It is said that Antonino Ercolano was already serving them in 1800. He had invented the little La Favorita trattoria in order to turn to account the culinary arts he had learnt as a seminarian at the archbishopric. He had not managed to become a priest, but for his friends and for all Sorrento he had nevertheless earned the affectionate nickname “O’ Parrucchiano” – the parish priest. And in the two little rooms on Corso Italia he had also invented a highly personal way of preparing gussets of pasta rolled up any old how and filled with a rich tomato sauce and a smidgen of meat, all covered in tomato: he called them strascinati
– from the amusing way he had of rolling out and pulling the pasta with his rolling pin.
In the early 1920s, when Sorrento was an must on the Grand Tour of the European aristocracy, Salvatore Coletta, the cook, rolled them up in great style, being more generous with the meat and changing the name to “cannelloni
”. They were an overnight success, thanks in part to the work of Federico Nicola, a cook at the Favorita for over thirty years.
During the last war, when many families were evacuated from Naples to the Sorrento peninsular to escape the bombs, cannelloni became a favourite Sunday dish – with the smidgen of meat having become a smidgen once again. And there are those who recall how La Favorita served 120 kilos in a single day.
For seventy years the precious cannelloni sauce was the creation of Luisella Romano, a true-born Sorrentina who worked at O’ Parrucchiano’s until the age of ninety: unripe San Marzano tomatoes made into a sauce and left to dry in the sun in large majolica bowls, then enlivened with fennel, and onion, extra-virgin olive oil, beef and pork meat, and a further addition of fresh ripe tomatoes. All cooked very, very slowly.