Posts tagged ‘sicilian’

January 1, 2009

Cannoli Filling


I am posting this recipe in two parts for a few reasons, primary because with the shells recipe and the filling, this becomes a grossu entry.  Also, if you are using store purchased cannoli shells, you won’t need to weed through the shell recipe to make filling.

The filling for cannoli has a very simple base recipe that allows you to get very creative.  After you create the base, you can fold in diced dried candied fruit – such as you would use for fruit cakes, chocolate chips, shaved candy bars – I prefer Andes mint shavings, minced nuts – like pistachio, spices – like cinnamon or nutmeg, liquor – such as Kahlua or brandy or rum, citrus zest – oranges work well, marachino cherries, or you can leave it plain.  Keep in mind that a cannolo is about five inches long and so your filling is four inches long by one inch diameter – in other words, a little goes a long way.

When filling cannoli, only do it right before serving, as the filling can make the shell soggy.  It is also best if you chill the filling in your pastry bag (or as you will see me use, a zip loc baggie) for about 20 minutes in the freezer before filling, so that it is very firm.

Ricotta should be whole milk, not even reduced fat.  The skim or low fat ricotta tends to have more run off which will cause the filling to be more runny – not a good thing at all.

You can dress up your serving plate with a powdered sugar dusted paper doily, drizzled melted chocolate, or powdered sugar.  I serve mine with a fork, but that is more for just scooping up any filling that falls out.  Cannoli was meant to be picked up and eaten as it is a carnival treat in Sicily.


1     15 oz. container of whole milk ricotta

3/4 cup powdered sugar

  • In a large mixing bowl, blend both ingredients throughly on low speed with an electric mixer.
  • Do not over beat, only beat until mixed.
  • Using a spatula, fold in any selected add ins.
  • Pack filling into an air tight container or pastry bag.
  • Chill before using to fill cannoli tubes.

If using add ins, I have listed below the measuring amount that you want to use.  Remember for all solid add ins, to reduce the amount of each if you are adding in more than one:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
  • 1 teaspoon liquor
  • 1 tablespoon dried candied fruit, diced
  • 1 tablespoon citrus zest
  • 1 tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon coconut, shaved
  • 1 tablespoon pistachio nuts, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ice cream sprinkles
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate candy bar, shaved or grated

*McCormick makes a cinnamon spice with a built in grater that is awesome for grinding fresh cinnamon.  Each bottle is less than $2 and I absolutely love this!


January 1, 2009


When I was a little girl in Sicily, this was one of my favourite foods. The difficulty here is patience in making them but oh so worth the effort. These are easily reheated and are a meal on their own. I usually serve two per person.


3 cups white rice
3/4 lb shredded beef*
1 jar spaghetti sauce**
1 1/2 cup raw peeled potatoes, diced to pea size
8 oz mozzarella cheese
2 sticks salted butter
2 cups peas
4 eggs
2 cups breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning
4 cups cooking oil, for frying

*I typically use deli style roast beef, broken into small half-inch pieces. I have also tried it the way my parents did with a small chunk of roast beef, cooked in advance and then pulled and shredded – but I think this recipe is time consuming enough without having to cook a roast as well.

  • In a large pot, pour 6 cups of water and a dash of salt. Bring to boil. Add rice and cover, lowering to medium-low heat. Once rice has cooked, remove heat and put both sticks of butter into the pot. Cover and let sit for ten minutes. Stir thoroughly and leave uncovered.
  • In a separate pot, pour spaghetti sauce in over medium heat. Add beef and potatoes and stir often. Potatoes should be cooked but firm, not mushy. Once done, add peas and remove from heat.
  • Spread out a large sheet of wax paper and when rice is cool to touch, begin forming it into balls about three inches in diameter. Let sit on wax paper to harden to the outside a bit. Once the outside is hardened enough to hold its form, use a finger to create a hole in it about an inch to two inches deep. Press in a decent amount of mozzarella and a heaping spoonful of the meat mixture. Tighten the form of the ball to seal the hole and set aside.
  • The balls should sit for about 3 to 4 hours.
  • After the balls have sat to harden, begin to heat the oil. My dad’s recipe says to 350 degrees, but to be honest I have always checked it the way my mom did – toss in a bread crumb and when it sizzles, the oil is ready.
  • In a medium bowl, break eggs and beat thoroughly.
  • Pour bread crumbs onto a plate.
  • Dip the balls individually into the egg batter and then roll in bread crumbs until covered completely. Using a serving spoon, lower the ball into the oil, bouncing it gently on the spoon, but do not drop it into the oil as it is very heavy and breaks apart easily.
  • When a dark golden brown, remove from oil and gingerly lay on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

January 1, 2009

Cassata Arance

If you are accustomed to cream cheese based cheesecakes, this may take an adjustment for your tastebuds.  Sicilian cheesecakes, or cassatas, are made with ricotta cheese and are not as sweet and unlike American cheesecakes, they are lighter and have almost a baked custard texture.

