Cannoli Pastries are a speciality of Sicily and I’d love to tell you of some gorgeous little pasticceria in a tiny hamlet somewhere on the island but I had my first taste of this delicacy on the mainland, in Pompei.
I had booked myself into a small hotel in Napoli for a few nights, a gorgeous little place with a balcony from where I could look over the bay to Vesuvio, but I wasn’t too happy in Naples at all. It’s a beautiful, beautiful city on a beautiful, beautiful bay but I felt uncomfortable, and very aware of my status as a senior lady travelling solo. Above all, I found the dirt and rubbish in the streets totally depressing.
It’s just a short train ride from Naples to Pompei nuove (New Pompeii) and I was pleased to discover, by chance, a little place to stay in the town.
The Otello, a few minutes from the Station and from the central piazza, was perfect for me. It’s registered as an hostel, but I had a spacious private room with ensuite overlooking a central courtyard and I was thrilled with the price, less than 40 euros a night.
So I made my base in Pompei for a fortnight. This is the best spot for taking day trips down the trainline to Sorrento, fabled Positano and her neighbours along the Amalfi Coast. Or take it in the other direction to Ercolano to see the excavations, smaller than Pompeii and much easier to walk around, of Herculaneum
Santuario della Madona del Rosario
Pompei has a splendid cathedral, a graceful monument to the Madonna which soars to the sky and, inexplicably, advertises itself with festive neon flashing lights at night.
It was after my first day strolling round the ruins that I exited by the Porta Marina and made a beeline for the caffe right at the gate. The oranges caught my eye instantly.
The people here speak their own style of Italian and, while they could understand what I was saying, I had immense difficulty working out what they were saying to me. There’s a distinct vowel shift for a start, and a tendency to replace consonants. A normal, friendly buongiorno can come out as ‘boon-yarno’.
So you can appreciate my confusion when a stunningly handsome young man (the whole town is full of handsome boys) brought me my coffee and asked me, charmingly, something-something which I couldn’t understand. I assumed he was either offering me a little snack to go with the coffee or perhaps he wanted to adopt me as his Nonna, it was hard to tell from the lovely, sweet-sounding words and that entrancing smile. In a moment of devil-may-care recklessness I agreed to whatever he had in mind.
He spun on his heels, curls bouncing, to quickly return with a little plate bearing an immense creamy pasty roll. Heaven! That was the first, and the best, cannolo in my life. Now I’m hooked.
I have the recipe on an apron!
You can buy the shells if you don’t want to muck around making the pastry but I have the kitchen to myself these days and can indulge in flinging flour all over the bench. You can get some Cannoli Forms from Amazon cheaply enough.
The usual filling is ricotta or a rich custard but I made a crema di mascarpone with some cointreau I had in my cupboard.
Make the shells and the filling the day before you put them together.
First the Cannoli Shells
- 270g (1 3/4 cups) plain all-purpose flour
- 45g (1/4 cup) icing sugar
- 50g unsalted butter, chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon marsala
- Process flour, sugar and butter in your blender or food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
- Add egg and marsala
- Process until mixture just starts to come together.
- Turn onto a clean lightly floured surface and lightly knead until just smooth.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour so it can rest
- After the pastry has rested, take a rolling pin and roll the dough until 2mm thick
- Cut dough into 9cm squares. Wrap each square of dough around a cannoli tube so opposite corners overlap.
- Brush overlapping corners with a little milk or egg white
- Add enough oil to a saucepan to reach a depth of 8cm.
- Bring up the heat to medium-high heat and deep-fry the tubes for 2-3 minutes or until lightly golden. Don't crowd too many in the pan
- Now put the shells on plate lined with paper towel. Cool slightly.
- Remove the forms from the tubes
- Deep-fry the shells for a further 1 minute or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool
The Cannoli Filling
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 Tblspoon of cointreau
- 250g mascarpone
- 100 ml thick cream
- Slowly whisk in the mascarpone,sugar and cream
- Gradually whisk in the liqueur.
- Continue whisking until the mixture is thick and spreadable.
- Put the filling mixture in the fridge for an hour
Lotti tested the result and declared them fantastico!