Cannoli are a classic Italian dessert. A basic cannoli is a tube-shaped, deep fried pastry shell that is filled with a sweetened ricotta cheese mixture. They have a great combination of flavors and crisp and creamy textures. They originated in Sicily, but have a huge fan base in Italian communities all over the world. The problem with cannoli is that it can be difficult to find them if you don’t live in an area where you can easily find Italian specialty bakeries – and they tend to not be very good when you buy them from places that don’t specialize in them. They can also be a bit of a pain to make at home, since you need to do a little deep frying to get them started. I like cannoli but wanted to capture their flavor in a different format, so instead of making pastries, I made pie.
This Cannoli Pie captures the essence of all the flavors in a cannoli without the frying. The pie starts with a slightly crisp, cinnamon-kissed shortbread crust. It is filled with a mixture of ricotta cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon. The filling is extremely easy to make but it tastes fantastic when it has baked. It is almost like cheesecake, but with a little more texture to it because it uses ricotta instead of cream cheese. The vanilla and cinnamon really compliment the ricotta and pick up on the hint of cinnamon that is also in the shortbread crust. Even though it comes together easily, this pie tastes like you spent a long time putting it together.
I added mini chocolate chips to my pie because most of the cannolis I encounter have their open ends dipped in mini chocolate chips or chopped pistachios. Chocolate goes very well with this filling, so I sprinkled the mini chips on top of the pie. I wanted them to be visible, like the ones that garnish regular cannoli. A few will sink to the bottom even if you sprinkle them on top of the custard before baking, however they will all sink to the bottom if you try to stir them in to the filling.
I’ve had many cannolis that have a touch of lemon in the filling. I, personally, prefer them without the lemon, but I included a suggestion in the recipe for adding a hint of citrus to the filling of your pie if that suits your tastes. I’ll stick with the vanilla, cinnamon and a little chocolate for mine. If you want to streamline the recipe a little bit, you can use a premade graham cracker or shortbread crust instead of my homemade crust recipe, or you can use a blind-baked pastry crust instead.
Once the pie has been baked and cooled, the leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator. Since the filling for this pie is a custard, the crust will start to soften slightly once it has been refrigerated, so it will loose a little of its crisp cannoli shell-like quality. Fortunately, it still tastes great and the edges of the crust should stay crispy even if you end up storing leftovers for a couple of days.
15-oz ricotta cheese
14-oz sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp lemon zest (optional)
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a food processor, combine ricotta cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest (if using) and blend until very smooth. Pour into prepared 9-inc pie shell. Sprinkle the top evenly with mini chocolate chips, but do not stir them in.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until pie is set and jiggles only slightly when you push the edge of the pan.
Allow to cool completely before serving.
Shortbread Pie Crust
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, chilled
1 large egg
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Pulse to combine. Add in cold butter, cut into a few chunks, and pulse until the flour mixture looks sandy and the butter has been broken down into very small pieces. Add the egg and pulse until the dough starts to come together. Dough should still be somewhat crumbly.
Transfer the sandy dough out into a 9-inch pie plate and press it gently into an even layer up the sides and over the base of the pan. When the dough is evenly spread, pack it down firmly to create an even crust. Be sure to press the dough into the corners well.
Crust should be stored in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to fill.