Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Actual Cannelloni

Got people coming over that you want to impress a bit? Then this is the one for you. It's named so to differentiate from my Aubergine Not-Cannelloni in October, and is a slightly longer post than normal because there are a few different bits to it, but I promise you it's worth it!

The only time I'd ever really had cannelloni was for school dinners (it was the best thing they did!), but generally speaking I was suspicious of it. Maybe because I couldn't see inside them, or maybe because I used to have a prejudice against spinach - I'm not sure, but I do know that all that changed when Fraser took me to Jamie's Italian for Valentine's last month. I had the 'Honeycomb Cannelloni 3 Ways', and it was like I'd stumbled across a whole new world of food. Last week we had people over for dinner, so I thought I'd get creative and see what I could do. This was the result.

I decided it was a bit much to try and have three different fillings, but I did do two - one was a spinach and ricotta, and the other was a butternut squash and sage. And they were pretty epic if I do say so myself.

Ingredients: (serves 6)
Spinach and Ricotta                                                         Butternut Squash
- 1 clove garlic                                                                 - 1 large squash
- large knob of butter                                                      - 1 onion   
- ¼ grated nutmeg                                                           - 1 clove garlic   
- 1tsp dried oregano                                                        - 2tbsp cream 
- 200g bag spinach                                                           - ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- 250g pot ricotta cheese                                                - 1tbsp chopped sage leaves   

Tomato Sauce                                                                   Assembly/Topping
- 1 onion                                                                          - approx. 18 cannelloni tubes
- 1 clove garlic                                                                  - 200ml crème fraîche  
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes                                                - 100g freshly grated parmesan   
- 400ml water                                                                     
- 1 oxo cube                                                                       
- half jar of sun-dried tomatoes                                            
- handful chopped sage leaves                                           

I know it looks like a scarily long list of ingredients, but I promise if you look closely it's not as scary as you think. The majority of things are store-cupboard ingredients that even if you don't have, you can bet someone else in your flat will!
Butternut Squash
1. Start on this one first because it takes the longest, and can be cooking while you do other things. Peel and chop your squash into cubes - about the size of the last joint on your little finger if you can bear it, as the smaller they are the faster they'll cook. 
2. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the onion and garlic and cook for five minutes until softened.  
3. Add the cubes of squash and cook for about 30 minutes - adding the sage and nutmeg along with some seasoning after 20 minutes.  
4. Take off the heat and let cool a little, before adding the cream and mashing.

Spinach and Ricotta
1. Melt the butter in a fairly large saucepan, then add the garlic, nutmeg and oregano and cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic is soft.
2. Wash the spinach and add in a bit at a time - it shrinks down to almost nothing so I guarantee you'll need more than you think. Make sure you keep turning the spinach too, to make sure what's on the bottom doesn't burn and it's all cooked nicely.
3. After a few minutes, transfer the spinach to a bowl and let it cool down. DON'T throw away all the lovely liquid in the pan - it'll form the basis for the tomato sauce.

4. When the spinach is cool, squeeze out any excess liquid (don't throw away) and chop finely. Put it back in the bowl with the liquid, season, then mix with the ricotta.

Tomato Sauce
1. Grab the pan you cooked the spinach in, with the liquid still in the bottom, and add to it the onion and garlic. Cook for about 8 minutes until soft and starting to colour.
2. Chop up the sundried tomatoes and add those to the pan. You don't have to use them, but it gives such a beautiful intense flavour if you do! Cook for another 2 minutes.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, water and oxo cube, and bring to a simmer. Cook until it's reduced by about a third, then add the sage leaves and season, and pour into the bottom of the dish you're baking your cannelloni in.

1. Grab yourself two plastic sandwich bags, and fill with the mixtures for the filling. Twist around the top to keep it secure and cut a small hole in the tip: you now have a make-shift piping bag.
2. Use the piping bags to fill the cannelloni tubes. You can do half of them with one filling and half with the other, or mix it up - completely up to you.
3. Lay the tubes on top of the tomato sauce in the dish you're baking them in.

 4. Spoon the crème fraîche over the top and sprinkle over the parmesan, then bake at 180°C for about 30 minutes - until golden and bubbling. Serve with garlic bread.
Gluten Free: Either grab yourself some gluten-free lasagna sheets and use them to make your own cannelloni pasta, or just cook some penne and mix the fillings together with the tomato sauce to make a pasta bake. Top the same as the non-gluten-free version and bake for 5-10 minutes less.

The gluten free pasta bake version

Voila! It looks like a lot of work, but I promise you it isn't really - especially if you buy the cannelloni tubes you don't need to cook first, like I did. Please do leave any questions/results of your own in the comments, and good luck!

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