What Is Cannelloni And What Does It Taste Like?

Cannelloni is an Italian dish that's basically a sheet of pasta that's been rolled into a tube and stuffed. To make cannelloni by hand like Neapolitan chef Nicola Federico might have done for the first time in 1907, prepare your pasta dough, roll it out until it's a dimes-width thick, and cut it carefully into three by four inch rectangles (via Taste Atlas and The Spruce Eats). You'd proceed in stuffing the cannelloni, perhaps with a classic mix of spinach and ricotta or maybe a slightly heavier mixture of ground meat, tomato sauce, and béchamel (via La Cucina Italiana). Whatever you choose, using some semolina flour in your pasta can be essential. "With such a soft, mild filling, the pasta needs to retain a bit of bite," The Guardian explains.

Nicola Federico was cooking at a restaurant called La Favoria in Sorrento, Italy when he possibly invented the classic pasta dish. Or, perhaps, cannelloni was first prepared by Salvatore Coletta in 1924. Either way, if you believe that lore (and there are others, according to The Pasta Project) cannelloni is an indirect result of a would-be priest who fell in love, gave up his vocation, and opened a restaurant (via Youtube). Which would make the deliciously stuffed and precisely rolled pasta the product of passion. And maybe that's why it's such a popular dish at weddings, New Year's Eve, and holiday dinners.

What cannelloni tastes like

The New York Times once ran an article dedicated only to the cannelloni that chef Barbara Lynch fills with mushrooms, squash, and enriched béchamel. It noted, with wonder, the pasta dish's "final enrichment of butter and a hefty sprinkling of Parmesan." The critic oohed and ahhed over Lynch's mushroom preparation. "The important thing,” Lynch explained, ”is that the mushrooms cook long and slowly, in a fair amount of butter, never caramelizing but becoming tender and chewy.” The final result, marveled The Times, was a dish as "big and rich as any made with meat."

And that is because cannelloni, whatever you fill it with, is a dish about "structure," to borrow The Guardian's words. It's not the dough that makes cannelloni spectacular. It's what's inside. (Unless of course, you're using uncooked cannelloni as a horn-like instrument, like American composer Peter Schickele did, per ifood.tv. In that case, stay away from stuffings.) And while the insides of the pasta dish can vary (beef, pork, and veal, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan, carrots, celeries, tomato sauces, cream sauces, and béchamels, parsley, rosemary, basil, apples, walnuts, and mushrooms are all par for the course) a good cannelloni never disappoints. Gregg Wallace, who you might remember from MasterChef, calls his cannelloni recipe "a beautiful dish and gloriously messy to make" (via Around Town Wales).