There is no question that Cannoli are the most famous Sicilian dessert. They have been traced to the times of the Arab domination of the island and were probably inspired by a Roman dessert mentioned by Cicero. One legend assigns their origin to the harem of the Castello delle Donne (Women Castle) in Caltanissetta, probably prepared as a fertility symbol. For similar reasons they became a popular treat for Carnival and, eventually, became a year-round staple throughout Sicily.
Like many traditional Italian delicacies, there are recipe varietions depending on specific areas, villages and even families' versions.
The most relevant difference in cannolini making concerns the ricotta cheese, while in most parts of the island the filling is prepared with sheep ricotta, in the southestern corner of the island, in the province of Ragusa cannoli are made with cow ricotta. You can imagine all the discussions and diatribes on which version is the best one!
In the meantime, we hope you will find the recipe below delicious and not too difficult to follow.
Sift the flour in a bowl with the sugar and salt. Add the lard/butter in small pieces and the cocoa, then mix using very little water until the dough is firm. Wrap it in a damp lint-free cotton towel or film before placing it in the refrigerator to rest for 50 minutes.
Roll out the dough really thin on a weel-floured surface. Using any glass or small bowl that has a 10-12 cm ( 3-to-4-inch) diameter, cut into oval or round shapes. Then wrap around the cannoli molds using some egg wash. Place the cannoli molds to fry in hot oil in a large deep frying pan over a high heat.
Drain on a kitchen paper and only after they cooled down, remove from the metal mold.
Sift the ricotta (use ricotta from the day before, if it is too fresh, it is also too humid for this recipe) and whisk with the icing sugar, once it is nice and creamy add the chopped candied fruit (you can also add chocolate chips). Use a pastry bag to pipe the ricotta into the cannoli shells from both ends. Dust with powdered sugar and deep the two ends in ground pistachio nuts.
Remember to fill the cannoli just before serving them. If you fill them too early, the ricotta cream can get the shell soggy.