Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stuffed Cannelloni

Tonight you will learn how to cook a traditional Italian primo piatto, well know and appreciated in many parts of the world: Cannelloni Stuffed with Meat.
This rich and filling pasta, with its refined flavor, delicate aroma and sophisticated appearance, is ideal for a dinner party or a special occasion. This is an easy recipe to follow, but it will take more than my usual 30-minutes recipes. The nice thing about this dish is that you can prepare it ahead of time, and warm it up (or bake it) in the oven before serving.
I love cannelloni pasta because it can be filled with a large variety of stuffing. Tonight I was in the mood for meat, the most classic recipe. I used mostly ground beef with some ground pork. You can also change and experiment with your favorite. I do like to have at least some pork in the mix: it gives a delicious flavor that, I think, beef by itself doesn't have. The total one and a half pound of ground meat is the perfect amount to stuff the 24 cannelloni found in one package of Oro Riscossa cannelloni that I used. This is an oven-ready pasta, so it doesn't need boiling before baking, and is very easy to stuff. I bought mine at Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica. For your convenience, also see the link below. In case you cannot find already shaped cannelloni, you can use fresh lasagna pasta and roll it up.
Here is what you need:

Ingredients: for 24 cannelloni, serving about 6 people.

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 lb of ground pork - I bought organic, 85% lean, 15% fat
  • 1 lb of ground beef - I bought grass-fed 85% lean, 15% fat
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 large can (28oz) of tomatoes, crushed.  I buy whole or diced tomatoes, in tomato juice (nothing else added), and I crush it with my food processor
  • About 8 oz of fontina cheese (or mozzarella, or another mild cheese), shredded or cut in small pieces
  • 1 package, about 24 Cannelloni, or lasagna pasta
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
Preparation time: About 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Step 1: Saute' the onion and one crushed garlic clove in two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Step 2: After about four minutes, add the ground meat to the pan. Saute', mixing it well with a wooden spoon and breaking it up in small pieces.
 Step 3: Add the rosemary. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Seasoned with salt and pepper when it's almost ready. Remove from flame when done.
Step 4: In a separate saucepan, prepare the tomato sauce. Saute' for one minute one tablespoon of olive oil with one crushed garlic clove. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper if you like, and a few basil leaves. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Step 5: Remove the garlic (if you can) and the rosemary from the meat. Add the fontina cheese, shredded or cut in small pieces. Mix in quickly.
Step 6: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Find an oven pan big enough to hold all the cannelloni in one layer. Try to place the cannelloni inside first to see how they fit. It should be a snuggle fit, so that the sauce will cover the cannelloni without running too much to the sides. My pan size is 9 x 13.5 inches (inside measurements) and  perfectly holds the 24 cannelloni.
With a teaspoon stuff the cannelloni with the meat and cheese.  I work directly in the pan where I cooked the meat and add about two teaspoons of meat in each end of the cannelloni, so about four teaspoons total for each cannellone. I know, it might get messy, but don't worry! The cannelloni will be covered with sauce and nobody will notice!
Step 7: Remove the basil and garlic from the tomato sauce, and stir in the heavy cream.
Step 8: Pour the sauce on top of the cannelloni. Sprinkle with lots of Parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for about 30-35 minutes. Check with a fork if the pasta is completely cooked.
Serve and sprinkle each plate with more Parmesan cheese.

Perfect dinner to share with your special someone...  Enjoy ;)