Sicilian Cassatelle with Ricotta, also called sweet ravioli, are ricotta filled pastries often served during Carnevale in Italy. These little crescents of dough are filled with sweet ricotta and although are traditionally fried, they can be enjoyed baked as well!
We’re in the middle of a deep freeze here in Canada but on the other side of the pond, in Italy, they’re gearing up for one of their biggest holidays of the year, Carnevale. To celebrate in style, I’m sharing this recipe for Sicilian Cassatelle with Ricotta.
These little crescents of dough, also referred to as sweet ravioli, are filled with a sweet ricotta cream, similar to cannoli filling.
Cassatelle, just like most Carnevale desserts are traditionally fried. However, I opted to bake my cassatelle in order to lighten up the recipe. But if you want to indulge in the original fried version, I’ll provide frying instructions further below as well.
Typical Sicilian treats prepared for Carnevale:
As always, I did some research on typical Sicilian sweets for Carnevale. My mother recalls cannoli or pignolata were almost always served for special occasions when she was a child.
I then checked with my sources back in Sicily who confirmed that other than cassatelle, graffe (similar to our sugar covered doughnuts) or chiacchiere (crispy fried dough strips covered in icing sugar) are are also popular choices for Carnevale.
How is Carnevale celebrated in Italy?
But first, allow me tell you a bit about Carnevale. My mother described to me how they dressed up in costumes and exchanged sweets on this day. In my mind I referred to it as the Italian version of Halloween. But I later learned that it’s not quite the same.
Carnevale is the Italian equivalent to Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday, however you choose to call it. It’s basically a final day of partying and indulgence before lent and the restrictions that come with it.
Of course, the most popular Italian Carnevale celebrations occur in Venice and begin two weeks prior to Mardi Gras. Most of us are familiar with the famous Venetian masks associated with Carnevale. In most parts of Italy, including Sicily, Carnevale is celebrated on one day.
Watch my step by step video on how to make Sicilian Cassatelle with Ricotta!
The following are step by step instructions with images to guide you through this recipe. You’ll find the detailed printable recipe card at the end of this post.
Step by Step Instructions:
I prepared the dough for these cassatelle by hand but it can be made with a food processor. Check out my post for cassatelle with chickpea and chocolate filling with instructions using a food processor.
In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add cubed butter. Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture. Make a well in the center and pour in the Marsala, eggs and orange zest. Beat the eggs with a fork and begin stirring in the flour to form a dough.
Transfer the shaggy dough mixture onto a clean surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.Meanwhile, prepare the ricotta filling: stir ricotta, powdered sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl until smooth. You may also stir in a handful of chocolate chips.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 4 pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time and leave the remaining pieces covered in plastic to prevent from drying.
Use a pasta roller or rolling pin to roll the dough as thin as possible. With a pasta roller, pass the dough through the rollers at the widest setting, gradually reducing the thickness until the second to last setting.
Use a 12 cm cutter to cut out circles of dough. I used this handy empanada that I happen to have on hand. Place about 2 heaping teaspoonfuls of ricotta filling in the lower third of the circle.
Fold the dough over the filling and use the tines of a fork to seal the edges well.
Place the cassatelle on parchment paper covered baking sheets and proceed with the remaining dough, rerolling the dough scraps to make more cassatelle.
Brush the top of each cassatelle with an egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. milk. Bake in a 350 degrees F preheated oven for 20 minutes, until golden and lightly browned underneath.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Substitutions and Variations:
- Marsala in the dough give the cassatelle a nice golden colour and you can also detect the sweetness of the liqueur in the dough. If you don’t have Marsala on hand, you can substitute red Port.
- The filling consists of ricotta sweetened with sugar and a hint of cinnamon. You may add a handful of chocolate chips to the filling.
- If the brand of ricotta you use is watery, drain it by placing it in a cheese cloth covered sieve placed over a bowl. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours to drain excess liquid.
