I'm sorry we missed National Cannoli Day this year -- it was June 16th. I'm not sure how I let that day go by because the cannoli is my all-time favorite Italian dessert. I was practically raised by a Sicilian family back in Queens, NY, and nothing was as good as Nonna's homemade cannoli. I loved the creamy cannoli filling with the crunchy shell sprinkled with powdered sugar. I still remember the taste and smell of Nonna's cannoli.

These Italian beauties can be traced back to the Arabs when they were a popular pastry across the Islamic word from Al-Andalus to Iraq.

Cannoli are said to have been a fertility symbol during the Carnevale season in the Palermo and Messina areas of Sicily. One legend tells the story of the cannoli being prepared as a treat for the harem of Caltanissetta. But, eventually, the delicious pastry became a year-round dessert throughout Italy.

True Sicilian cannoli ingredients

True Sicilian cannoli are made using fresh sheep's-milk ricotta. Ingredients for the shell are flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, and cinnamon. Sweet Marsala wine, eggs, and vegetable oil are also added. For the filling, you will need fresh ricotta, soft mild goat cheese, confectioners sugar, minced candied orange peel, and Orange Flower Water. Chopped unsalted pistachios, cinnamon, and bittersweet chocolate.

Special equipment needed

Special equipment will be needed to make the shell. So, you will need a Pasta Maker, round cookie cutter; a deep-fat thermometer; 6 metal cannoli tubes, and a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain tip. For the garnish, you will need confectioners sugar.

Crust should be thin

The best pastry makers prepare the crust so that it is very thin.

Remember to fill the shells immediately before serving because allowing the cannoli to sit will make the shell soggy. Also, the delicious cream filling should be cold but should not be freezing.

Ricotta cheese

Fresh ricotta cheese from sheep's milk is the traditional way to make a cannoli. If you use cow's milk Ricotta than you will have a mild flavor.

A great cheese that is easy to find in America is a Ricotta con Latte, made by BelGioioso Cheese and is great when making cannoli and other Italian desserts require ricotta in their recipe.

Most Italian-American bakeries still use ricotta in their cannoli recipe. Mascarpone is a less common alternative but is used in many other Italian pastry dishes. Sometimes, a simple custard of cornstarch, sugar, and milk, will fill the shell. In either case, the cream is often flavored with vanilla or orange flower water and a light amount of cinnamon.