And as for oranges, forget Florida.  It doesn’t get any better than a Sicilian blood orange or arance.  Their centers are blood red like a pink grapefruit.  If your local grocer doesn’t carry blood oranges, which there is a good bet that they don’t, you can substitue with mandarins for this recipe.  The key is finding a sharp tart orange, the smaller the better the concentrated flavour.

It is critical that you have a springform pan for this recipe, a round cake pan just will not suffice.  The water used in the glass dish allows for the cake to remain moist while baking.  This will reduce the chance of the cake cracking or separating.

I hope you like this dessert as much as I do, it displays beautifully and is just so tasty!


2 16 oz. containers of ricotta cheese (typically found near cottage cheese in the grocery)

1/2 cup sugar

6 large eggs

1/3 cup flour, sifted

2 blood oranges

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 275 F.
  • Grease and lightly flour springform pan.*
  • Using aluminium foil, wrap the base of the springform pan to prevent seapage.
  • Set pan in a glass baking dish, 13 x 9.
  • Fill glass dish halfway with tap water.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat ricotta at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
  • With a whisk, stir in sugar and flour into ricotta until well blended.
  • One at a time, beat eggs into mixture.
  • Add spices and vanilla, blend thoroughly.
  • Using a zester or the rough side of a peeler, grate a few spoonfuls of orange peel into a bowl.
  • Peel oranges and segment.
  • Pour one half of batter into springform pan.
  • Gently lay orange segments onto the batter, do not stir.
  • Pour remaining batter over top.
  • Sprinkle orange peel zest over top.
  • Bake for 1 hour, or until knife comes out clean.
  • Remove springform pan from water and allow to cool for at least one hour before unhinging.
  • Serve after slightly cooled.

*If you can find them, there are aerosol sprays that have flour and oil combined and work perfectly for this purpose.  I prefer Baker’s Joy brand.

January 1, 2009

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

This is a Sicilian recipe that has been a favourite in our family for years. When we were stationed in Sicily our neighbours gave us this recipe.   It is a light pasta dish in that it has no sauce. Goes well with a salad, bruschetta and white wine.


1 lb. spaghetti noodles, uncooked
1 lb. smoked ham or prosciutto, deli style thickness
1 lb. bacon with decent amount of fat
1 large yellow or sweet onion
2 eggs
1 cup fresh Parmesan, finely grated
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine*

*If you wouldn’t pour it in a glass and drink it – don’t cook with it!

  • Slice bacon into 1/2 inch strips. Place bacon into a large skillet over medium heat and allow to cook. (I like to put the bacon in the freezer for about an hour prior to beginning this as it is easier to cut.)
  • While bacon is cooking, cube ham or prosciutto into 1/4 inch squares. Same with onion.
  • When the bacon fat has gotten somewhat transparent and there is a decent amount of drippings in the skillet, add the ham and onion. Turn often to prevent burning and clumping.
  • Using a large pasta pot, fill 3/4 of the way with water and place on high heat. Add olive oil and salt to water. Once boiling begins, lower to medium-high heat and add pasta.
  • When onions have become mostly transparent, add wine and pepper to skillet mixture. Finely chop garlic cloves and add to skillet mixture, continuing to turn often.
  • Using a small mixing bowl, crack both eggs and whip until well blended. Set aside.
  • Once spaghetti is ready, drain quickly and transfer to serving bowl. Quickly stir in egg mixture, followed by Parmesan. The heat from the noodles will cook the egg, which helps the cheese adhere to the noodles. Make certain to turn multiple times so that all noodles are coated.
  • Drain most of the liquid off of the skillet mixture and turn the skillet mixture into the noodles.
  • Serve.

**When dishing up, the meat falls to the bottom of the serving dish. My grandmother always asked to be served last for this reason. LoL
***I have also tried fresh baby peas into the mixture, boiled with the noodles. My husband dislikes this but my kids and I love it this way.


January 1, 2009

Arugula & Prosciutto over Penne

I love arugula and actually discovered it only recently when I got on a health food kick.  I was getting sick and tired of the blandness of lettuce and trying to find more unique, but healthy recipes.  Arugula has a bit of a bite, not as strong as spinach though.  This is a classic leaf staple in many Italian and Sicilian dishes as it doesn’t wilter when cooked and yet tastes wonderful raw as well.

