Cannoli ice cream
Even if you have not had the opportunity to taste Cannoli yourself, you have probably still heard about it … at least if you have been watching the Godfather-movies or the Sopranos. It is a particular Italian (Sicilian) dessert based on Ricotta cheese.
While obviously very popular in Italian American cuisine (and related popular culture) Cannoli can luckily be enjoyed even outside Mafia circles. And as we are talking about a soft cheese (dairy!), the step to Cannoli ice cream is actually quite a short one …
The ice cream pictured below is quite basic (and based on a recipe by Stephanie from – now sadly defunct – Ice Cream Before Dinner), with pistachio nuts as the only add-in. While purists may want to stick even with no add-ins at all (possibly adding only a little topping or some liquor), there is great freedom of choice here – chocolate chips, cinnamon and/or pieces of candied fruits … The base is perfect for allowing you to create your very own favourite version of Cannoli ice cream!
Using ricotta cheese will make the ice cream rather rich. That, together with the particular flavour blends, will probably make the final product more likely to appeal to adults than to children. If you do not mind using alcohol, you should consider adding a tablespoon of Grand Marnier (French orange liqueur) to the ice cream base, which would align well with classic Cannoli orange flavours.
So, what about the shells? Well, depending on your level of engagement, you could of course prepare “genuine” Cannoli pastry dough shells and serve your ice cream in those. Or you could – like myself – cut down on those preparations and simply serve the ice cream in a suitable ice cream cone (and yes, those can also be home-made … I, however, just went to the shop and bought mine).
The ice cream is made Philadelphia-style, meaning no heating of the base but using the ingredients straight from (preferably) the fridge.
Firstly, simply combine all of the ingredients – except for the cream and the pistachios (or the other add-ins of your choice, including any alcohol) – with the ricotta cheese, making sure they are well whisked together. Given the relative thickness of Ricotta cheese, you would likely have to put some extra energy in your whipping (either by hand or by using some suitable piece of kitchen machinery).
Next, the cream is added to this ricotta-mixture, and the whisking continues until the base is smooth and thoroughly blended.
Once the base is prepared, is time to churn it in your ice cream machine (or still-freeze in your freezer). If you use any alcohol, this is where you add it in.
Towards the very end of the churning, or even after the churning is finished, the chopped pistachios (or the other add-ins of your choice) are added.
Using some of your add-ins for topping, serve the ice cream on its own with some additional add-ins for topping, in an original Cannoli shell or simply in a suitable ice cream cone.
Non si vive di solo pane, as the Italians say. And while it is true that one cannot live solely on bread in life, it is quite likely that a solid portion of Cannoli ice cream would see most anyone through the day. As noted, however, the ricotta cheese makes this a rather heavy preparation, and the final taste may not be to everyone’s liking. But if you like (heavier) Italian pastries, you might well fall in love with this easy-to-make recipe.
Designing your own favourite flavours is one of the big advantages with making your own ice cream, and Cannoli ice cream is a splendid example: You can prepare a batch of Cannoli ice cream base, and then play around with several of the different possible add-ins to your heart’s (and palate’s) content! I strongly suggest that you experiment a bit with the exact types of ingredients you would like to taste in your final ice cream. There are several possibilities to tilt the overall flavour in your particularly preferred direction – be it with the addition of liquors, nuts, candied pieces of fruits, chocolate, or orange rinds …. The choice is all yours:-)
- About 400 ml (1¾ cups) ricotta
- 150 ml (2/3 cup) cream
- 150 ml (2/3 cup) confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon genuine vanilla extract (of good quality)
- zest of 1 lemon
- pinch of salt
- About 50 ml (1/4 cup) pistachio nuts
- (Optionally, ¼ cup mini chocolate chips/pieces of chocolate, and/or candied orange rind, or other candied pieces of fruit)
- (Optional alcohol: about ½ teaspoon of Grand Marnier Orange liquor)
- For the serving: genuine cannoli pastry shells or ice cream cones
- Whisk together the ricotta, the confectioner's sugar, the salt, the lemon zest and the vanilla extract (if you find it difficult, try using a mixer or food processor).
- Add the cream and continue to whisk until well blended.
- If necessary, chill the ice cream base somewhat.
- Churn in your ice cream machine according to instructions.
- Either add the pistachio nuts very late in the churning process (as add-ins) or sprinkle the ice cream with them when serving (as topping). Or save some add-ins and use as toppings too.
- Serve in ice cream cones or traditional cannoli pastry shells.