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Eat Like Montalbano

Cannoli Siciliani

Written by Linda SarrisPhotos by Anna Trifirò - LAND Collective

All 37 Montalbano episodes available!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Long time Detective Montalbano fans are well acquainted with Salvo’s passion for Sicilian cooking. Chef Linda Sarris, a professed Montalbano fan and bi-annual resident of Palermo, Italy, crafted this series of delicious recipes that will compel you to book your airfare to Sicily immediately. So, we encourage all of our fellow Montalbano fans to try these recipes at home and watch Montalbano in true Sicilian style! ~MHz Choice

Fresh cannoli cannot be resisted. For a case in point, check out the scene in The Potter’s Field where Detective Montalbano (Luca Zingaretti) is nosing around the desk of the delightfully cranky coroner, Dr. Pasquano (the late, wonderful Marcello Perracchio). There he spies a plate of six lovelies with crushed pistachios pressed into the edges, a Sicilian siren call if there ever was one. For a nanosecond, self-control reigns and he stops to consider… before reaching into the tray. Bringing the cannolo close to his mouth, he smells the comforting aroma of sheep’s milk ricotta and feels the perfectly crispy shell and the powdered sugar dusting his fingertips. His eyes roll back in a moment of euphoria before that first, perfect bite. Another bite and the shell cracks, falling into his open palm. The deed is done, it’s in full swing and he stuffs the rest into his mouth. Then come pathetic attempts to destroy the evidence of his audacity. When the doctor walks in, he graciously offers a cannolo to Montalbano, as if there wasn’t one conspicuously missing already. Montalbano demurs, but in the next shot, he’s holding another in his sweaty paw. The doctor pours them each a splash of passito, a sweet wine from the Sicilian island of Pantelleria that perfectly pairs with the cannoli. For a moment, death and crime and cadavers don’t exist. Montalbano and Dr. Pasquano sip wine and discuss the finer aspects of cannoli production. Do you prefer almonds in it? What about chocolate? How about the crispy shell? Is it possible to fry the shells using metal tubes or must they always be made with organic cane reeds like in the old days? Then, like the passing of a dream, Montalbano does what he has to do. He breaks the spell. “What can you tell me about the body in the bag?”

cannoli 7

In Sicily, you’ll find cannoli in many bars and pastry shops, sitting there in the vetrina already filled and ready to eat. The secret to a great cannolo is filling them à la minute. The best ones will be filled with sweet ricotta cream just before you eat them. The shell stays perfectly crisp and does not become soft and soggy. The fried shells actually keep well for several days in an air-tight container, so you have no excuse but to fill them as needed. You’ll need some round pastry ring molds or cookie cutters for the shells and a set of cannoli tubes for frying.

Remember this simple grammatical rule: one cannolo, two cannoli, no cannolis. In Italian, there is one single masculine cannolo then the plural becomes cannoli. You don’t need to add an “s” on the end of anything to make it plural. Enough with the vocabulary, let’s get to cooking. Here is our recipe for traditional Sicilian cannoli filled with sweet ricotta cream.

Preview - Detective Montalbano: The Potter's Field

ABOVE: Montalbano (Luca Zingaretti) steals a cannoli from Dr. Pasquano (the late Marcello Perracchio) in a scene from Detective Montalbano: The Potter's Field. Available on MHz Choice.

Recipe: Cannoli Siciliani

cannoli 13

Serves 10
Preparation: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Printer friendly version

Ingredients for the shells
125g (1 c) all-purpose flour
12g (1 Tbs) strutto cooking lard, room temperature or melted
5g (1 tsp) sugar
5g (1 tsp) cocoa powder
pinch of salt
5g (1 tsp) red wine vinegar
60g (½ c) water, add little by little as needed

Ingredients for the filling
1 lb. fresh ricotta, strained if there is any liquid
1 c. white sugar, to taste

Prep and garnish
oil to deep fry
powdered sugar
candied orange peel, chocolate chips, or chopped pistachio

As if you are making a pasta dough, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the lard, vinegar and some water to combine until the dough starts to come together. Add more water until it comes together into a ball but not too much to get sticky. Knead by hand for a few minutes until everything is incorporated. This dough works best when rolled out with a pasta machine but you could do it with a rolling pin and some good old fashioned elbow grease.

Using a pasta roller machine, start on the widest setting. Run a small piece of dough through a few times to let the machine knead it for you. Slowly move up one setting at a time, feeding the dough through one time at each mark until it gets thin enough. Usually setting 5 or 6 is good for cannoli. The texture will become silky as your dough gets thinner. Cut rounds with a ring mold at about 3-4 inches wide. Lightly flour the countertop so the rounds don’t stick together as you make more.

Wrap one piece of dough around a metal cannoli tube. Overlap a little bit and seal with a drop of water. Press down firmly with the back of a fork to secure the pastry dough to the tube. Fry in batches in a hot vegetable oil so the shells crisp up to golden brown but do not burn, about 3 minutes. Carefully pull them out of the frying oil and blot on a paper towel until cool. The shells should come off of the cannoli tubes with a very soft twist. Repeat with remaining dough.

With a fork, mix the ricotta and sugar together until smooth and creamy. When you serve the cannoli, garnish with a little bit of powdered sugar and chopped pistachios on the ends. Enjoy eating them with your hands, nobody cuts a cannolo with a fork and knife.

Eat Like Montalbano Recipes

About the Chef
Linda Sarris is a food/wine travel consultant and private chef based in Palermo, Sicily. From her sun-lit kitchen studio above the 1,000 year-old Ballarò food market, Linda works as a freelance writer, social media manager, and culinary communications consultant while still traveling regularly for private chef work with clients in the fashion and music industries. Under her brand, @thecheekychef, she is self-publishing a Sicilian food and wine ‘zine and curates a series of Mediterranean culinary/lifestyle retreats and travel experiences. Her first book will be published in 2022 with Hachette Book Group.