You may find it difficult to locate prosciutto at your local grocers and you can substitute for a lean smoked ham, deli cut thickness.


1 lb Penne pasta
1/4 lb thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb Arugula, chopped

1 small lemon, halved
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a skillet, cook onions and prosciutto with oil until well heated, onion should be transparent.
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil over medium to high heat.
  • Add a good palmful of salt to the water.
  • When water is at a good boil, drop in the penne and cook until firm.
  • Ladel out about one cup full of the water and set aside.
  • Drain pasta.
  • In serving dish, stir pasta, arugula, and prosciutto thoroughly.
  • Add reserved water until all pasta is well coated.
  • Squeeze lemon over top.
  • Stir in grated cheese.
  • Serve.
January 1, 2009

Cannoli Shells


It doesn’t get much more authentic Sicilian than cannoli, which is often confused with being an Italian pastry, but make no mistake, this is Sicilian, specifically in the northern area near Palermo.  My family and I lived just north of Catania, but I remember there was this bar (which is more like a cafe in the US, not a drinking spot) at the base of Etna that we would pass all the time going home and once in a while, Daddy would pull in there and I could go pick out my own cannolo.  And an orange soda, but I had to down both fast before we got home because my mom didn’t approve.

In order to make cannoli shells, you MUST have a cannoli form.  No questions about it.  If you don’t already have a set, please read on before you buy.  Cannoli forms are simply metal tubes that look a lot like windchimes.  You want forms though that have a slightly raised edge at the seam and give a bit.  This is absolutely critical when you go to release the shell.

If you do not want to make the shells, most bakeries carry horns, which will work.  If you have a speciality shop in your area, you may be able to find premade shells in the cookie section.


3/4 cup flour, sifted

1/8 cup butter

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon Marsala *

1 egg white, stirred briskly

1 egg white, unstirred

* If you do not want to use wine in your recipe, you can substitute with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon brandy or rum flavouring.  And as always, if you wouldn’t drink it in a glass, don’t cook with it – this calls for Marsala wine, not cooking wine!

  • Heat fryer to 350 F, or fill a heavy saucepan 4 inches deep with vegetable oil over medium heat to 350 F*
  • In a large mixing bowl, dump flour and butter and cut with a case knife until blended.
  • Add in remaining ingredients EXCEPT UNSTIRRED EGG WHITE and cut with knife until well blended.
  • On a floured surface, knead the dough thoroughly.
  • Tighten into a ball and cover with cheesecloth for an hour.
  • Roll out thinly with rolling pin on floured surface.
  • Continue rolling until dough is about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Use either 4″ diameter cookie cutter, or cut around a 4″ diameter bowl to make 6 round circles.
  • Spray form with an aerosol cooking spray or lightly butter with fingertips.
  • Lay one edge of circle at edge of form, roll form slowly until ends meet.
  • Using fingertips, seal with unstirred egg white.
  • Promptly lower form into prepared frying oil.
  • Lift form from oil with metal strainer or tongs once form rolls and cannolo shell is a golden tan.
  • Lay out on paper towels until form is cool to touch.
  • Press on seam and gently guide cannolo shell off of form.
  • Using a sifter or tea strainer, you can top with sifted powdered sugar.
  • You can also melt chocolate flavoured almond bark and use the back of a spoon to ‘paint’ chocolate onto the insides of the shells.
  • Melted chocolate flavoured almond bark can also be drizzled over the top of the shells.

*Use a candy thermometer to test temperature, or throw in a piece of unused dough to test temperature.  When the dough turns and rises, oil is ready.







January 1, 2009

Coffee Gelato

Gelato is a very heavy type of Italian ice cream.  It does not store for long periods very well, so you typically want to make this only a day or two in advance of planning to serve it.  This goes well with biscotti or almond cookies, I love Lazzaroni personally!


5 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup whole milk (2% simply will not suffice)

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (the stronger the better)

1/2 cup boiling water

In a glass measuring cup, microwave 1/2 cup water until boiling.

Spoon coffee granules into water and allow to steap.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until well blended; set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, bring milk to boil, stirring frequently.

Once milk is boiling, stir in egg mixture and coffee.

Return saucepan to low to medium heat, stirring frequently until thickened.

Do not bring to boil.

When mixture begins to stiffen and holds shape when you drag the spoon through it, remove from heat.

Place in refrigerator 2 to 3 hours.

Using electric beaters, beat until smooth.

Store into an airtight container and place in freezer.