- I used a 12cm empanada mold to cut the circles of dough. Be creative and use whatever you have on hand with a similar size. I found an empty yogurt container with a similar sized opening.
- The amount of cassatelle you make will vary according to the tool you use to cut your dough. I made two dozen cassatelle with my empanada mold.
- Resist the temptation to overfill the cassatelle. About 2 heaping teaspoons is plenty, otherwise the ricotta may ooze out when baking or frying and I’m speaking from experience! Make sure to crimp your edges with the tines of a fork to seal the edges well.
- Due to the fresh ricotta filling, cassatelle do not keep for very long. If you don’t serve them right away, keep refrigerated and dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving.
- Cassatelle may be frozen (if baked) in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Separate layers with parchment paper. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and bring to room temperature before serving dusted with powdered sugar.
How to fry cassatelle:
To fry cassatelle, fill a heavy bottomed pot with about an inch of vegetable oil. When the oil is very hot, carefully place a few cassatelle (do not overcrowd) in the pot and fry until the dough is golden and puffs up, turning the cassatelle once to brown both sides. This will take about 2 minutes. Place on a paper towel covered platter and cool slightly before dusting with powdered sugar. The filling will be very hot so wait before digging in!
You’re now ready to make your Sicilian Cassatelle with Ricotta. Let me know how much you enjoy them by tagging me with your photos with @mangiabedda or #mangiabedda on Facebook or Instagram. Happy Carnevale to all!
If you enjoy ricotta desserts, here are a few more suggestions!
- Sweet Panelle with Ricotta Filling (Baked, Gluten Free)
- Cartocci Siciliani with Ricotta Filling
- Mom’s Sicilian Ricotta Pie
- Sicilian Cannoli with Ricotta Filling
- Pizzelle Cannoli with Ricotta Filling
- Sweet Ricotta Easter Calzone
- St-Joseph’s Day Baked Zeppole with Ricotta
- Easy Italian Lemon Ricotta Doughnuts
- No Crust Italian Pear and Ricotta Cheesecake
- Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Cake
For the dough:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- 2 tbsp. cold butter cubed
- 1 orange zested
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp Marsala wine or red Port
For the filling:
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 egg yolk with 1 tbsp. milk for brushing
- powdered sugar for serving
For the dough :
- Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter. Using your fingers, crumble the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal.
- Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the Marsala, eggs and orange zest. Beat the eggs with a fork gradually incorporating the flour to make a dough. Turn the dough onto counter and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. If the dough is dry, add a tbsp of water at a time, just enough for the dough to come together.
- Flatten into a disc, wrap in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
For the filling:
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a bowl combine the ricotta, sugar and cinnamon and stir until smooth. Set aside in the refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Cut the refrigerated dough into 4 pieces. Using a pasta roller, roll the dough until the second to last setting. Alternately, use a rolling pin to roll the dough until very thin, about 2 mm.
- Using a 12 cm cookie cutter, cut circles of dough. Keep covered until ready to fill to prevent from drying. Place about 2 heaping teaspoonfuls of filling in the bottom third of each circle of dough. Fold over the edges to form a half moon shape and use the tines of a fork to seal the edges well.
- Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough. Brush each cassatelle with the egg yolk/milk mixture.
- Bake for 20 minutes until golden in colour and lightly browned underneath. Let cool before dusting with powdered sugar.
Hey Nadia, This is an amazing recipe! Made these for the first time yesterday and it turns perfect, the family was so happy for my preparation.
Hi, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed this delicious dessert. Thanks for your comment!
This is an amazing recipe! Made these for the first time yesterday. I come from a Sicilian family and I love to cook but I’m not an expert baker – and these came out perfectly! There isn’t a spot for me to attach a photo but they came out beautifully and perfectly flavoured! My family was thrilled. Making these will be a new family Christmas tradition!
Hi Josephine, I’m so glad you enjoyed them. I would love to see them for sure. If you are on Instagram you can always tag me with #mangiabedda so I can see them. Thanks for sharing!
