May 28th, 2009



before i moved down to dc, i spent 4 years at school in baltimore. people say a lot of disparaging things about baltimore (most of which are based entirely on episodes of the wire), and granted, it did take a while for me to warm up to the city, but looking back it was a really incredible place to live. one of the things i miss most about baltimore is the food.


there’s akbar, with its excellent all-you-can-eat lunch buffet that exposed me to all sorts of new indian dishes, and sterlings, a literal hole in the wall seafood joint near my old house that still stirs up hunger pangs when i think about their crab cake sandwiches. by the way, i lived just around the corner from charm city cakes, duff goldman’s bakery on the food network’s ace of cakes (we never got the nerve to actually go in).


one of my fondest food memories is of vaccaro’s, an italian pastry shop located in the inner harbor’s little italy neighborhood. a two-story sit-down bakery and cafe, it’s a great place to end a night if you’re in the mood for authentic gelati or tiramisu. if you want the most for your money though, go on a monday night, where $12.95 will get you ALL YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK (alcohol excluded)


the game wasn’t merely to see if you could eat $12.95 worth of desserts, coffees, smoothies and gelati (that could be achieved in about 15 minutes). the real fun came from seeing just how far we could go in the 3 hours they give you to order. my personal best was somewhere between $30 and $40, but i watched others approach $60 in eclairs, amaretti cookies, cheesecake, and yes, cannolis.


luckily vaccaro’s has a branch here in dc, although it’s just a stand in the union station food court. still, i can satisfy my cravings if need be.



but the only thing better than buying a fresh cannoli is making one of your own. and get this – it’s really not as hard as you think! most recipes i found for the cannoli filling included some kind of flavoring with the ricotta. after making a batch of orange-tinged filling, i made another batch with nothing but ricotta and a touch of confectioner’s sugar. i definitely preferred the more stripped down filling, but then again, i could probably just eat a tub of ricotta for dinner and be happy.


the hardest part of the whole process is getting the dough really thin, and this is where a pasta roller could come in handy. but i didn’t let that small snag keep me from enjoying more than one of these cannolis.


one last thing: i’m going to be running in a 5k on june 6 to benefit the susan g. komen breast cancer foundation. i would be eternally humbled if you could be generous enough to sponsor me, even if it’s just a few pennies. every dollar really does count, so you can click here and hit the “donate to pete” button  to donate if you are so inclined. thank you!


makes 16 servings.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 eggs plus 2 yolks
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup marsala
1 egg white, beaten
oil, for frying

1 lb whole milk ricotta, drained
3 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1/4 lemon, juiced (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
2 tsp orange rind, grated (optional)
mini chocolate chips (optional)

1. make the shells: place the flour on a work surface and make a well in the center. place eggs, yolks, butter and marsala in the well and combine with a fork. gradually incorporate the flour, little by little. knead the dough until smooth, about 10 minutes. let rest, covered with a damp cloth, about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. roll the dough very thin and cut into 4-inch circles (i used a tupperware lid).

2. loosely wrap the dough circles around the cannoli tubes and seal the overlap with beaten egg white. deep fry at 325F until golden brown. remove from oil and carefully slide off the tubes. cool on a wire rack.

3. for the filling, drain the ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined colander in the refrigerator for at least an hour (overnight works best). whip in the confectioner’s sugar with a fork. just adding sugar keeps the ricotta flavor very pure, but for a more varied flavor, add the lemon juice, vanilla and orange rind.

4. in a pasty bag (or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped), pipe the filling into the shells just before serving. sprinkle with chocolate chips and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

27 Comments for cannolis! - why not leave some love?

  1. Shannalee says:

    Pete! My grandma used to make her own cannolis, and I’ve always been too scared to try. Love this and am feeling braver.

  2. Niki says:

    Oh yum. These recently became one of my all-time favorite desserts! I never tried to make them b/c I was a little unsure on the shells. Looks easier than I thought! Yum!

  3. nat says:

    i live in baltimore and feel the same way you do about the city. it’s a great place to be. i heat that vaccaro’s cannoli chips and cream is really incredible.

