with Pizzelle and Vanilla Ricotta Cream are certainly delicious and much less labor-intensive than the original variety! Maybe someday we can tackle a more authentic cannoli, but for now, we are just going to eat and daydream about our next joint baking day.
Mock Italian Cannoli with Pizzelle
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 ½ cup powdered sugar plus more for garnish
- 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons vanilla divided
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup butter melted and cooled
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2/3 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate chips plus more for garnish
- Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine ricotta powdered sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Fold in heavy cream, cover, and refrigerate while making the cookies.
- Preheat pizzelle iron and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, eggs, remaining 1 tablespoon vanilla, and baking powder.
- Drop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter on the pizzelle press and close. Bake as directed by manufacturer or until golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Using a nonstick spatula, remove one pizzelle, leaving the second still on the open press, carefully wrap around a ¾” wooden dowel and pinch where the ends of the cookie meet. Hold until pizzelle is cool enough to retain its shape, using a kitchen towel if necessary to prevent burning your fingers. Repeat with second cookie on press and all remaining batter.
- Remove filling from the refrigerator and fold in chocolate chips. Using a pastry bag fitted with only a large coupler and no tip, pipe the filling into each side of a cooled pizzelle. It is okay if the filling does not go all the way through the middle of the cookie.
- Garnish with additional chocolate chips and dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve immediately or chill until serving time.