Maria Lupi Baldesarra
Hi..made these as I had them as a teen..Mine yielded 53 and I used 3 cups ricotta…also, machine setting was from 7-3 X 2…
– 4.5 inch round cookie cutter
– 1/2 Teaspoon filling in each
Baked at 350 F for 13 minutes.
They are as I remember them.
Hello Maria, thanks for sharing. I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed them, and thanks for the details regarding how you prepared them!
The recipe looks great! Can they be deep fried, instead of baking?
Hi George, yes definitely! They are traditionally fried and in my post I described how I tried both baking and frying method. Hope you enjoy them!
Thank you very much, Nadia, for your kindness to reply. I appreciate very much. I look forward to make those cassatelle when I deep fry them. I can imagine that they are very delicious.
My mom made these for years but I like them fresh. I saw in your instructions that you can freeze. Do they get soggy when you do that? Also can you freeze uncooked and then fry or bake from frozen?
Hi Debbie, they may be a little softer when defrosted however they were never soggy. As for your idea of freezing uncooked, I tend to stay away from freezing ricotta that has not been baked into a recipe as I do find that it may become soggy in this case. Thanks for reaching out to me!
Thank you Nadia. The reason I asked about freezing is you can freeze raviolis and cook from frozen so that’s what I thought you might be able to do with this.
Good point Debbie! I have not tried baking them from frozen myself to be honest with you but from personal experience (and my mom’s!) they do freeze well after baked. But if you do give it a try please let me know how they turn out. Thanks!
You say to add powdered sugar in the ricotta mix but then in your ingredients list you write granulated sugar. Do both work equally as well?
Hi Connie, both do work however I feel that powdered sugar is better dissolved in the ricotta. That typo is corrected, thanks!
Hi I’m so glad to see this recipe. In 2017 my family and I went to Italy and my husbands parents are from Arpino and Casalvieri. I loved these ricotta shaped deserts and they said they were called sfogliatelle but my mom makes them and there not like these. Just wondering are these called sfogliatelle? What part of italy are you from? Thanks 😊
Hello Carm, I have actually never seen these called sfoglatelle. Sfogliatelle usually consists of layers of thin flaky dough, quite typical of Naples. Cassatelle on the other hand are quite typical of Sicily. where my parents are from. Hope you enjoy them!
Saw your video looks so delicious can you make these without marsala or Porto ?
Joanne Bratvold (Caramazza)
My Grandmother made these every year at Christmas unfortunately my Mom never got the recipe for years i have tried to find it my cousins didn’t even have it was i glad when i found your sight now for the first time I’m going to make them she put chocolate chips in hers they were delicious .This is going to be a beautiful memory when i make these this year for Christmas. Thank you so much for sharing.
Hi Joanne, you can definitely add chocolate chips in this recipe. I’m sure they’ll be delicious! Thanks for stopping by my blog and taking the time to share this with me!
This was a favorite of mine growing up. Even though I have my great grandmothers recipe, I haven’t attempted to make them. I’ve been inspired by coming across your recipe! This Easter season might be the right time to try my hand at making them.
Hello Karen, thanks for sharing with me. I hope you decide to try out your grandmother’s recipe this Easter!
I cried when I saw this recipe. Sixty years ago I made these with my grandmother. I, like you, have
a recipe that is barely legible. Your recipe is the closest to my grandmother’s
I will FINALLY make these with precious memories ! Thank you,
Hello Carol, I’m so glad to hear that this recipe resembles your grandmother’s! Food memories are truly wonderful and help us feel connected to those we love. Thanks for sharing this with me and I hope you enjoy the cassatelle!
I tried your cannoli, they are soo delicious
Thank you Ella, I ‘m glad you enjoyed them and I appreciate your feedback! Have a great day!
Saw your video, these look heavenly. Will try to make! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for checking out my video Pina! These cassatelle are delicious whether you bake or fry them. I hope you enjoy them and thanks for stopping by!