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.Â 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.
PattyMarch 6, 2013
Once again, I pronounce you a genius! I’m with you; yes to chocolate chips, no to lemon. The fact that both the crust and the filling can be made in the food processor make it even more appealing. Definitely pinning this one.
Donna Preston @ What the Dog AteMarch 6, 2013
I too enjoy Cannoli, but detest frying. For my mom’s bday I put together some Cannoli Cupcakes.
Love the idea of the pie. All the yummy filling, none of the frying! Great idea.
StaceyMarch 8, 2013
Wow – this looks amazing! Wonder what can be used in place of shortbread crust?
KatieMarch 8, 2013
I’ve tried recipes before that call for coating the chocolate chips in flour before putting them into the mixture so they don’t sink to the bottom… do you think that would work in this recipe if I wanted to add more chocolate chips? Excited… this will be my “Pi(e) Day” recipe next week!
NicoleMarch 8, 2013
Stacey – I gave some suggestions in the post that include graham cracker and traditional pastry crusts.
Katie – The best way to keep the chocolate chips from sinking is to use mini chocolate chips (definitely not standard chips) and sprinkle them on top of the filling before baking, rather than stirring them in. The reason is that the filling is fairly liquid, so it just isn’t thick enough to support the weight of a lot of chocolate chips, even with a flour coating, although it could help a bit and wouldn’t hurt anything if you wanted to give it a try. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll have a very delicious pie with a little extra chocolate on the bottom – and that is not a bad thing!
denaMarch 9, 2013
O. M. G! Cannolis in pie form! Doesn’t bother me if the chocolate chips fall to the bottom, just as long as they are in there for my enjoyment.
PattyMarch 15, 2013
Made it for Pi Day yesterday. So easy, so tasty. Will definitely make it again.
LeslieCAMarch 17, 2013
Did you pre-bake the crust, let is cool and add the filling and then bake again?
NicoleMarch 18, 2013
Leslie – No, the crust is not pre-baked for this pie.
AmieApril 1, 2013
Made this for Easter. It was a huge hit. No leftovers. Thanks!
AuraMay 30, 2015
Just few minutes out of the oven, and Oh.My.God… This is delicious!!! I’m in heaven 🙂 I’ve been looking for this recipe since 1989, when an Italian neighbor gave me one as a Christmas gift, but never shared her recipe. I was obsessed, because it was soooo good! My search is finally over. Thank you, Nicole!
TonyJune 2, 2015
Instead of Cannoli tubes, substitute ice cream sugar cones. With the recipe filling for the cannoli, I delete one half the sugar and add another pound of ricotta cheese. this permit you to taste the cheese instead of sugar. Incorporate lemon zest from the whole lemon and an equal amount from an orange. Add finely chopped pistachio nuts with their inner shell jackets removed. Use, shaved from a bar, quality semi-sweet chocolate (about 65% cocoa) instead of the low-end morsels. On the East coast the chocolate is in the filing.
If you have a set of four metal tubes, used as forms for the cannoli tubes, follow the recipe on the back, decrease the sugar by one half and add another pound of cheese. Don’t forget to ‘rice’ the cheese.
SHERRY L SCHMIDTSeptember 4, 2015
I have broken pieces of cannoli shells and would like to use it for the bottom of a no bake pie (lemon mouse to be specific). Anyone do this before and how – did you add any ingredients to broken pieces
NicoleSeptember 4, 2015
Sherry – You could try pulverizing them until they are sandy and have the consistency of graham cracker crumbs, then using them in a no-bake graham cracker crust recipe like this one: http://bakingbites.com/2015/08/no-bake-dulce-de-leche-cheesecake/
NinaSeptember 16, 2015
I’m using a Graham cracker crust instead of. Just put it in the oven, smells fantastic!
KittyOctober 24, 2015
If I wanted to make these into cupcakes or tarts, how long would the cooking time be? Have you tried that?