In honor of Sunday’s Oscars, WGN’s Dean Richards pays tribute to the movies and food from films. He’s saluting The Godfather with this recipe called “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”


For the Shells:

Nearly every store sells pre-made cannoli shells.    

If you’re a purist and want to make your own…

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 2 egg yolks.  Reserve the “whites” for brushing. 
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil for frying (about 8 cups)

For the Filling:

  • 32 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese, strained, overnight if possible
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips and chopped pistachios.
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon


For the Shells:

You’ll see why I say that store-bought shells are fine to use.   Most grocery stores have them.  Certainly, Italian stores do.   But if you want the extra work….

Add the flour, sugar and salt to your processor and pulse then sprinkle in the cold cubed butter and pulse until broken up into small pieces. Add the yolks and marsala and pulse until the mixture comes together, you can add more wine a tablespoon at a time if needed to bring the dough together. Reserve an egg white for later.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 3-4 minutes or until it smoothes out and gains some elasticity then cover and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour. You can make the filling while the dough is resting.

Roll the rested tough to about 1/8 an inch thick then cut 3.5-4 inch circles of dough. You can do this by hand or with a pasta maker. If using a pasta maker start on 1 then keep rolling it through as you decrease the thickness until you get to the thinnest setting. You can re-roll scraps if desired but let them rest for 10-15 minutes before rolling out again.

Heat the oil in a larger pot with a thermometer over medium heat. You’ll need about 2 inches of oil so the amount will depend on your pot size. Oil should be 360F when you fry so keep an eye on the temperature and adjust heat as needed.

Wrap the circles around your metal cannoli forms and use your finger to wipe some egg white where the ends will overlap and press together. If you don’t seal the cannoli, they will open up in the deep fryer.

Fry the shells in groups of three to six for about two minutes. Adding more shells to the oil will drop the temperature so it’s easier to fry smaller groups. Fry until golden brown then use a spider or tongs to transfer to a wire rack lined with paper towels. You must remove the metal form immediately so put on some oven mitts then wrap the vertically oriented shell in a paper towel and use gentle but firm pressure to press the shell down and free it from the metal tube.

For the Filling:

To remove excess water from your ricotta either place it in a cheese cloth and squeeze or lay couple layers of paper towels down and spread the ricotta over that and then pat with more paper towels.

Add the drained ricotta, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and mini chocolate chips to a large bowl then mix together, chill filling if not using immediately. When ready to use transfer to a piping bag, snip the tip off and fill the shells then press more chocolate chips and/or chopped pistachio nuts onto the ends and dust lightly with powdered sugar.

You can store the shells in an airtight container for up to two days before filling. Once they’re filled you have about an hour until they soften up.