Cannoli bites – Everyone loves cannoli but making them bite-size makes them completely irresistible!

Cannoli Bites

On no less than 3 occasions over the past 5 years, I have felt like a failure to my Italian heritage and New York upbringing.  When it comes to making cannoli, it’s been a rough go around here.

But I decided to give one of my favorite desserts another shot for Thanksgiving this year and this time I found my patience (to allow the ricotta cheese to thoroughly dry out) and skipped the whole mess that’s involved with frying cannoli shells.

Cannoli Bites

While these cannoli bites are not exact knock-offs of traditional, they are reeeeally reeeeally close. Really close!!

In fact, the only difference that I found is in the shells and that was only because they weren’t super crispy from being fried.  But the cannoli cream is spot on and spectacularly delicious, thanks to the abundance of mascarpone cheese in the recipe.

Cannoli Bites

And after the shells are filled with cream, the flavors of the two begin to meld together into what we all know fabulous cannoli should be.  These mini desserts were a huge hit on my family’s Thanksgiving dessert table last week but there’s no reason why they should be relegated to just one holiday – spread the love with these cannoli bites all year long!

Cannoli Bites

  • Prep Time: 8-12hrs (inactive for dough chilling and ricotta straining ) + 45min (active)
  • Cook Time: 10-12min
  • Yield: about 4 dozen


I can’t stress enough how important it is to allow the ricotta cheese enough time to strain. It needs to be super dry in order to keep the cannoli cream from being runny – allow it to strain for at least 8 hours but overnight in the fridge is best.

Traditional cannoli shells are made with sweet Marsala wine but the original recipe suggests that you can use 8 tablespoons of apple or grape juice and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in place of the Marsala if you choose to. The Marsala lends a subtle flavor to the shells and doesn’t overwhelm them at all.


For the cannoli filling:
12 oz whole milk ricotta cheese, strained
8 oz mascarpone cheese
½ cup plus 2 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted

For the cannoli shells:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
2 ½ tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg white
½ cup sweet Marsala wine (see note below)
Vegetable oil cooking spray

For serving:
Mini chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
Powdered sugar


  • 01

    To make the cannoli filling:  Strain the ricotta cheese in a piece of cheesecloth tucked in a colander set over a bowl for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator – overnight is best.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to allow the ricotta cheese enough time to strain.  It needs to be super dry in order to keep the cannoli cream from being runny – and nobody likes a runny cannoli cream.

    Once the cheese has dried out, mix it with the mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl until well-combined and smooth.  Chill in an air-tight container until ready to use (at least 30 minutes).  The cannoli cream can be made 2-3 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

  • 02

    To make the cannoli shells:  Pulse the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade until combined.  Pour in the melted butter and pulse a few more times until it incorporates into the dry ingredients.  Use a rubber spatula to clear the sides of the bowl.  With the food processor running, pour the Marsala through the feed tube into the bowl and keep the processor running only until the dough comes together in a ball.  Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap them in plastic wrap, and chill the dough pieces for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

  • 03

    Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Roll each piece of dough out on a well-floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.  Try not to stretch the dough while rolling and keep the surface under the dough floured to prevent sticking.

  • 04

    With a 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 48 rounds of dough, re-rolling the dough scraps as needed.  Transfer the rounds to the cups of two 24-cup a mini muffin pans, pressing them lightly to mold them into the cups.  Spray the tops evenly and lightly with vegetable spray.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the shells are lightly browned and starting to bubble in places.  Transfer the pans to wire racks and allow the shells to cool for a couple minutes then take them out of the pans and allow them to cool completely on the racks.  The cannoli shells can be make 1 day in advance and stored in a plastic zip-top bag or resealable container at room temperature.

  • 05

    Fill a pastry bag (fitted with a star tip) with cannoli cream and pipe the cream generously into the shells.  There might be some leftover cannoli cream (get a spoon!) so don’t worry about running out of cream before you’re finished filling the shells.  Drop a few mini chocolate chips on top of each cannoli bite then dust all of the bites with powdered sugar.  Keep the bites refrigerated until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

adapted from Cooking Classy

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  • Kayle (The Cooking Actress)
    December 6, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    mmmmmm these look so delicious! It’s ok, I haven’t tackled making cannoli yet either. I’m gonna have to when I move from nyc though!

    • taraliptak
      December 8, 2013 at 9:00 PM

      You’ll certainly need a back-up once you move, Kayle. All I can say is don’t take them for granted while you still live there. 🙂

  • December 7, 2013 at 11:41 PM

    have you ever just made the cannoli dip and served with cinnamon pita chips? That’s good in a pinch when you don’t want to make cannoli. These look amazing! My mom makes so many cannoli that I never tried making – would love to try the filling with mascapone. yummy!

    • taraliptak
      December 8, 2013 at 8:59 PM

      I haven’t made cannoli dip but it’s on my list. Maybe this weekend!!

  • taraliptak
    December 8, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Yes, they are way easier than frying and so…healthier too? 🙂

  • Jennifer O'Connor
    December 16, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    I love cannoli before but I had asked for cannoli molds so I’m going to attempt them. I hope they turn out good. I will be trying your filling. Thank you.

  • taraliptak
    March 13, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    Hi Lindsey, I’m sorry for taking the day to get back to you about this. Though I haven’t done it this way, I imagine you can strain the mixed-up filling to help it firm up before you fill the cups with it. You may need to adjust the flavor before filling though because you will have likely lost a bit while straining. Hope this helps!

  • Katrina
    March 15, 2019 at 9:28 PM

    Can the shells be made more than one day in advance and can they be frozen??

    • Tara
      March 18, 2019 at 3:22 PM

      Hi Katrina, Yes, I think the shells would freeze well if you make them in advance. My hunch is that they might need a quick “crisp up” in the oven for a few minutes if they get soggy when thawed. Let me know how this works out for you!

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