-12 cannoli shells (can be bought at the market or any bakery)
-2 pounds ricotta cheese
-2 cups confectioner's sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
-3-4 teaspoons vanilla (to taste)
-Zest of about 1 lemon
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
-1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)
-Chopped pistachios or walnuts (optional)
Prep the ricotta. The Ricotta filling will come out best if you allow it to drain overnight. You can make it the same day, but the filling will be slightly more runny and gritty. Therefore, I find it best to put the ricotta in a strainer and place the strainer over a bowl so the water has a place to fall. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in fridge over night.
The next day, transfer the ricotta to a sieve. Push the ricotta through the sieve and into a bowl to help reduce any of the grittiness that may be left.
Once that is done, mix in the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, zest, cinnamon (if using), and chocolate chips (if using). Reserve the nuts for later if using. Chill the mixture for a few hours or even overnight so that the flavors can really have a chance to meld together.
When ready, transfer the cannoli cream mixture to a piping bag and pipe the filling into the shells. Dip the ends of the shells into the nuts if using. I usually prefer to have my cannoli plain, without any extra chocolate chips or nuts, but sometimes it is nice to make a few of each. If you rotate between having some plain, some with chocolate chips, and some with nuts, it can look very festive and the colors are beautiful!
Once the shells are filled, dust them lightly with confectioner's sugar and enjoy!
If you are ever in the mood for a cannoli but do not have the time to make them, I suggest taking a trip to Boston and visiting a little shop called Maria's. Maria's has the absolute best cannoli! When I was still in school, I would often walk to the North End in between classes just to eat a cannoli and enjoy it with a cappuccino.
The owner, Maria, is a cute, little, old Italian woman who is so sweet and makes everything in her shop fresh, daily! She also has the cutest little cat, Cookie, who is often roaming around the shop trying to sneak a bite. Don't worry though, if you are not a fan of cats she is harmless, but her adorable face is hard to resist!
(She was camera shy!)