Everyone loves cannoli right? So why are they not a household food item? Well, first of all the shell of the cannoli is deep fried – not very helpful for those trying to count calories. That’s why making pizzelle cannoli is a great alternative that’s still Italian!
My brother made some homemade cannoli for an Italian Easter dessert a number of years ago. Instead of frying traditional cannoli shells, he made a batch of pizzelle cookies and rolled each one into a tube.
They were delicious and I’ve since become a fan. I’m excited to share my own easy Italian recipe with you right here.
As you can tell in the photos, these decorative pizzelle-style cannoli are stunning. Definitely something I would keep in mind for future parties or family get togethers.
About the Cannoli Filling
In regard to the cannoli filling, you actually have quite a bit of flexibility. Some Italian recipes include just ricotta and confectioner sugar, while others call for a list of other ingredients. I keep mine simple, with the addition of chocolate chips.
I provide some additional filling ideas in the Substitutions and Variations section of this post.
But this post is not just about the filling. It is about solving the issue of the shell. So with one word you can have a lower calorie solution – pizzelles. You can use an anise pizzelle recipe or one that uses vanilla for the shell batter. You can also use a chocolate pizzelle recipe.
Any of them will work.
About the Cannoli Pizzelle Shell
No, the texture is not the same as a fried cannoli shell. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was like a stuffed pizzelle. The shell is still crispy, but probably a little thicker than a deep fried version.
The shells are made using pizzelle batter. You cook the pizzelles using a pizzelle maker, sometimes called a press. Then before they harden, you wrap them around a cannoli form which creates the tube. You now have your cannoli shell made from a pizzelle.
This recipe is very easy to make and I’ll show you how step by step. But first, a quick note about the equipment you’ll need.
- Pizzelle Maker. Unfortunately there’s really no way around this one. Check to see if yours comes with cannoli rollers, also called cannoli forms. This is what you will use to wrap the pizzelle around to form the tube. You can also purchase the rollers/forms separately if you already have a maker.
- Cannoli Forms or Rollers. These are usually stainless steel tubes or wooden. I ordered a pack of 16 which was perfect.
TIP: Make sure to wash these when they first come in. Mine had manufacturing soot inside the tubes which I had to thoroughly clean before using.
- Piping bag or pastry bag. Check to see if a piping bag is included with your cannoli forms. See my note on stuffing tips later in the post.
- Mixing bowls.
- Wire rack. You can just use trays if you need to.
Above is an image of how I set up my kitchen when making pizzelles, whether as a cookie or as a cannoli. Placing the foil underneath the maker, and a pan under the wire cooling racks helps tremendously with clean up!
The specific measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post. Feel free to use your own pizzelle recipe; the process is the same.
Cannoli Pizzelle Shell Ingredients
- Vanilla extract. This can also be anise extract for a more traditional flavor. Hubby likes vanilla and I can go either way.
- Olive oil. Any non-flavorful olive oil will work. You can use extra virgin olive oils that are specific for baking, often labeled as Smooth. I’ve even used avocado oil.
- Butter. This needs to be melted and cooled in liquid form.
- Sugar. See my Tips section down below about reducing this and using monk fruit powder to cut back on calories.
- Flour. All-purpose flour is perfect.
Cannoli Filling Ingredients
- Whole ricotta cheese. This is not where you want to skimp for calories. If you use skim milk or low fat ricotta it will lose its smooth and creamy texture.
- Confectioner sugar.
- Mini chocolate chips. Semi-sweet or bitter-sweet is fine. Totally your preference. If you don’t have mini-chips, just grab a chopping knife and chop up regular chocolate chips. You don’t want large chips in them.
For additional filling ideas, see my Substitutions and Variations section below.
Instructions to Make Batter
We first need to make the pizzelle batter. Here are the instructions to follow. This is the exact process I use.
Step 1. In a large bowl mix all the wet ingredients together (eggs, extract, olive oil, and melted butter). You can do this with a spoon or whisk.
Step 2. In a smaller medium bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (flour and sugar).
Step 3. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients while mixing with a large spoon. The dough will become thick and sticky just as shown.
Step 4. Plug the pizzelle maker in and let it heat up for about 4 to 5 minutes until very hot. Each pizzelle maker may be a little different so refer to your manual if needed.
Step 5. When hot, drop about a Tablespoon onto each imprint/plate using a spoon or medium cookie scoop, which I like to use.
Step 6. Lower the lid and press to flatten. Cook the pizzelle as your normally would according to the manual. Mine is typically around 30 to 40 seconds.
PRO TIP: Pizzelles usually don’t cook the same color evenly, this is completely fine. Also, I shorten my cooking time so they are not as golden brown as I would normally make them. This is to allow just a tad more flexibility in shaping them around the rollers.
Step 7. Open the lid and using a rubber or plastic spatula, gently lift up one of the pizzelles and immediately wrap it around a cannoli form. They cool fast! Place on a cooling rack seam side down.
PRO TIP: These are hot! I use a paper towel to protect my fingers when wrapping the pizzelle around the forms. Expect to do a few before you get the hang of it.
Step 8. Repeat for the next pizzelle and continue until all the batter is used up. You should end up with about 16 cannoli pizzelles.
Instructions to Make the Cannoli Filling
A quick note about the filling. Do not fill the cannoli right away. Only fill them when you are ready to serve or they will soften up within a few hours if not sooner.
When I got married we had cannoli from a local Italian bakery, and my dad had to drive all the way there before the wedding to pick them up since they were filled only a few hours before the wedding.
So this is a serious tip not to be overlooked. Keep in mind however, that between you and me, even when the shell softens, they still taste delicious, just not crunchy.
Let’s get started!
Step 1. Using a medium size bowl, mix the filling ingredients – the ricotta, confectioner sugar, and the chips. Use a spoon to mix well.
