The Italian dessert known as cannoli is delectable and elegant. They can be time-consuming to make, so preparing and freezing the filling ahead of time makes the task easier. The success of freezing a ricotta cheese filling depends largely on the other ingredients that are blended with the cheese. The dessert is best eaten when assembled right before eating, so keep the prepared filling and shells separate until you are ready to make your cannoli.
The creamy, cheesy filling of cannoli in the light, crunchy tubular shell is made with ricotta cheese, and can be sweet or savory. Cannoli from Sicily are made with ricotta cheese from sheep’s or goat’s milk. In the United States, ricotta cheese in cannoli is made with cow’s milk. A more traditional cannoli is made with ricotta cheese and light on seasoning. But some cannoli filling mixes are made with whipped cream or even marscapone cheese. The shell is typically a fried flour mix, often made with wine. The cannoli shells can be baked, but they will not have the same light crunch as when they are fried.
Usually, soft cheeses do not freeze well because the water separates from the cheese during the freezing process. When the cheese thaws, it becomes runny as the frozen water melts. The cheese does not spoil but the consistency changes. However, a soft cheese such as ricotta cheese, when blended with a sweetened whipped cream, will freeze well. The whipped cream helps to hold the water from the ricotta cheese, so that when it thaws, the cheese does not separate.
Thaw the frozen ricotta cheese and whipped cream filling mix in the refrigerator. Depending on the amount you have frozen, it can take up to one day to thaw the mix. Fill the cannoli shells at each end to ensure that you fill the entire shell. The easiest method is to use a piping or pastry bag. Garnish the cannoli with powdered sugar, chocolate chips or berries.
Store leftover cannoli in an airtight container in the refrigerator. While the cheese mixture will last three to four days, the shell may become soggy or soft after a couple of days. It is not recommended to freeze the cannoli after the ricotta cheese mix has been piped into the shell.