How to Serve Cannoli


Cannoli, a classic Italian dessert, can be messy when the sweetened ricotta filling oozes from one end of the deep-fried pastry shell, but they are delicious nonetheless. Descended from traditional Christian fried foods served prior to Lent when people abstained from rich food, cannoli are eaten by hand, as desserts and as snacks. You'll find pre-made shells at Italian groceries and specialty food stores that you can take home and fill yourself. Serve cannoli either on individual plates or on one plate that you can pass around.

Things You'll Need

  • Napkins
  • Special serving dish
  • Powdered sugar, pureed fruit or sweet sauce
  • Garnishes to match cannoli flavors
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whipped cream
  • Mint sprig
  • Place a cannolo, the singular form for the pastry, in a napkin to eat as a snack away from the table. Provide extra napkins to help with cleanup after eating.

  • Arrange multiple cannoli on a serving plate in a single row, arranged like the spokes of a wheel, or stacked up in a mini-pyramid. Because cannoli are such a special treat, use your best serving dish.

  • Lay cannoli on a bed of powdered sugar, fruit puree that matches the candied fruit in the cannoli, crushed nuts or drizzles of chocolate or butterscotch sauce.

  • Lay one cannolo perpendicular to another and leaning up against the other on each individual plate if you plan on serving each person two cannoli.

  • Garnish individual plates or one serving plate with ingredients found inside the cannoli. For example, garnish a plate with a cannolo that contains chocolate and orange extract with a square of dark chocolate and candied orange peel on the side of the plate. For a cannolo with chocolate and hazelnut-flavored ricotta, sprinkle some hazelnuts around the plate.

  • Alongside each cannolo on individual plates place a piece of fruit that complements, but is different from, the flavoring in the cannolo. Use fresh strawberries or tangerine segments for a refreshing contrast to the rich cannolo.

  • Place a dollop of whipped cream with mint sprig on top or on the side of each dish as a dipping sauce for the cannoli.

Tips & Warnings

  • Have extra napkins on hand when you are serving cannoli at home as well as when you serve them as a snack away from home.
  • Drain the ricotta for at least one hour before making cannoli filling so the filling stays creamy instead of watery.
  • Rather than overfilling the shells and making them impossible to eat, err on the side of underfilling the shells.
  • Fill cannoli shells just before serving so the shells don't become soggy.

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