By Laura Mack
April 11, 2016
This low carb cannoli cream is simply an ethereal delight. It’s a rich blend of slightly sweetened Italian ricotta and mascarpone cheeses, flavored with fresh orange zest and vanilla, and studded with crunchy chopped dark chocolate.
My recipe is inspired by the classic Italian dessert consisting of a fried pastry tube stuffed with mildly sweet, creamy ricotta filling. There is no pastry in this case, of course, but this low carb cannoli cream is truly so delightful that I don’t really miss it. The addition of toasty pistachios and/or fresh berries, if desired, takes it right over the top.
My first introduction to cannoli was at Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End more than 30 years ago. Deb and I grew up on the west coast, but our parents were both from Boston. During a visit there as a young adult, my aunt took me to Mike’s because she couldn’t believe that I’d never had cannoli. At that point, I’d never even heard of a dessert with ricotta cheese in it, but the creaminess of the filling combined with the crispy crunch of the fried pastry shell was a beautiful thing and quite memorable. Foodies remember such things!
Since then, I’ve had other cannoli and even made them myself as a pastry chef. The cream filling is a breeze, but the pastry shells are a lot of work — fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that! There are different versions of filling ingredients beyond the basic. Some fillings use only ricotta; others combine ricotta with whipped cream, cream cheese, or mascarpone cheese. I prefer mascarpone, but cream cheese works fine too. I avoid whipped cream because it doesn’t hold as well in the refrigerator and starts to weep liquid after a bit.
Cannoli flavorings and garnishes vary as well, but I do love the combination of chocolate and orange. I also add a splash of sweet marsala wine. This is a nod to the absent cannoli pastry, which is often flavored with sweet marsala. It adds less than half a gram of carbs per serving, but feel free to leave it out if you prefer. You could leave out the chocolate or orange for that matter. Or add a little espresso powder for a different flavor profile. Have fun with it!
I use my stand mixer to blend the ingredients because it’s easy, but you could do it by hand or with a hand mixer. This recipe comes together in no time, but it’s best to let chill in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up the consistency.
This low carb cannoli cream is easy to dress up for company. You could serve it in a martini glass, garnished with fresh berries, pistachios, grated chocolate, and orange zest. Or you could do what I did while entertaining last summer — set up a cannoli bar. I had guests who were mostly non-low carbers, so I put out the cannoli cream, along with chocolate, pistachios, fresh cherry halves, and Belgian waffle cookies so that people could customize their own creations. It was a huge hit.
For a lower-carb, everyday treat, take a few strawberries or raspberries and dip them in the cannoli cream. Yum!
Cannoli Cream with Ricotta & Mascarpone
Author: Laura Mack
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins
16 ounces ricotta cheese, whole milk
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened (for about 1 hour at room temp)
1½ ounces / 3 tablespoons xylitol, or equivalent sweetener
1 tablespoon sweet marsala wine
2 teaspoons orange zest (from 1 orange)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon liquid stevia, more or less to taste
1 pinch fine sea salt
2½ ounces dark chocolate, 85%, chopped
pistachios, shelled and toasted/dry roasted
additional 85% dark chocolate, grated
additional orange zest
- Place ricotta, softened mascarpone, and xylitol in a mixing bowl. Using a paddle attachment, mix at low speed until smooth and free of lumps. Add remaining ingredients, except chocolate, and mix briefly until blended. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a rubber spatula.
- Transfer to a covered storage container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The mixture will thicken when chilled. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Stir before serving and add garnishes as desired.
Nutritional info* per serving: 240 cal, 20 g total fat (78%), 5 g total carbs, 0.9 g fiber, 4.1 g net carbs, and 7 g protein. Please note that I do not count the sugar alcohols from xylitol in the total carbs or net carbs.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.