Once you fill the shells that contain the sweetened ricotta in the Italian dessert named cannoli, it’s inevitable that a bit of the filling will be left. Not to be confused with the dried pasta tubes called cannelloni, which are filled with savory fillings and baked, cannoli are always sweet desserts. They originated with invaders to Italy from Northern Africa who brought with them candied fruit, nuts and sheep’s milk ricotta, which are the ingredients for traditional cannoli filling.


Filling

With only a little bit of cannoli filling left over, you can create a treat for one person by spreading the filling onto a warm tortilla or piling it into an ice cream cone. If you have enough filling to make multiple treats, use commercial phyllo or puff pastry sheets or tartlet shells. If you want to make the filling stretch a little further, add more candied fruits or more ricotta.

Pudding

There’s no reason why you can’t just scoop any leftover filling into fancy dessert bowls or parfait glasses and call it pudding. As is the case with using the leftovers for fillings, bulk it up with additional ricotta or add chopped cookies for crunch. Use an Italian cookie such as an almond macaroon called amaretti; a crispy, twice-baked biscotti; or an American cookie, such as a chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookie or a gingersnap. Add chocolate powder or melted chocolate to turn the filling into chocolate pudding.

Topping

If you’ve made your cannoli filling with a combination of ricotta cheese and whipped cream, you have a ready-made topping for either ice cream or fresh fruit. Add additional ingredients that pair well with whatever flavor ice cream or whatever fruit you use. For example, add orange extract, orange liqueur or orange juice and zest when topping strawberries. Or, stir in some fresh grated ginger or lemon zest and juice when serving the filling over peaches.

Desserts

Use whatever filling you have left to create entirely new desserts, such as a substitute for both the custard and whipped cream layers in a trifle. Stir in a little espresso to the filling before layering it and, for a decadent trifle, consider the cannoli filling as the custard layer and add an additional layer of whipped cream. Or, use the filling between the layers on a cake, adding additional flavorings depending on the type of cake you’ve baked.