An easy guide to a great cannelloni

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Enjoy a taste of Italy with this delicious cannelloni recipe

Italian food: much loved, much appropriated. There are more international interpretations of pizza, pane and pasta pomodoro than there are Italians living in Italy, and while this speaks volumes about the worldwide appeal of this deceptively simple cuisine, it rarely says much about authenticity.

Forget Jamie’s Italian – the lovely folk at Lonely Planet have gathered 60 recipes from Italy’s top to toe, coast to coast: 
60 dishes harvested from the very places in which they originated. Nigella might do a polished pollo arrosto and the River Café an iconic zuppa alle vongole but as one of the featured chefs from Genoa says: unlike French cuisine, Italian food came not from a tradition of great chefs but from mothers and grandmothers. And to cook food just like mama used to make it, you have to go to the source, to the very families who originated iconic dishes, or who inherited them and keep them alive. These are the people whose stories Lonely Planet tell in their new book From the Source: Italy, through their recipes, their restaurants and their great love of the fertile terrain that surrounds them.

Unfussy and family-focused, Italian food is nothing if not a celebration of simple ingredients – a perfect margarita pizza, spaghetti aglio e olio, a caprese salad dressed with nought but locally grown and pressed extra virgin olive oil. And more often than not, less is more. A handful of modest ingredients can add up to a thing of great beauty, and great provenance, too. Italy’s produce, from its grains to its grapes, its olives to its truff les, form culinary maps of the country. The home of Slow Food, Italy’s is the ultimate locavore culture whose seasonal, regional cuisine is focused on recipes that are deeply rooted in the earth and sea from which they’re derived.

This week we’re sharing a recipe for the best cannelloni with Just About Travel readers. For an awesome Carbonara recipe, be sure to log onto Just About Travel next Sunday (16 August). Buon appetito!

Credit: Susan Wright

Credit: Susan Wright


The Piana degli Albanesi hills outside Palermo are known for two Sicilian superlatives: the peaceful pastures and little mountain towns that are home to the island’s most significant and sizeable Albanian population; and its best-loved dessert.

Chef: Davide Di Noto

Location: Pasticceria Di Noto, Piana degli Albanese

Cannoli, the ‘little tube’ that is the undisputed creamy king of Italian desserts has its homeland in the Albanesi hills that overlook Palermo.

These crispy, cylindrical pastries filled with the freshest ricotta are enjoyed across Italy, but those from Piana degli Albanesi reign supreme. The town of Piana degli Albanesi even celebrates this sweet treat with a dedicated sagra (food festival; usually held the first week of May).

Synonymous with Sicily, cannoli actually have more exotic origins. Sicilian food is nothing if not a culinary portrait of the myriad cultures that once ruled or resided on the island: Greek, Spanish, French, Arab and, in the case of Piana degli Albanesi, the Albanians driven from their homeland by the Ottomans, who fled to these hills in the 15th century. Such varied cultural influences are ever present in some of Sicily’s best-known dishes. In the case of cannoli, we can thank 9th century Arabic pastry artisans for importing sugar cane and dreaming up its combination with sheep’s ricotta and crispy pastry that has become, thanks to its shape and indulgent ingredients, a symbol of prosperity and fertility.

‘It has to be sheep’s ricotta,’ says Davide Di Noto, of Piana degli Albanese’s Pasticceria Di Noto. ‘Ricotta from cow’s milk isn’t so full of flavour. And the ricotta of the Piana has an even richer flavour still, due to the altitude the sheep are grazed at. The wild grasses and herbs they eat are richer than those found on pastures closer to sea level.’

Pasticceria di Noto at Piana delgi Albanesi near Palermo, Sicily.  Cannoli made with fresh local ricotta. (Credit: Susan Wright)

Pasticceria di Noto at Piana delgi Albanesi near Palermo, Sicily. Cannoli made with fresh local ricotta. (Credit: Susan Wright)

Makes 12–14 cannoli
Preparation & cooking time 20min

1¾kg (4lb) ricotta
250g (8oz) icing sugar
350g (12oz) flour
half a tbsp sugar
35g (1oz) lard/shortening
100ml (3½fl oz) red wine
half tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
a beaten egg
extra virgin olive oil for deep frying

1. First make the filling. Place the ricotta and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy.

2. To make the pastry, put the flour, cocoa powder, lard/shortening and sugar in a large bowl and mix well together, gradually adding the wine until the mixture forms pastry dough. Work the pastry into a ball and wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) to rest for an hour.

3. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick. With a round pastry cutter, cut circles about 7½cm (3in) in diameter and wrap around tubular moulds, securing the edges with the beaten egg.

4. Heat the olive oil – enough to submerge the cannoli in a large pan to 180°C (350°F). Fry to golden-brown. Drain on kitchen paper and gently remove the moulds once they’ve started to cool.

5. Once cooled, fill each cannolo with 150g (5oz) of the ricotta mixture

and decorate with your choice of toppings. See below.

Mascarpone, often found stuffed into cannoli served around the world, is a poor substitute for ricotta: it’s less tasty and higher in fat. And when it comes to sprinkles, choose small pieces of candied fruits (lemon, orange, citron and cherry), or unsalted pistachios. Chocolate chips are also used, if not quite so traditional a topping.

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Recipe taken from Lonely Planet’s From the Source – Italy (£19.99; out now)

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