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Favorite cannelloni al forno

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There are so many fillings and sauce variations for cannelloni. The one I remember most in Rome was very light. I had never eaten cannelloni before, and it was a revelation to me. I think the filling was veal with cheese and spinach. The sauce was balsamela. I don't remember any tomato sauce or ragu with it. I've been disappointed since by cannelloni with such heavy sauces that the pasta and filling got lost. So I ask, what's your favorite filling and what's your favorite sauce?

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  1. filled with tuna combined with spring onions and soft cheese, topped with a cheese sauce made with good quality cheddar. I must admit it is rather (very!) calorific but the taste of the tuna really comes through. Good comfort food, balanced by the lovely green leaf salad you need to serve it with!

    1. Just what you mentioned, I make homemade crespelle filled with ricotta, Parmesan, spinach, minced prosciutto and sauteed ground veal, although sub that with bulk sausage now, napped with besciamella and baked, no tomato. Heaven on a plate. I might make it once a year, but it's so worth the effort.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        Yesterday evening, I Googled "cannelloni al forno" and came up with a video clip with Mary Ann Esposito. The clip had some lacuna in it, so I found her website and found the original recipe and clip for cannelloni, Piedmont style ("alla piedmontese"). It looks very good, though I wouldn't have thought of rosemary for it. http://www.ciaoitalia.com/seasons/19/...

      2. Are you talking pasta cannelloni or crepe ones? I fill the pasta ones with sturdier fillings whereas I would use a simple cheese one for the more delicate crepes--Gorgonzola being a wonderful choice that I first ate in Rome.

        1. I enjoy them stuffed with sautéed mushrooms in a little bechamel, topped with more bechamel and Parmesan.

          1. I got this recipe from a friend when I first got married, it was such a success that I never looked any further. I like some of these ideas though and will be adding notes to my (yellowed!) copy.

            ITALIAN GRANDMA CANNELLONI
            Takes about 3 hours, start to finish

            PASTA

            1 ½ cups unsifted flour
            1 egg
            1 egg white
            1 Tbsp olive oil
            1 tsp salt

            Pour flour into bowl, make well in center. Put egg, egg white, oil and 1 tsp salt in well. Mix together into rough ball, adding a few drops of water as necessary. Knead dough on a floured board for about 10 minutes. Then divide dough in half. Roll each out until paper thin. Cut out about 36 rectangles, 2” x 3”. Drop the pasta in boiling salted water and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Rinse and spread out on paper towels to dry.

            FILLING

            1 Tbsp olive oil
            1 medium onion, finely chopped
            1 clove garlic, finely chopped
            ¾ lb fresh spinach, cooked and finely chopped
            2 Tbsp butter
            1 lb ground meat of your choice
            2 chicken livers
            5 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
            2 Tbsp heavy cream
            2 eggs, lightly beaten
            1 Tbsp oregano
            Salt and pepper to taste

            Cook onion and garlic in olive oil in skillet over moderate heat, 7 to 8 minutes until soft but not brown. Stir in spinach and cook 3 to 4 more minutes, stirring constantly. When all moisture is gone, transfer mixture to a bowl. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in skillet and lightly brown meat, then add to other mixture. Melt 1 Tbsp more of butter in skillet and cook livers 3 to 4 minutes until firm but still pink inside. Chop coarsely and add to mixture in bowl along with parmesan, cream, eggs and oregano. Add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

            BESCIAMELLA

            4 Tbsp butter
            4 Tbsp flour
            1 cup milk
            1 cup heavy cream
            1 tsp salt and dash of pepper

            Melt butter in sauce pan. Remove from heat and stir in flour. Add milk and cream all at once, stirring constantly with whisk until flour dissolves. Return pan to heat and bring to boil, stirring constantly with whisk. Reduce heat and simmer 2 or 3 minutes until sauce is thick enough to coat the wires of the whisk heavily. Season with salt and pepper.

            TOMATO SAUCE

            3 Tbsp olive oil
            1 cup chopped onions
            4 cups Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
            2 cloves garlic
            6 Tbsp tomato paste
            1 tsp sugar
            1 bay leaf
            Oregano, basil, salt and pepper

            Cook garlic and onions in olive oil, in saucepan, 7 to 8 minutes until soft but not brown. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and bay leaf, then add other seasonings to taste. Simmer at least one hour, stirring occasionally.

            TO PUT CANNELLONI TOGETHER

            Preheat oven to 375. Roll about 1 Tbsp of filling into each pasta rectangle. Pour a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of two shallow 10x14 baking dishes/ Place cannelloni in tomato sauce side by side. Pour besciamella over cannelloni. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over all. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered about 20 minutes.

            1 Reply
            1. re: coll

              That really looks good. But 5 minutes looks like a long time to cook fresh pasta sheets.
              Variations like these make me wish we could have a filled pasta cook-off, like chili cook offs.

            2. If you ate them first in Rome, there's a better chance that they were made with crespelle than with pasta. The most common filling is ricotta and spinach, baked with either besciamella on top or with tomato sauce. I love them that way!

              1 Reply
              1. re: bropaul

                Nope, it was definitely cannelloni with pasta and a veal filling. I was in the seminary and friends from the U.S. visited. They brought me to lunch at their boutique hotel's dining room near the Spanish Steps. In my 17 years in Rome, I didn't get out to dinner often, so I didn't even know the crespelle version existed until the late eighties when a number of crespelle-based dishes appeared on a menu in a new place near our general house.