Canalones a la Catalana

Surprise, surprise, one of the most popular foods among young Spaniards is pasta which today is prepared, like in most countries, following best known Italian recipes.

Long gone are the days in which with some exceptions in Catalonia, macarrones con tomate y chorizo or with carne picada (mincemeat), recipes well adapted to the ‘Spanish taste’ of the past (never al dente) were almost the only pasta dishes included by home cooks in their weekly repertoire. To evolve from the Macarrones con Tomate to the delicious Canalones a la Barcelonesa took a long time. 

Let’s trace its History.

Canalones' Origen

Going back ten centuries, historical records confirm that in Spain pasta was originally introduced by the Arabs

There were recipes for fideos, a thicker version of angel air, as well as another  type of pasta shaped as little rounds. 

Macarrones known in Arabic as Aletria were equally popular with the upper classes and yet since medieval times  and until the 17th century pasta dishes were difficult to find in Spanish cookbooks.  To prepare Macarrones con Tomate y Chorizo, the pasta is boiled first and then blended with a rich tomato and chorizo sauce before the dish is cooked in the oven with cheese on top. 


In Andalusia there have always been Cazuelas con Fideos and in the rest of the country rich soups prepared with angel’s hair.

Canalones as a Festive Dish

By the 19th century the arrival in Barcelona of Italian cooks hired by the Catalan high bourgeoisie brought to the city an unstoppable interest for pasta that can still be seen everywhere, although these dishes tend to be adapted to the Catalan taste.

The canalones which is a festive dish, is an adaptation of the famous Cannelloni Rossini. In the Catalan version the pieces of meat are first sautéed or roasted, and then minced, while in the Italian dish the meat is used minced from the beginning.

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Canalones a la Catalana

This recipe which takes time to prepare, looks great and tastes even better. This is a perfect dish to serve in a dinner or festive party.

  To serve 6 to 8 people (2 to 3 per person)

  You will need 2 packets of Spanish canelones which I buy on the internet.


400 g quality stewing beef, cut into medium size squares
400 g pork loin, cut into squares
550 g chicken drumsticks
2/3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 pieces
1 leek, chopped, green parts removed
2 small onions, peeled and half
4 ripe tomatoes
½ head garlic
dash ground cinnamon
1 dry bay leaf
dash grated nutmeg
a generous dash black pepper
60 ml olive oil
20 g lard (optional), cut into small squares
30 ml brandy
1 slice of bread without crust, soaked in cold milk, drained

For the béchamel sauce

1 L whole milk
150 ml fresh single cream
45 g flour
55 g salted soft butter
a dash of grated nutmeg
a dash of white pepper
salt to taste
25 ml dry fino or amontillado Sherry

Place the meat and the vegetables in a roasting pan in one layer. Sprinkle with the cinnamon, nutmeg and the black pepper. 

Add the garlic, the bay leaf and the lard. 

Pour in the olive oil, season with salt and pepper. 

Roast for 30 minutes at 190 degrees C. 

Turn the meat and vegetables and pour the brandy in. 

Reduce the heat to 170 degrees and carry on roasting for another 25 minutes. 

Turn the meat and vegetables again and reduce the heat another 20 degrees and cook for another 20 minutes or until the meat is very tender. 

Remove the chicken bones and using an electric robot or mincer blend all the meat coarsely together with the soaked bread. 

Pass all the vegetables through a sieve. 

Reserve the rest of the pan juices. 

Blend the meats with the vegetables and reserve.



To prepare the béchamel sauce, bring the milk to the boil. 

In a separate saucepan add the butter and when melted add the flour stirring constantly. 

Cook for a few minutes at medium heat without taking colour. 

Add the milk and working with a metal whisk blend well before adding the nutmeg, and the pepper. 

Carry on stirring and return to the boil. 

Cook until the milk reduces by ¼. Reduce the heat slightly before pouring the cream. Cook until the taste of flour has disappeared completely and the sauce has reduce by a 1/4. Remove from the heat, Add the Sherry and set aside. Add a few spoonfuls béchamel to the meats, blending well.

Set aside a large bowl with water and ice. In a large saucepan , boil the pasta for a few minutes until just tender. 

Remove the pasta one by one and place then in the cold water. Again, one by one, place the canelones on top of a clean tea towel, covered with another one. When dry, start stuffing the pasta. 

Place a spoonful of the meats in each square and roll but not to tight to a canelone shape. 

Line an oven proof dish with some of the béchamel Place the canelones in one layer in an oven proof dish or several individual dishes , and cover with the rest of the béchamel sprinkled with grated Mahon or Parmeggiano cheese as well as a little butter on top. 

Return to the oven and cook for a few minutes at 200 degrees (just to take colour).

Serve on top with a little of the slightly reduced pan juices.

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