  4. Michelle says:

    Be still my heart. And stomach.
    I can’t find a cannoli within miles of this one horse town.

  5. HappyTummy says:

    Those look scrumptious! I can’t believe how easy they are to make.

    I lived in DC for a few years, and my favorite food from Baltimore has GOT to be Bergers Cookies. OMG. I truly think those are THE most delicious cookies I have ever eaten in my entire life 🙂

  6. Judith says:

    I LOVE cannolis! I’ll have to try one at Vaccaro’s… I only went there once, before a concert at the 8 x 10 club, and I got gelatto. But I’m moving back to Baltimore this summer (went to UMBC and just spent two years in Iowa at law school) so I’m looking forward to trying some stuff I missed. I admit that almost every meal out I had in Baltimore was either at the Golden West or Noodles & Co. It’s funny to hear you say that about b’mer vs. DC, though, because I always thought of it in reverse. Baltimore = great little city; DC = meh. I’m planning on working in DC and commuting, so it’ll be interesting to see what I think of DC actually spending significant time there.

  7. Nice job! I’ve seen some terrible looking homemade cannolis before, but these are superb! ;D

  8. Stiffler says:

    i live in PA, about an hour north of baltimore. i’ve been to baltimore several times which has included stops to vaccaro’s. i was there about 2 weeks ago and had the peanutto gelato and got cookies to go. i’ve had the cannoli in the past, it is tasty. vaccaro’s is actually undergoing renovations. you enter through the main entrance and have to go up the stairs. the first floor is closed. i went during a weekday afternoon. i can’t imagine how crazy it must be with the first floor closed when they are busy.

  9. Elyse says:

    Baltimore certainly seems to have some great foodie places! And I’m so glad you chose to recreate the cannoli. They look fabulous! I’ve never had the nerve to try my hand at these fried little treats, but I think I’m going to have to attempt the recipe now. Delicious! Sorry I’ve been away for the past week; I had a good friend in town and wasn’t able to do much on the computer. I’m back now, though 🙂

  10. mary says:

    Oh man, you have out done yourself this time.

  11. Gillian says:

    This post made me miss Bmore and Vaccaro’s more than I thought I did 🙁 I was back for homecoming but we didn’t have time to get down to Vaccaro’s. One Valentines Day my friends and I all went and had the huge hot chocolates and various desserts. I will never forget Il Vesuvio!

  12. these look so good! most recipes i see use prebought shells, which always seem stale to me, so i’m so impressed that you’ve made your own!! and they look perfect, too!

  13. Richard says:

    Looking for a great place to celebrate July 4th in Baltimore? USS Constellation in the Inner Harbor is a good bet: great views, food and beverage, classy location. Check it out at

  14. melpy says:

    I was raised just outside of Baltimore and while I don’t know about homemade cannolis, Vaccaros can’t be beat. I’ve since moved to central PA and I must say some of the food leave something to be desired. Your blog is great and I’d love to try some of these bread recipes when I get done with my grad classes this summer.

  15. Anna says:

    Looks delicious! Do you have a recipe for chocolate filling?

  16. cannolis , it’s look delicious

  17. dekvip says:

    Looks delicious!
    I can’t believe how easy they are to make.

    Check it out at

  18. Dana Audain says:

    What kind of oil do you recommend using?

  19. 17reviews says:

    i live in baltimore and feel the same way you do about the city

  20. dirtcycles says:

    thaaaaank you.

  21. Kristy says:

    We lived in DC for four years and then moved to Baltimore for 9. Found Vaccaros and loved it. Moved to Salt Lake City in 2003 and there are no places to get good cannoli here. Going to attempt to make them today. Thanks for posting this.

  22. Lou says:

    I am going to make these, they sound great. Oh,uh,um,er, ‘scuse please——whats a half an egg?

  23. Renee says:

    um i have the worlds dumbest question i can ever imagine comming out of my mouth. I love cannolis but I dont understand the 1 1/2 eggs plus 2 yokes other then seperating an egg how do u get a half.

  24. Howdy! I simply wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the great information you’ve got right here on this post. I will likely be coming back to your blog soon.

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