Canelons – Italian or Catalan?
First of all the pasta is cooked until very soft, not “al dente” as the Italian cannelloni would be. Secondly the canelons are completely covered in a bechamel sauce, although sometimes in certain restaurants they modify the sauce to be with foie gras or similar. Thirdly the filling of the canelons are different from cannelloni. Traditionally the canelons are filled with Escudella and Carn d’Olla, two meat-heavy dishes that often are associated with Christmas dinner. This is why canelons often are associated with Boxing Day, or St Stephen’s Day, because they would be made of leftovers from Christmas Dinner.
The history behind the canelons stems from the 1920’s when Barcelona was a hotspot for the bourgeois. The trendiest restaurants at that time were run by migrants from the north of the Italian peninsula. The canelons was a dish that attracted a lot of interest, and were seen as far too complicated and time-consuming to be made at home. When factory-made pasta came into the picture they were imported from France, and was seen as a true delicacy. A man named Ramon Flo came up with the idea to make the canelon pasta in Barcelona, and began manufacturing them under the name El Pavo, a brand that is still known today.
You do not have to wait until Boxing Day to eat canelons, since you can find them on the menu in most local restaurants. You can find them in both simple versions and in much more elaborate versions with truffle, duck meat or similar, but surely you will find one that is to your liking!