Friday, March 8, 2013

No Baloney Cannelloni

Sometimes I really surprise myself in the kitchen.  Not like people jumping out of a closet kind of surprise, but like, "wow, that's really good food."  Sure, I have had some real flops in the kitchen, like the time my husband and I tried to make homemade sausage.  It smelled like feet.  Really bad.  If I could imagine what smelly feet tastes like, that sausage was it.

But, smelly feet aside, this time I took on another pasta.  My family loves pasta.  I actually made it three nights in a row this week.   My son was a little dissappointed at the prospect of pasta a third night in a row, but the result was worth it.  I made a cannelloni that was out of this world!  Three-Meat Cannelloni with Marinara and Parmesan Bechamel is my new favorite pasta.  It was pretty darn good.

Traditional cannelloni is made with pasta sheets, but I cheated a little and used manicotti, you know, the long tubes.  Yes, I know that manicotti is usually filled with a cheese mixture, but I am just going to pretend for the sake of this recipe that it is really cannelloni shells.  And I stuffed it with meat which makes it authentic, right?

So, all cheating aside, it is a pretty easy recipe.  I used my homemade Marinara sauce recipe under the Basics tab, but you can use store bought if you need to.  And the bechamel sauce is what really makes this special.  It's just as easy as making cream gravy.   You'll love it, I promise.

Go get a bottle of Italian wine and start speaking in an Italian accent.  It's time to cook!

3 Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/2 lb ground chicken (I just threw a chicken breast in the food processor)
1 lb ground pork
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 C ricotta cheese
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 C Italian six-cheese blend (or your favorite white cheese)
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons red chile flake
Olive oil
1/4 C flour
1/4 C butter
2 C milk
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 C Marinara sauce (under my Basics tab)
1 lb manicotti
Shredded mozzarella (as much or as little as you like)

Cook pasta according to directions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet and preheat over medium high heat.  Cook the onions until tender.  Add in the Italian sausage, ground pork, ground chicken, garlic, onion powder and chile flake.  Cook the mixture, breaking it apart as you go, until all the meat is done.  Put this mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Scrape it out into a bowl and mix in the eggs, ricotta cheese, 1/4 C Parmesan cheese, and the six-cheese blend.  Mix to combine.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.

To make the Parmesan Bechamel sauce, melt the butter over medium heat in a small skillet.  Add in the flour and whisk.  Pour in the milk and whisk until it's smooth.  When it becomes thickened and bubbly, remove from heat and stir in the 1/2 C Parmesan cheese.

Spread about 1 C of marinara sauce into a 9 x 13 pan.  To assemble the cannelloni, place the filling in a pastry bag with no tip or a zipper bag.  (If using a zipper bag, just clip the corner off so you can squeeze the filling out from there.)  Pipe the filling into each manicotti tube.  Place the tubes onto the marinara sauce.  When they are all filled and placed in the pan, spread the remaining marinara sauce over the top.  Spread the bechamel sauce over the top of the marinara.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top and bake about 15 minutes or until it is warmed through and cheese is slightly browned.

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