Crunchy on the outside, with a delicately sweet and creamy center, this recipe for Mock Italian Cannoli with Pizzelle cookies is nothing short of heavenly. Your Sicilian grandmother would approve.
If you have an Italian pizzelle press, you definitely want to memorize this recipe, especially if you dream about Italian cannoli and are constantly looking for cannoli shops nearby. Make a batch of Mock Cannoli with Pizzelle and Vanilla Ricotta Cream, and make all your dreams come true.
This cannoli recipe uses rolled up pizzelle—the flat, waffle-like cookies that are cooked in a press similar to a waffle iron—as a crispy shell for the cannoli. Traditional cannoli shells are made from deep-fried pastry dough; this clever substitute is lighter and far easier.
In case you’re wondering, “cannolo” is the singular form of cannoli, yet everyone calls cannoli “cannoli,” no matter the quantity.
It makes sense, though, because it’s not like anyone can eat just one of these beautiful little ricotta-filled pastries and then…stop. Unless it was the last cannolo in the box, and well, that’s just cause for an argument.
Making a Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
How to make Mock Cannoli:
Is this recipe truly authentic cannoli Siciliani? Maybe not entirely, but it’s worlds easier and yields just as delightful a dessert as the real thing.
By the way, this how-to is broken up into a couple of different sections, the pizzelle waffle cookie, and the sweet ricotta cheese filling, so you don’t get overwhelmed.
How to make the Pizzelle:
For these cookies, you’ll need a pizzelle press, also known as a pizzelle iron or a pizzelle maker. Nowadays, most pizzelle presses are electric, made of non-stick material for rapid cookie production. But others are manual, which need to be heated on the stove.
Depending on the investment you want to make, there are lots of good options out there for every budget.
To make the pizzelle cookies, you make an easy batter out of melted butter, flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and baking powder. (The exact pizzelle recipe is down below, in the recipe card, in case you want specifics—this is just a walkthrough for the readers!)
Some Italian cooks add a pinch of powdered anise to their pizzelle recipe; anise would taste fabulous with cannoli.
- Coat the preheated pizzelle iron with non-stick cooking spray, then drop a slightly rounded tablespoon of batter in each area of the pizzelle press.
- Cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually about 30 seconds to one minute.
- Now for the tricky part! You need to work quickly because once the cookies start to cool, they become impossible to roll up.
- Roll your cookies one at a time, leaving the second cookie on the press with the press open while you roll up 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.
- Most Pizzelle presses come with a 3/4″ wooden dowel for rolling; wrap the cookies around it immediately off the press and hold them until they are cool enough to maintain the shape. Use a towel so you don’t burn your fingers.
- Once the cookies are made, they can keep in an airtight container until you need them. To prevent the cannoli from getting soggy, it’s best to fill the cannoli right before you need them.
How to make Cannoli filling:
What kind of cheese goes in cannoli filling? Traditional cannoli filling is made with sweetened ricotta cheese which is sometimes delicately scented with Amaretto or Sambuca. Some cooks also add a creamy mascarpone cheese for extra body.
The ends of the cannoli are then dipped in chopped pistachios, chocolate chips, chocolate shavings, or toasted almonds. Something sweet to give this creamy pastry a little crunch.
However, this recipe lightens it up a little and folds in a little whipped cream and a touch of vanilla bean extract. Every bite is like a cloud!
- To make the filling, whip the cream into stiff peaks. In another bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Then gently fold in the whipped cream. Refrigerate the cannoli filling while you make the cookies.
- To fill the cookies, use 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 completely fine.
Sometimes real cannoli are like that, too.
Storing Italian Mock Cannoli:
The prepared cannoli shells will keep, unfilled, up to two weeks if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Only fill the shells when you’re planning to serve them, otherwise, the ricotta cheese filling will make the cannoli soggy.
Sprinkle the ends of the cannoli with tiny chocolate chips, chopped pistachios, chocolate shavings, or finely chopped candied orange peel. Finally, give the outside a dusting of powdered sugar, then hurry up and eat them all until there’s not a single cannolo left!
Mock Italian Cannoli with Pizzelle
- Pizzelle iron (see note 1)
For the ricotta filling:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 ½ cup powdered sugar plus more for garnish
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Pizzelle cookies:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup butter melted and cooled
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (see note 2)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
For the mock cannoli:
- 2/3 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate chips plus more for garnish
To make the ricotta filling:
- 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 whipped cream, cover, and refrigerate while making the Pizzelle cookies.
To make the Pizzelle cookies:
- Preheat Pizzelle iron and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and baking powder. Drop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter on to Pizzelle iron 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.
To assemble the mock cannoli:
- 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.
- Pizzelle iron: Modern versions are just like a waffle maker: a silvery, shiny, beautiful waffle maker that makes cookies. I have this pizzelle iron (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).
- Vanilla extract: Or substitute anise or almond extract. For lemon, use 1 teaspoon lemon oil instead of lemon extract (lemon extract doesn’t have enough flavor).
- Yield: This recipe about 36 cannoli (12 servings of 3 cannoli per person). The recipe may be halved.
- Make ahead: The prepared cannoli shells will keep, unfilled, up to two weeks if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Unfortunately the shells cannot be filled in advance because the ricotta cheese filling will make the cannoli soggy.
- Finishing touches: Sprinkle the ends of the cannoli with tiny chocolate chips, chopped pistachios, chocolate shavings, or finely chopped candied orange peel. Finally, give the outside a dusting of powdered sugar.