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Cannoli Filling: Mascarpone vs. Ricotta

  • k

Transplanted New Yorker wishes to make NYC-via Mulberry Street-(love it or leave it)-style Cannoli Filling. The question is what is (or is there) a ratio of ricotta to mascarpone cheese? And in terms of sugars, super fine vs. powdered? It seems my gustatory memory is recalling the texture of powdered sugar. I am NOT trying to make authentic, rustic Apian Way cannoli, but the kind of cannoli you find in any bakery in Little Italy, Bay Ridge, Staten Island or Manalapan, New Jersey. Thanks much!

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  1. b
    bob oppedisano

    To my knowledge, cannoli are filled only with ricotta, plus sugar and flavoring. I've never heard of mascarpone involved. The key, in my experience, is the freshness and quality of the ricotta. The best cannoli I've had in Sicily, Naples, and throughout the Italian south--stretching to 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst-- have smooth, velvety fillings, possible really only with fresh, artisanal ricotta. Se non me sbaglio...

    12 Replies
    1. re: bob oppedisano
      Chef Daniello Sez

      I've been making cannolis for 35 years, grew up in Brooklyn and worked for my family who owned Italian retail and restaurants. We used impastata ricotta because the texture is drier and creamier at the same time, and that's all we used in cheesecake, ravioli, and other Italian pastries like sfogglidelle. Easy recipe: ricotta impastata, powdered sugar flavored with Sambucca Romano, diced citron fruit, mini choc chips, vanilla, cinnamon oil, orange oil, anise oil. Oils can be obtained in any drugstore.
      Bon appetit.
      Chef Daniello

      1. re: Chef Daniello Sez

        I'm curious about the impastata ricotta, which I have never heard of. My father made a traditional Sicilian pastry every Christmas (it had a cannoli filling), and his recipe calls for riccattoni, which he said was a kind of thicker ricotta that was increasingly difficult to find. (I usually drain the ricotta.) I've asked about ricattoni in a million Italian cheese shops, and no one knows what I'm talking about. I'm wondering if your ricotta is the same as my father's. We're originally from Brooklyn, too.

        1. re: roxlet

          Check out this link, which leads to descriptions of variations on ricotta, including "ricottoni".

          ricotta impastata, like ricottoni, is a lower-moisture version of traditional ricotta that is dry and often used for fillings.

          1. re: vvvindaloo

            That's great! I've never seen a description of it -- nor any mention except on my father's recipe! Now, where to buy it! I've asked the guy at Arthur Avenue who makes the best ricotta there, and he looked at me blankly. I don't think he's actually Italian, so that may be part of the problem -- i.e. ricotta makers are not Italian any more, so just know the basic ricotta. Plus, there is probably very little demand. I'm in Westchester, so if anyone knows where to find this in the tri-state area, I would be overjoyed!

        2. re: Chef Daniello Sez

          My husbands father was an Italian (immigrated from Italy at 21) who made and sold cheese in his store in Newark for many years, and he made the drier form of Ricotta, but called it Ricotta Secca. He has long ago left the area, retired and is now deceased, but my husband recalled this term used for his "drier" Ricotta.

          1. re: Chef Daniello Sez

            Chef Daniello, you describe the cannoli of my youth in the 70's. It's hard to find the diced citrons in them anywhere, and the mini choc chip ones you have to go to Boston and pay a premium for (I'm from MA). Nice memories.

          2. re: bob oppedisano

            Do not use the regular store bought ricotta. It is not the ricotta that is used in italy or anywhere else unless you are talking about nasty chalky cannoli. If you are using the slushy and grainy ricotta even if it is drained stop using it. Ricotta impasata is smooth and creamy. It is nothing like the grocery store ricotta. Mascarpone is a better substitute for ricotta impasata than regular ricotta. This is where the confusion lies. Any (good) italian resturant would use ricotta impasata or mascarpone. No good recipe would involve grocery store ricotta or pastry cream ever. If your idea of a good cannoli uses regular ricotta just know that cannolis are supposed to be great.

            1. re: yankee123

              When I lived in Northern Italy I learned to make these - shell and filling! I was taught using Mascarpone. Only when I moved back to the US did I start using ricotta, because the mascarpone was harder to find (especially in Oklahoma where the Air Force then sent us to)! My preference is still Mascarpone, which thankfully is easier to find in Colorado Springs where we now live permanently!

              1. re: Mariposa410

                Hey, Mariposa, where was this, precisely? I've never seen a mascarpone-filled cannolo in Italy. Exceptions to the rule always exist, of course, but I'm really curious about where this was.

                The Sicilians might have a beef with the Northerners over this one. Not that that would be a first :-)

                1. re: Dmnkly

                  My father-in-law was from Corato (Southern Region in Bari Region) and he did it this way and we lived in Aviano (Northern Italy in Fruili Region) and they did it this way. In Fact the mix I was taught was with Whipped heavy cream and Mascarponi (NO RICOTTA used at all!). It is very good and very light! Also had family outside of Verona who made theirs this way. Try it, it is very good!!! My husband is full blooded Italian and a first generation American whose parents immigrated as Adults to American just before WWII, and I consider the recipes his parents taught me as pretty authentic to the regions they came from. His father from Corato (Bari Region) and his mother from St. Agata di Puglia (in the Puglia Region). Both Southern regions, though not Sicily! I do know from living there and traveling all over Italy, every place we traveled had their own version of many dishes, as well as their own regional specialties we found rarely anywhere else. Canoli seemed to be found just about everywhere we went though!