Step 2. Put the ricotta mixture into a piping bag and remember to put the tip on. If you’re not using right away, just store the bag in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Step 3. Then squeeze from the wide end of the bag to push the filling into the cannoli tube. Do this for half of the tube. Flip it around and repeat from the other end. You can see in my image.
PRO TIP: If wondering how far to fill each end, don’t fill past the end of the shell, meaning right before outer edge.
Step 4. Place the cannoli on an Italian serving platter, or any plate large enough and serve.
For a lovely presentation, I like to use a small sifter and lightly sprinkle some white confectioner sugar on top. You can do this before serving them.
Preparation and Storage Tips
You can make the cannoli pizzelle shells 5 days in advance, and they don’t need to be kept in the fridge. They are no different than regular pizzelles. If you want to pre-freeze them, then store them in an airtight container in the freezer for 1 month.
To store any leftover stuffed cannoli, place in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days in the fridge. I do not recommend freezing them. Once in the fridge or freezer, the shell will soften due to the filling.
PRO TIP: Since the filling contains dairy, do not let filled cannoli sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This follows the 2-hour rule set by the FDA Guidelines.
Additional Helpful Tips
Here are some helpful tips I’d like to pass on to you.
1. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a small spoon to fill the cannoli. It’s messy and annoying, but doable. Using a piping bag will turn 20-30 minutes into just a few minutes. This is important especially when serving them at the last minute!
2. If you don’t have any rollers, you can use any object that is long and round. Just look around your kitchen and see what you have – maybe even a turkey baster would work or a wooden dowel rod. You’ll want it about 1” in diameter.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are some ideas for ingredients you can substitute. If you have your own, let me know in the comments below!
- Monk fruit for sugar. We all want to cut back on calories when we can, right? When making the pizzelles, decrease the regular sugar to 1/3 cup and use 1 tsp of monk fruit powder. Monk fruit has zero calories and is much sweeter than normal sugar. Add a little bit more of flour if the batter appears too thin.
- Gluten free. I don’t cook with gluten free flour, but it’s a 1:1 ratio. Give it a try if you want and let me know in the comments how it comes out.
- Dried candied fruit. Sicilian cannoli use dried candied fruit, often with bits of chocolate chips in the filling.
- Cocoa powder. If you want to offer some variety, it’s good to know that ricotta and cocoa taste great together. Replace ¼ cup of flour with ¼ cup of cocoa powder.
- Mascarpone cheese. Try adding some mascarpone cheese into the filling as well.
- Extracts. The two most common extracts for traditional pizzelles are anise and vanilla. You can exchange one for the other or use both together.
Similar Dessert Recipes
Enjoy these lemon pizzelles which are flavored with lemon extract – perfect for any special occasion!
These toto Italian cookies are also called spice cookies. My recipe uses a whiskey flavored icing which is amazing!
These popular anginetti lemon cookies are full of Italian flavor. They are soft, almost cake-like and are often served at Christmas, Easter and weddings.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to make my cannoli pizzelle recipe. Have fun and experiment too. If you have your own creations, I’d love to hear about them below. If you enjoyed this recipe, please let me know with a positive rating! 🤩
Pizzelle Cannoli Recipe
Pizzelle Cannoli Shell
- 3 eggs
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup regular olive oil
- 1/4 cup melted and cooled butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 lb whole ricotta
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar see note about using monk fruit in the notes below.
- 1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips or regular chips chopped
- In a large bowl mix the wet ingredients together using a whisk or spoon.
- In a smaller bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time making sure to mix while adding. The end result should be a thick batter that is slightly sticky.
- Turn your pizzelle maker on and let it heat up. This should take about 4-5 minutes.
- Use a spoon or a medium cookie scoop and drop a small amount onto each pizzelle imprint/plate.
- Lower the lid of the pizzelle maker and press down to flatten. Let the pizzelle cook until it is golden brown but not dark brown. This can vary, but mine usually take about 40 seconds. Yours may be longer or shorter depending on the maker you use. It's okay if the pizzelle is not the same even color.
- Remove one of the pizzelles and quickly wrap the pizzelle carefully around the cannoli tube. Use a paper towel to protect your fingers as it will be hot. Hold it for a few seconds then place on wire racks to cool, seam side down.
- When cooled, remove the paper towel (if you left it on). Set aside as we don't want to fill them until right before serving, otherwise they get soggy.
- In a medium bowl, mix all the filling ingredients, including the chocolate chips.
- Using a piping bag, fill the bag with the cannoli filling. Use a spoon to fill the piping bag. Don't forget to insert the piping tip!
- Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
- When ready to use, hold the cannoli in your hand and squeeze the filling into one side of the tube until it fills half way and is barely touching the end of the opening. Turn the cannoli around and repeat to fill the other half of the tube.
- Place the cannolis on a tray and sprinkle with confectioners sugar using a sifter. You only need to do this for visual appeal and only just a very small amount. This step is optional.
- I find that waiting until the pizzelles are golden brown as I usually would do for regular pizzelles, actually made these harder to roll. So I cut back my baking time just a little and that helps with flexibility of the pizzelles.
- You can make the filling a variety of ways such as adding candied fruit, cocoa powder for a more chocolatey flavor, or keeping the filling plain without any chips.
- If you want to reduce the sugar in the pizzelle, use 1 tsp of monk fruit and simply reduce the sugar to 1/3 cup. Add a bit more flour if needed.
- Adjust quantities as needed for the filling. What I give should be enough to fill 16 cannolis but depending on how much you stuff them you may need more or less. Don’t worry – the goal is to have a sweet ricotta filling and that’s all you need to worry about!
- For the pizzelles, I used vanilla extract. You can keep it more traditional by using anise extract. Both are wonderful!