WHAT IS CANNELLONI?
This Italian pasta is a short cut tube which is stuffed and covered in sauce. The name comes from the latin word for “reeds”. This evolved into the Italian word cannello or “tube.” In the States the name “manicotti” is also used for this cut, which means “big sleeve.” For Americans manicotti has become synonymous with cannelloni. As a part of the “pasta al forno” or family of pastas traditionally baked, cannelloni is a one-trick pony. However like many professional fighters, that one particular trick is very effective in the kitchen.
WHERE IS CANNELLONI MADE?
Unlike most pasta cuts, the invention of cannelloni can be traced back to the Grand Hotel La Favorita in Sorrento just south of Naples. In the early 1900s, Chef Salvatore Coletta created this cut under the name “strascinati”. This date coincides with one of the waves of Italian immigration to the U.S.A. (over 4 million people between 1880 and 1920, almost the entire population of Manhattan today). This easy to make recipe became a blue collar favorite. Baked the night before, a square cut easily fit into lunch boxes the next day. It is rivaled in popularity only by lasagna.
IF THE GODFATHER WANTS A CANNELLONI, HE GETS A CANNELLONI!
The name cannelloni is often confused with the Sicilian dessert cannoli (“little tube”). To make matters worse, this cut is often called manicotti. In Italy is a traditional recipe made using crepes (not semolina pasta). Those are made from fried pastry dough piped full of sweet ricotta filling. So if you get all of these confused don’t worry. Just remember that in the Godfather movie Clemenza doesn’t say “Leave the gun. Take the cannelloni.”
WHAT SAUCES GO WELL WITH THIS PASTA?
Traditionally ricotta, spinach and béchamel sauce (basically butter, flour and milk) are added and baked together. If you’d like to see an interesting variation on this dish, try using our Spinach and Danish blue cheese sauce instead! Using a pastry piping big with a wide nozzle if you want to quickly fill the tubes before laying them on their side. For more recipes, check out some regional variations on this recipe over at the Pasta Project.