Pumpkin Cannoli


Post from November 2013, the year we had “Thanksgivukkah.”

“Thanksgivukkah,” this year’s overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, won’t happen again in our lifetimes. So if you enjoy blending traditions, this is a unique opportunity. One friend of mine plans to make my brisket with cranberries and mushrooms (from Meatballs and Matzah Balls) to serve alongside her turkey. Other families’ dinners will include latkes and kugels nudging in with the stuffing and green bean casserole. But I do enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving foods (plus I love having the crispy potato latkes on their own one night), and so I think perhaps the best place to blend in Hanukkah is at the dessert table.

For a Thanksgivukkah dessert, many people might turn to the traditional Hanukkah dessert of sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts). Not me, though. My exploration of Jewish and Italian foods helped me come to believe that Sicilian cannoli (“pipes”) perfectly represent a Jewish-Italian Hanukkah dessert. They combine a fried pastry shell (the oil part of Hanukkah food traditions) with a luscious creamy ricotta filling (a nod to some Hanukkah traditions of serving cheese).

Adding Thanksgiving makes it even more fun. Those cannoli tubes bear a resemblance to little horns—reminiscent of the food-filled cornucopia so symbolic of the holiday. To make them taste like Thanksgiving, I turned to one of holiday’s most predominant fruits and flavors—pumpkin. It just so happens that pumpkin (particularly a squash called zucca barucca) was particularly favored by Italian Jews in their cooking. So adding it to the cannoli brings everything full circle.

Now, pumpkin is not a traditional cannoli flavor, of course, but as soon as I started experimenting, I found it to be a beautiful foil to the creamy filling. Adding warm fall spices of cinnamon, allspice, and especially some freshly grated nutmeg makes this a stunning fall dessert—I can see it being a regular on my seasonal dessert buffets from now on.

Besides the symbolism, pumpkin cannoli work great for entertaining. You can use store-bought cannoli shells and make the filling up to 6 hours in advance. Simply fill the shells and garnish with a little powdered sugar, freshly grated nutmeg, and some chopped pecans before serving. Mini cannoli fit especially nicely in the big dessert spread you are likely to have on Thanksgiving—so everyone can have a taste or two along with the traditional slices of pies and cakes.

However you celebrate the holiday, I hope you enjoy the foods and how they connect us to Thanksgivings past, to American and Jewish culture, to family traditions, and to beloved people. Wishing you a happy and delicious Thanksgivukkah!

Photo Note: The glassware in the photo was designed by Israeli artist Andreas Meyer and given to me by the Sisterhood of Rodef Sholom Temple in Hampton, Virginia—thank you, ladies!

Pumpkin Cannoli

The pumpkin and spice flavors of autumn come together in cannoli to celebrate Italian heritage, Jewish Hanukkah traditions, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one resplendent package. These Sicilian fried and filled pastries marry Hanukkah’s oil and cheese traditions, while the pumpkin honors one of Thanksgiving’s revered fruits. Regular or mini premade store-bought shells work fine and make these an easy dessert (but homemade shells are beyond compare if you want to make them; see my recipe in Meatballs and Matzah Balls). Freshly grated nutmeg, especially for sprinkling over the tops, seals the deal with beautiful fragrance and flavor. Cannoli shells are often available in large grocery stores or Italian markets, and you can also order them online.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian, Jewish-Italian
Servings 12 large cannoli


  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting finished cannoli
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg plus additional for dusting
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup plus ½ tablespoon canned pumpkin
  • ¾ cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 12 regular-sized or 30 miniature cannoli shells


  • Beat the whipping cream with an electric mixer on high speed until it holds stiff peaks (about 2 minutes). Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the ricotta on high speed for 1 minute. Add the whipped cream, 7½ tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg, allspice, and ginger to the ricotta, and beat on medium-high speed 1 to 2 minutes, until very smooth and slightly fluffy. Beat in the pumpkin for another 30 to 60 seconds. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 6 hours.
  • Just before serving, use a small spoon to fill the shells with the filling. Dust the shells with confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. .
  • Sprinkle the ends with chopped pecans if desired. Serve immediately (or hold in refrigerator for not more than 1 hour before serving)


Variation: A little bit of bourbon goes well with and nicely enhances the flavors of pumpkin and spices, so for the grownups, you can stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons of bourbon into the filling. Don’t overdo, though, or the filling might get too liquidy.
Keyword Cannoli, Pumpkin, Ricotta


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