Cannoli Crackers Deserve a Place on Your Cheese Board

Cheese selection should be the focus on the cheese board, but crackers should be a big focus. Maybe it’s a pack of club crackers you grew up on, crunchy baguette slices, or an indomitable stack of pretzel chips, but consider pairing cheeses and sauces with something unexpected. Try adding cannoli shell crackers to the mix.

Cannoli shells are crispy, lightly bubbly tubes of deep-fried dough that surround a lightly sweetened cheese mixture to form one of Italy’s most beloved treats: cannoli. The cannoli themselves are divine and do not need any improvement, but if you take them apart, you will see a crispy machine with delicious cheese.

The cannoli shell is a phenomenal bridge between the cracker and the pie crust. They are slightly larger than many crackers, with a bit of butter and egg yolk woven in to add richness and make it a bit bubbly. The shell is firmer than the crust of most pies, has an extra flavor and texture like it’s deep fried, and the addition of wine adds an unusual but nice whimsical twist. Ideal for the same unusual cheeses. (You can substitute water if you make shells at home, but wine is fun.)

I don’t often see cannoli shells in the freezer section of grocery stores, but some bakery departments in stores sell individual unfilled shells. You can also visit a local Italian bakery and buy them there. When you get home, break them into several large pieces and put the pieces among the cheeses. The slightly curved shape makes them ideal for scooping up dips. If you just can’t find ready-made shells, make your own.

Classic cannoli shells are made by cutting dough into circles and wrapping them around special small metal tubes before deep-frying them. You can follow any cannoli shell recipe and stop before the metal tubular part. A tricky business, because the shell can stick and break, but for our purposes this is not necessary. Just roll out the dough and give it any shape. I prefer random rectangles. Then quickly fry them in a skillet with about ¼ to ½ inch oil. No special tools, less oil, less frying time.

Here is an easy recipe for cannoli crackers for a cheese board. Because all the ingredients fit in a small food processor, it’s easier to make than most cracker recipes. Pulse about 12 times until it gathers into a single mass. Roll it out to about ⅛ inch thick and press the entire dough deeply with a fork. Cut out cracker-like shapes and fry in a skillet with about ½ inch of neutral-flavored oil. Place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes and serve. These crackers keep in an airtight container for about three days, but their texture is best on the first day.

Light cannoli crackers


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ cup wine (usually marsala is used, but you can substitute it with another or use water)
  • Neutral flavored frying oil

Heat half an inch of frying oil in a skillet over medium heat. The target temperature is between 350°F and 360°F.

Place all other ingredients in a food processor and blend until a single mass forms. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thick. Connect it all with a fork to control the formation of bubbles. Cut it into any shape for crackers.

Fry the pieces in the oil for about 30 seconds on each side, or until a nice brown color is achieved. Cool them on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving with cheeses and sauces.


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