                  1. re: Mariposa410

                    No, it's a good illustration of how these are big countries and the "rules" don't always apply everywhere. I'm especially surprised about Verona... I knew a couple of Italian pastry chefs who had worked in that region for years and mascarpone was anathema to both of them. Thanks, that's interesting to hear. And a first for me. I've had plenty of cannoli with mascarpone filling, just never in Italy... and it's not my preference :-) But I understand why some prefer it that way.

                    1. re: Dmnkly

                      I suspect it has to do with preference and maybe availability of the different cheeses! I have had both, and know how to prepare both. There are seveal big differences in the ingredients used with each cheese as well. The Mascarponi version I was taught uses unsweetened heavy cream, whipped and very little sugar. The ricotta version I found a recipe for in the US has a lot of powdered sugar in it, and is too sweet I think, but again it is a preference for a lighter less concentrated sweet version.

          3. BOTH ARE GREAT.

            1. Knoxhound, Thanks very much for this entry as I seem to remember trying both of these fillings, but the mascarpone filling tasted alot better (or at least in my opinion it did, then again I'm not of Italian origin, so maybe I don't know as much as you do about using both.) then the ricotta did. I'm not exactly sure why that was though, perhaps the 'sugar' content used for the mascarpone vs. what was used along with the ricotta? Any way, thanks once again for your entry, and I sure wish to God I knew where I could find those canolis with the sweet mascarpone filling these days, because I've tried just about everywhere here in New York but haven't had any luck as of yet.

              1. Send Guido over but I've always associated mascarpone with dessert and ricotta with appetizers or main courses.

                4 Replies
                1. re: mrbozo

                  Oh, mrbozo, not so, not so! :-)

                  1. re: Dmnkly

                    You're thinking canoli aren't you?

                    1. re: mrbozo

                      Uh... isn't that the subject of the thread?

                      1. re: Dmnkly

                        Doh! And so it is. I had canneloni on the brain.

                        My vote goes to ricotta with candied fruit and lemon zest (chocolate chips for the kiddies).

                2. Everybody is entitled to their preferences, of course, and mascarpone isn't a completely unknown variant, but ricotta is definitely the traditional route and, IMHO, the way to go. Speaking only for the Italian neighborhoods with which I'm familiar, it's all about the ricotta.

                  1. I have always had it with ricotta, however I made some a few weeks ago and put some powdered sugar and whipped, adn the cheese was very grainy. What did I do wrong, or was it the type of ricotta cheese?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: paprkutr

                      I know this is an old post but if anybody is still wondering about the ricotta impastata I have stumbled across an italian market in New York that will overnight ship it to you.
                      They also make fresh pasta and mozzarella, they are very reasonably priced, friendly and accommodating. I don't know how to post the website address but it is JB&sons LTD.
                      You can email them at JBpasta@yahoo.com. I dealt with Robert and he was a great
                      help. I hope this info helps someone.

                    2. We just dined at a fairly new place in NH and loved their cannoli's. The waiter expressed that "although most use ricotta, we are using a very good imported marscarpone for ours". Very very delish. It was strawberry, chocolate and vanilla - this was an inside out cannoli with a tiny scoop of each - looking like a little sundae. I'm not a connesoure of cannolis but these were awesome.

                        1. Ricotta with chocolate chips.

                          1. I was always taught (in New Jersey) that it is only ricotta and powdered sugar (I don't really have an exact ratio, it was always to taste with some neighbors liking it sweeter -etc).

                            One thing I was told (never really done a side by side taste test) is that if the only thing you can find is grocery store ricotta (which I agree has a grainy mouth feel) is to "buzz" the ricotta in the food processor for a while to help.

                            Anyone else try that trick and know if it really works? I say it does but like I said, never tested it.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: thimes

                              I have made the ricotta cheese and powdered suger combination with the chocolate chips, but I still prefer the mascarponi with unsweetned heavy cream whipped with either the chocolate chips or the candied fruit. I have even done it with almonds and dried cranberries and finely chopped orange zest and almonds and both of those are good for a variation! I have also had the mascarponi with the unsweetened whipped cream with dried cherries and almonds which is pretty good. I do not think any of those variations exist in Italy (at least I never saw them when we lived there), but are variations dreamed up in the US. In Italy it was usually the chocolate chipe and/or dried candied fruit! I have used the food processor to "cream" the ricotta cheese and powdered sugar, but still prefer the flavor and lightness of the mascarpone and unsweetened whipped heavy cream.

                              1. re: Mariposa410

                                Biazzo brand ricotta is considerably thicker and creamier than Pollio ........in my opinion

                                1. re: scunge

                                  I will have to look for Biazzo Brand. We have Pollio here, but not sure what other brands!

                                  1. re: scunge

                                    You are right. Biazzo also doesn't have extra ingredients -gums and thickeners. No liquid to drain off.

                                    1. re: scunge

                                      You are right. Smooth and not watery. No extra ingredients either - no gums or thickeners.

                                    2. re: Mariposa410

                                      I have been looking everywhere for a good canoli recipe made with the marscapone cheese,,,would you share yours??

                                      1. re: downtownbb

                                        The recipe I use with Mascarpone is very easy. You mix with an electric mixer the 8 ounces of Mascarpone until it is soft. Then in a separate bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks. Then while the mixer is still whipping the heavy cream, add the softened mascarpone, one spoonful at a time. Then add 1 tsp. of Vanilla extract until completely blended. Then with a spoon mix in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, or dried candied fruit. Other things I have added are sliced toasted almonds, dried cherries, amarretto (about 1 TBSP), orange zest finely chopped (about 1 TBSP). I do not put sugar of any kind in mine, but have seen other recipes that add anywhere from 1 and 1/2 TBSP of granulated sugar to the whipping cream to a cup of the powdered sugar. I just think it makes the filling way to sweet!