What is cannelloni?
Cannelloni (meaning “big pipe”, pronounced “kannel-OH-nee”) is a pasta dish made from large round pasta tubes, which is also the name of these pasta tubes. The pasta is filled, covered with a sauce and cheese, and then baked in the oven. It is a popular dish in Italian restaurants worldwide.
In the most famous version of the dish, the tubes are filled with a mixture of spinach and ricotta and baked au gratin with tomato or bechamel sauce and cheese. Minced meat, vegetables, salmon and chicken may also be used as fillings.
Cannelloni was thought to have been invented in 1907 by Nicola Federico for the menu of his restaurant in Sorrento, near Naples. The dish was first known as strascinati but became popularly known as cannelloni during and after the Second World War, when many Neapolitans fled the city and bombs and settled in Sorrento. Cannelloni was really a Sunday dish at that time.
Did you know...
The old name for cannelloni, strascinati, has been assigned to a different pasta shape that is rubbed with the thumb and looks like a sort of flat hat.
How to make cannelloni
For classic cannelloni with spinach and ricotta, spinach is blanched and squeezed well. (Italians also like to smuggle some chard into their filling.) The leaves are chopped and mixed with Parmesan cheese, ricotta, and sometimes, pecorino and nutmeg. The filling is seasoned with salt.
A sheet of fresh egg pasta is cut into rectangles of about nine by fourteen centimetres. The sheets are boiled for a minute, immediately placed in cold water and then dried with a clean tea towel. Sometimes dried, preformed cannelloni tubes are also used.
A layer of sauce is scooped onto the bottom of a greased baking dish. On every sheet of precooked pasta (or in each dried tube) comes a scoop of filling. Now the sheets are rolled into tubes, placed in the baking dish and brushed with butter. The cannelloni is covered with a thin bechamel sauce made from butter, flour, milk and lemon zest or a simple tomato sauce. Finally, extra grated cheese is added.
Cannelloni comes from the Campania region. Stay with the roots of the dish and serve it with a glass of limoncello made from the local lemons.