On a recent trip to Sicily, I was introduced to a real cannoli (“cannolo” they politely corrected me) and I was forever ruined. The hint of orange from the orange water, the tang of the sheep milk ricotta and the warmth of the cinnamon – even the best Italian bakeries in America don’t come close to what an authentic cannoli should be.
I’m not making cannoli shells and the ones you buy, well they are only good for 1 thing – pulverizing into a crust. Add some pistachios, cinnamon & orange peel and you have all of the flavor profiles of a authentic Sicilian cannolo. Whole milk cow ricotta will work, but you will not get that tang from the traditional sheep milk ricotta. The Mozzarella Company in Dallas makes a 50% cow and 50% goat ricotta – and it worked perfectly in this recipe.
Quite possibly the best dessert I’ve ever made. It can be made several days ahead and kept covered in refrigerator (keep in springform pan until day of serving).
Cannoli shells can be found at many grocery stores – Central Market, Jimmy’s Italian Market in Dallas, World market and Amazon.
Cannoli cheesecake with Pistachio Crust – Serves 8-12
- 8 ounces shelled pistachios – unsalted and roasted
- 6 large cannoli shells or 12 mini
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for greasing pan
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
To make the crust, place cannoli shells, pistachios, orange zest, salt, cinnamon and sugar in a food processor and pulse until nuts are ground. Put in a bowl and stir in the melted butter.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan & line bottom with a circle of parchment paper (butter on top of the parchment too). Press the pistachio mixture into the bottom.
Bake for 15 minutes at 325˚. Let cool. Mix 1 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of sugar flour together and sprinkle over top of crust. (This prevents crust from getting soggy)
FILLING (all room temperature ingredients)
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese
- 16 oz ricotta cheese (50% cow/50% sheep or goat)
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream – COLD
- 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Prepare your water bath: Use a slow cooker liner as they are made to stand up to liquid and high heat in your slow cooker. It’s the best ever and NEVER lets water through. Place springform pan (no filling added) inside the plastic bag. Gather the extra and knot off right below the rim. Then cover with foil going all the way up the sides and fold over along the top edge or the springform pan. Place the springform pan into a roasting pan and set aside.
For the filling: Beat cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, ricotta cheese and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla. Mix in eggs one at a time. Pour cheesecake mixture into springform pan on top of the crust layer. It will be thicker than most cheesecake batters.
Fill your roasting pan with hot water, half way up the side of the springform pan. Bake for around 1 hour.
Cool one hour on the counter, and at least 3 hours in the fridge.
Before serving, make whipped cream. Pour heavy whipping cream and sugar vanilla into a bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 minute. Spread on top of cheese cake and sprinkle chocolate chips on top.